When my daughter Claire was four, I took her to Bunbury in Australia for a date with dolphins. That was what the brochures said anyway. But we didn’t see a single dolphin despite waiting for hours on the boat anchored off the west coast. Claire is now nine, but the disappointment still cut her deep.
So when I was told I would be placed on Resorts World Sentosa’s Dolphin Discovery Programme, I thought this was a chance to see if I could make up to Claire for that wasted trip and do a recce.
One day in August, I was at the RWS Adventure Cove Waterpark, which boasted water slides, wave pools and an artificial reef. As well as Dolphin Island, a separate attraction within the waterpark, with 11 inter-connected lagoons which are home to the dolphins.
First step after getting into the park: Change into swimwear and store away all belongings in a locker. That includes items such as rings which could drop into the lagoon and, Neptune forbid, be swallowed by the dolphins.
Next step: Soak your feet, or slippers if you are wearing them, into trays of decontaminant before going for a full body rinse to shower off what dirt and grime you might have clinging on to you.
Third step: Get into a wetsuit.
In between, the five of us on the programme were briefed about the variety of dolphins worldwide and their origins. We were told, for example, that the 24 Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins on Dolphin Island were cared for round the clock with daily health checks whether on their teeth, skin and even their faeces. The data will be logged by the veterinarians and scientists, to build a repository for further research.
Time to get wet!
One tip: Get into the lagoon as quickly as you can, to get as much time with the dolphins as possible. We were introduced to Wei, one of the largest dolphins there at 2m long. And the leader of the lot. Marco, the Marine Mammal Trainer who accompanied us, told us to watch out for the dolphins’ blowhole and eyes. It wouldn’t do to have our fingers poking those orifices.
He also told us about unique identifiers on the dolphin’s fins – whether scars or indentations or shape of fin – which mark each one, much like a human thumbprint. Dolphins can “talk’’ too, calling out to each other in a pitch that is beyond human hearing. But we did manage to enjoy Wei’s “singing’’. He produced the notes through his blowhole. The dolphin was intelligent enough to even take directions from me. A crook of the index finger and he was coo-ing away.
Despite its size, Wei is a gentle creature, as playful as it is powerful. As it circled around us, I thought to myself that Claire would enjoy Wei’s company – and finally get her date with a dolphin.
For S$98 for adults and $88 for children, it beats sitting in the Australia sun waiting for a dolphin to make an appearance.