I had mixed emotions of fear and excitement the minute the dolphin’s cold mouth landed on my cheek-and stayed there for about a full minute. It was the first time I saw real live dolphins outside the television screen and got a kiss from one, too. We were at the Dolphins Pacific Bay, one of the rare places in the world where people could experience close encounter and interaction with the dolphins, lessons you will not get in the classrooms. Eight dolphins occupy the lagoons and only two of them are males, Echo and J. The females are Surech, Rubak, Ariel, Ekei, Layla, and Roxanne. Ramirez said each dolphin can be identified by its own distinctive features.
We watched in fascination as the dolphins dived, executed perfect somersaults, flipped over, waved their tails tumbled and did as the trainers ordered them to do. “Training the dolphins takes at least two months and you have to get them into activity everyday,” Arturo Ramirez Jr., our Mexican tour guide said. He added that using the reward system helps, which means they will reward a dolphin with fish or ice cubes if they follow the instructions and do something right. Because dolphins tend to eat leaves that fall into the lagoon and eventually get sick from it, the trainers taught the dolphins to retrieve leaves and give it to them, and the dolphins get rewards for doing so. It is also a puzzle that dolphins live in salt water yet they drink fresh water.
Every couple of days or so, dolphins are given water through a funnel and a hose and they sure drink a lot, says Ramirez. Interaction with the dolphins starts with an educational lecture about the natural history of dolphins and getting acquainted with the eight dolphins from their photos. This is followed by a walk along the lagoons and finally getting into a wading platform where one is given the rare chance to touch a dolphin’s body, and get a handshake or a kiss from them. For the more daring, you can snorkel, swim, scuba dive or dive with the dolphins to get a really close encounter and see their world beneath the surface of the water.
Dolphins, Ramirez said, are sensitive creatures. “If you make unnecessary movements or actions they will get confused and this could affect them but they are very playful,” he said. “The purpose of this dolphin facility is to teach people to study the special abilities of dolphins, to put them as teaching materials for environmental education,” says Ramirez. He said it is important for people, particularly the children to learn the importance of protecting the dolphins and saving them for the future generations.
The Dolphin facility costing $2.5 million was established in July 20, 2000. Ramirez said the dolphins were brought in from Japan in 2001 and were trained here. The Dolphin Bay is one of the main tourist attractions of Palau (A visit to Palau won’t be complete without going there) and is becoming a destination not only for tourists but for locals, for children, elderly people and the handicapped. For more information, visit www.dolphinspacific.com or email [email protected] or call 680-488-8582.