Dolphin Trek: Diving with dolphins

Touching a dolphin in waist-deep water can be quite an experience, but if you’re more adventurous, there’s an option for you to take it deeper. Literally.

At Dolphin Island, part of Adventure Cove Waterpark, the Dolphin Trek programme lets you dive four metres under to the bottom of a lagoon to meet these playful marine mammals in their element. Now you may think you need a scuba diving certificate to do this, but the truth is you don’t even need to know how to swim.

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All thanks to a nifty contraption called the Sea Trek helmet (if an astronaut and a Teletubby had a love child, its head would look something like this).

Don’t be intimidated by how bulky it looks – it may weigh a hefty 32 kg on land, but it’s only a mere six kg underwater. Oxygen is streamed into the helmet to create a pocket of air so you can breathe freely. Your movements will be restricted (more on that later), but you can basically walk around in the water with this thing on.

Here’s a blowhole-by-blowhole account of my experience.

The first step: Briefing session. I learnt the basic hand signals to communicate underwater with the safety divers stationed at the bottom of the lagoon, amongst other safety precautions.

Next, off to get prepped.  An oxygen tank was strapped to my back while I perched on a ladder at the lagoon’s edge. After that, the helmet was lowered, narrowing my vision to what was directly in front of my face. Oxygen was then plugged in; I could feel air whooshing inside the helmet. It wasn’t exactly windy, but it was comfortable and comforting.

Here comes the exciting part: My descent into the cold, briny depths. It was at this point that I realised going down a ladder – with Sea Trek helmet and oxygen tank – was not quite the lark I had imagined it to be. My limited vision means I had to move my hands and feet without seeing where they were. It was a good thing a Safety Diver was hovering close by, to guide a straying foot back onto the next rung, and return grasping fingers onto the railing.

Reaching the lagoon floor, I found the simple act of turning around involved elaborate feats of shuffling, while moving forward took the form of stiff, baby steps. Very robotic, very unglam.

All concerns about my clumsiness vanished the instant I became aware of the serenity I was surrounded by. At the corner of my limited vision, I spotted two dolphins being fed at the shallow end of the lagoon, their flukes (or tails) swishing playfully. As I’d soon discover, these two would take turns swooping to the lagoon floor staring at me curiously, sleek and swift as a pair of torpedoes.

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It’s one thing to witness the dolphins’ grace through the glass panels at the S.E.A. Aquarium – it’s another to be awe-struck on the other side of that acrylic pane, sharing the space with them.

I soon found out how powerful they are. The mini currents generated by a dolphin’s movements  may ripple to a gentle glide upon approaching me, but are still powerful enough to almost knock me off my feet. In the 20 minutes spent underwater, I managed to perfect a steadier, sumo-wrestleresque stance, while feeling like on display as the dolphins came by again and again, studying me with their mischievous, quizzical eyes.  Once they’ve studied enough, they got closer for my fingers to run across their back and even allowed me to hug them.

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Playing with them underwater is a different experience from interacting with them from above. In their domain, I couldn’t hear their otherworldly chorus of clicking and whistling sounds. Only silence. But it doesn’t matter. I only need to gaze back into their inquisitive eyes as I grazed my hand on their slippery skin to know that I’ve made a connection.

Dolphin Trek is S$98 for adults and S$88 for seniors (60 years old & above)

Register your interest in Dolphin Trek programme

Check out these posts for details on dolphin interaction programmes at Dolphin Island:

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