Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cruise 2012: Dolphin Extravaganza!

We were last in Roatan (Honduras) on our 10th anniversary, 9 years ago, on the second cruise ship that ever went to the island. And wow how Roatan has changed. We docked at another of the ubiquitous dock-side shopping experiences. This one was on a hill above the ship (no tenders!). (more text below pics)

Our dolphin swim and snorkel didn’t leave until 10 a.m. so we had time to walk around first. The first few shops I went into hoping to find some Mayan art were disappointing. Honduras is at the edge of Maya-land, I know, but I did have hope. But these shops seemed to carry art that looked more African, or even Australian. I hadn’t found anything AWESOME yet for me or my friend and this was my last stop where it was possible. Then I saw a place called Roatan Stone Art. It was exactly what I had been looking for, and if Roatan had been an earlier stop I probably would have spent my budget there. Nothing mass produced and badly carved, only nice and unique items. I bought a pair of altar bowls. Since we had forgotten towels and water my husband headed back to the boat with the bowls to get the towels.
We had to fill out ridiculous paperwork to go on the tour. Basically it said we could be eaten by, or at least munched on, by all sorts of wildlife from horses and iguanas to sharks, stingrays and dolphins, and if we did get eaten it wasn’t the tour group’s fault even if they shoved us into the mouth of a shark. Excellent. We signed.
We took a short ride on a small Hyundai bus across the island from Mahogany Bay to Anthony’s Key Resort and the Roatan Maritime Institute where the dolphins were. We walked through the jungle to a dock where we boarded a very small boat to cross the water to a little key, or cay, where the dolphins live. One person said there were 24 dolphins, another 30. Lots of dolphins, some babies. They were Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins, some bred in captivity and some wild-caught.
The dolphin for our group was a 10 year old female named Marley who had rejected her last baby, which is apparently very rare, and the baby had been adopted by an older female. She was a goofball of a dolphin. Everything she did, she’d roll over a little and get her eye just out of the water and look at us to see if we approved. The male trainer was trying to get her to blow his whistle and she was sticking out her tongue at him and then flopping her head around so her tongue flapped out of her mouth and laughing at him. He said, “this isn’t a trick, this is her!” and then the dolphin went to the female trainer and immediately blew her whistle with no tongue action. (more text below the pics)

Basically we stood in waist-deep water with the dolphin and the trainers in front of us and the dolphin did tricks and swam back and forth in front of us so we could pet her. We all got our pictures taken hugging her and getting a “kiss” (dolphin leans its beak on your cheek and grins). We had 10 minutes to take our own pictures and videos (some of which are above...and more text is below).

Then we put away our cameras and got our snorkels and fins (fins were required; I actually had bought a pair but Will had to rent them) and we got to snorkel freely around the lagoon while dolphins dive bombed us and played with us. It was so awesome. If you had a piece of seaweed a dolphin would come and steal it. Even the babies came around. If you spun in place they’d race around you in a circle. You’d hear them squeaking and then they’d come from behind (always from behind) and roll to look at you with their big brown eyes as you laughed and tried to pet them. There were also all kinds of cool reef fish to look at, and corals, and lots of grass under the water. It was maybe 15-20 feet deep and the various fish we saw were maybe 8-10” long at most. It really felt like they were playing with us and teasing us, especially if you had seaweed. If you put your hand out they would come and push it with their noses (the trainers did that a lot to them) like a cat or dog would. I can’t explain how amazing it was.
My mask kept getting water in it and I wasn’t scared or panicking, only annoyed that I had to come to the surface and clear it out. Not one bit of panic attack, even when water came in my snorkel! Normally we disdain having others take our pictures for money but in this case, we bought the pictures. The deal was that it was $12.50 for each picture, minimum of 2, and if you bought all them of them it was $40 on a thumb drive, plus $10 for each other person in your group. So a couple was $50. I bought the thumb drive for $50 with no hesitation because some of the pictures came out really good.

We went for a drink at Fat Tuesdays on the way back to the ship & Will took my picture with the parrot-bird and Toad Purse. Will had a Hurricane in an Atti-tube cup and he said it was the worse Hurricane he’d ever had. He actually dumped it in the trash it was so bad.
At dinner our friends surprised us with a heart shaped cake from the bakery that said Happy Anniversary (even though our anniversary had been 2 weeks before) and then we went to see Edge Evolution, a juggling show, a sophisticated one. He did juggling, ancient yoyo work, and thunder sticks, and did it on stilts and blind folded. The ship was plowing through violent waves (Hurricane Sandy) and he only missed one trick because of it.

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