For a couple of years now, our tradition has been that Cute Husband and I give The Cuties an “experiential” present as our Hanukkah gift.
Last year was a trip to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut where we participated in a Penguin Encounter and met the charming Gray Silver, which you can read about here.
It was such a big hit that when we knew we’d be in Hawaii for Hanukkah this year, we decided we’d give a family swim with dolphins through Dolphin Quest. We really liked that this particular program focused on science and the environment and had a great reputation with regard to the care of the animals.
After an orientation and lesson on echolocation, dolphin anatomy, and the breeding, raising, and training of the Dolphin Quest dolphins, we were ready to meet Lono, a 500 pound male who was twenty years old.
Much like The Cuties, Lono needed to start his day by having his teeth brushed. Unlike The Cuties, Lono has almost 100 teeth!
The Cuties surprised us and were totally comfortable right away, so we donned our snorkel masks and hopped right into the lagoon with Lono and joined him for a swim. We were able to float with our faces in the water and watch him swim underneath us to really grasp his size in the water in proportion to our own bodies. But the best part was hitching a ride!
Next, Lono got to show off some of the tricks he knows and so our trainer Meg taught us some hand signals. Here we all are waving back and forth. You can really see just how massive Lono is in comparison to us in this particular photograph!
It was time for Lono to go play with his buddies so next we got to meet Liho, who was the littlest guy at “just” 300 pounds. Liho was a bit of a ham and liked to show off for the camera whenever one was around!
The dolphins at Dolphin Quest are all trained on a rewards-based system and that means a lot of fish treats! Dolphins are opportunistic feeders in the wild, and at the lagoon they are fed restaurant-quality fish, flown in frozen from California or from local Hawaiian sources. The Cuties are clearly comfortable with all their sushi, and never hesitated to give the dolphins their treats. Check out that squid in Little Cutie’s hand!
Sadly, our session was coming to an end, so it was time to say our goodbyes to Liho. The Cuties especially liked how Liho said good-bye to them, by swimming right up close and puckering up!
And me? Well I can now say I’ve both kissed a dolphin and tickled a dolphin!
Note to self: I really must figure out how to continue to give gifts my children love that are also things on my own bucket list! 🙂