Damn straight I made very sure to take my meds this morning. For today is the day the Bossman has forked out a fortune for me to Swim With A Dolphin (despite declining to do so himself, on the grounds that they are ‘stupid squeaky fish’ and he wouldn’t be seen dead with one). The Bossman has this massive thing about sting-rays, however, and there are indeed sting-rays at Discovery Cove, so he was quite excited too.
We set off at the crack of dawn so that we could get an early slot with this dolphin lark, and went into a place that was more like an opulent hotel lobby than anything I might have been vaguely expecting. Ah, right, the sea part starts out the back. But first – an armadillo! Running wild all over the terrace! Who I got to stroke, so that was me very chuffed. Maybe not him so much – he ran in little circles when he was put back down.
We had a free breakfast there too – now the hotel breakfast is okay, for a very basic breakfast, and on Sunday I had both my first go at using a waffle iron and my first go at lying on a bed of nails (the latter courtesy of Ripley’s, not a comment on the hotel accommodation). But this one had fresh fruit and grapefruit juice and was just generally awesome. In fact, I feared I would gain masses of weight here, but if salads remain plentiful and so does the ‘walking around from nine till four’ bit, I may actually tone up instead!
But then, it was time to put on the top half of a wetsuit and go for a swim with the stingrays.
And bloody baltic it was too. Still, it was very pretty, if so crowded I had to keep stopping in case I crashed into someone. I tried to get out of the way of everyone by going to a shady and even colder corner, where I nearly had an accident of epic proportions, when I swam around the corner and came face to face with a shark the same size as me, coming the other way; but it turned out there was a partition between us. Phew!
And now, dolphin time!
I was pretty nervous about this. What if I made an idiot of myself? What if I slipped and fell on the dolphin and hurt it? What if I slipped and fell on the dolphin and enraged it and it ate a small child? What if they took photos of me and the dolphin and I looked awful?
First we had dolphin prep time (‘do not stick your fingers in the dolphin’s eyes or mouth’). There were thirty of us, divided into four groups, and we were one of three ‘pods’, and the dolphin ‘experience’ takes place every half hour. What a well-oiled machine, what. Everyone else in my group was a wee family of four (one of them Scottish) and then there was me, in between them, on my tod. I did not miss the way both families subtly edged away from me, once we all got in the water and that one was announced, thus making me feel even more like a sad old bat with nae mates.
The dolphin in question was called Lester, and is an ex-show-dolphin from Seaworld, now in his forties and retired. He has been in many fights and won most of them, so we were told, despite being a mere seven feet long to Capricorn’s ten, and also is the father of the youngest dolphin in the park (called Finn. Groan.) One wee kid was all, who is Lester’s wife? and the handler was all, Ah dolphins kinda don’t have just one wife. (I looked up a list of dolphins here, afterwards, which had a parentage chart, and lo they are all at it like, well, dolphins.) Although apparently Lester has a favourite girlfriend called Cindy, who was being admired by the next group over, and they dislike being apart so much that Lester had to go to California with her when she was filming Jaws 3. So there you go.
(Although Cindy is not Finn’s mother. In fact, Lester and Cindy seem to have failed to reproduce together at all, despite having kids with pretty much all the others between them.)
So we got into a line and Lester swam up and down and we got to stroke him, and he is warm and soft like wet velveteen and covered in scars from other dolphins’ teeth. Then we took turns swimming about twenty feet out and Lester towed us back in, which he did at the speed of your average speedboat. Then we lined up and took turns swimming out to kiss Lester on the mouth – wait, what?
I am not sure this is the most honourable profession for a ‘retired’ show-dolphin. I am also not sure at all that I wanted to kiss another species on the mouth, especially one I’d only just met; but oh well everyone else was doing it (even more ick; at least we were in salt water), even the guys (although with visibly more reluctance, which made me wonder if they’d been more up for it if it were, for instance, Cindy, or if they were thinking the same thing as me), so one didn’t want to refuse, especially knowing that everyone else already had mentally put one in the ‘sad old bat’ category. (And indeed, I had already fallen over on the slippery rocks, but I don’t think anyone saw). So I lined up and waited and got more and more red in the face, because once I get embarrassed it is very hard to stop.
Sure enough, the photos were dreadful.
At least Lester’s breath did not stink of fish anywhere near as much as my Goth Dentist assured me it would. (Because he is basically flogging kisses in exchange for food; the rate being one kiss = one fish. Oh my god, I am perpetuating a porpoise prostitution ring, ick).
To make matters worse, the Bossman came over to look through the photos with me and immediately yelled, Oh my god you’ve been unfaithful to me, and you were only gone half an hour! And that was on my shekel too! and the woman trying to flog us an album got very embarrassed also and I fled.
Thank god for the free booze in this park. The Bossman may think I drink too much, but it is not so – he is just immune to social anxiety, and will never understand my pain.
(Naturally, he will never make so much of an idiot of himself, either, because the two things go hand in hand; like going bright red when embarrassed, and staying that way due to the embarrassment of being bright red.)
So feeling both sullied and like some sort of horrible inter-species molester, I demanded we go to the freshwater bit, which was refreshingly free of wildlife. We went swimming down a big wibbly wobbly river, which had bits of fake ruin at the bottom and colourful birds flying overhead, and then we went down it again without even bothering to swim, just floating on bits of inflatable pole. Finally, I have found a use for breasts: you wedge the pole under them and it stops it roaming into your armpits. The river was pretty cool, going through a big cave with fake stalactites and the sun was glaring bright and I may never see properly again.
Of course I didn’t get out of the freshwater bit without making an idiot of myself either – you had a pass on a lanyard, which you had to tuck into your wetsuit so as not to dangle it in front of some wildlife who might eat it and get ill and/or get it caught on something and drown. This also had a wee number indicating you were good to go as far as the booze was concerned. When the barmaid asked to see my pass, the wetsuit zip got stuck (of course). I gave it a mighty yank, my tits burst out everywhere; and worse, a small collection of leaves and flowers that had lodged in my cleavage as I went down the wibbly wobbly river earlier exploded into the air like a party-popper. I could not have repeated it in a thousand years.
Mercifully, the barmaid just laughed and said, I’ll get you the wine then.
Having done almost everything possible to shame myself, I was very glad to slink off home.
There are no photos of today’s activities, for what I hope are obvious reasons.