This post continues one of yesterday where we have come to the Dolphinarium in Harderwijk so that Kiwi Daughter and her two best friends can swim with dolphins and share a unique experience together before one of her best friends moves overseas.
As regular readers of my blog will know, I don’t to put photos of my family on the internet and so for this post you get edited photos of our group with identifying features removed.
Yes I’m very aware that I’m useless at editing and it’s a bit of a blotchy mess but my limited skills achieved what was required and that’s what counts.
I never claimed to be Michaelangelo but at least I know my limits and won’t be attempting to touch up any fresco’s any time soon… no matter how much repair they might be in need of.
First we all go and watch a film about the Dolphinarium and the work they do, yes swimming with a dolphin is expensive but we learn that every cent goes back into caring for the wildlife, not just the ones we can in the public areas but also rescued marine mammals from all over the Dutch coastline.
These animals are bought here due to injury or illness, are nursed back to health in a quiet, dedicated area well away from the public eye and whenever possible, once healthy are released back into the wild.
Dolphins who are unable for whatever reason to be re-released into the wild are looked after and if they show an interest in learning tricks and getting close to the public then they are taught by the keepers. The Keeper tells us that different dolphins have distinct preferences about the tricks they prefer to do but that none of them is forced to learn a trick or if they know one, to perform it.
If they don’t fancy doing it that day, it’s all ok and for this reason no guarantee is made to the group that any specific experience will be met, and on the day we were there were three dolphins in the enclosure when the group went into the water, one came to check out the group but decided it didn’t want to play today and swam away. It got some fish regardless but preferred to play and dive close to where I was taking the photos, on the far side of the enclosure.
The second and third dolphins hung around the trainer and made it clear that they wanted some entertainment with the guests and so the tricks were changed to these dolphins preferences.
For some reason it was decided that it would not be safe to swim in the deeper water with the dolphins today, but that shallow water playing would be fine. I’m not sure if this was because of the ages of the children or for other reasons but at least they get to get close enough to touch.
The keepers have set commands that they use to communicate with the dolphins and once each member of the party had practised one of these sets of signals they went and put them to the test with one of the dolphins. The tricks ranged from tight circular turns, jumps, and splashing to “speaking” where upon command the dolphin came out of the water and chattered Flipper style to the group.
The relationships between the keepers and the dolphins are clearly close, there is a special bond of trust and respect between the two… even just observing from the shore it was a moving experience.
The local birds also provided some entertainment, hanging around and circling low in an attempt to catch a low flying fish mid-air en route to a dolphin’s mouth.