Swimming with Dolphins

About three weeks ago, Kirk took me to Discovery Cove as part of his Valentine's Day gift to me. This is a unique theme park in which you can snorkel with stingrays, sharks, and brightly-colored fish; laze your way through a long, winding river with two waterfalls and a gentle current; sit on the soft-sand beach to watch the trained dolphins swim at their leisure in their three lagoons; and, best of all, swim with the dolphins yourself for a surreal 30-minute block of time.

So, meet Coral, the six-year-old dolphin we got to massage, pet, kiss, and even ride on that great afternoon. She's very friendly. And she's also got a boyfriend who is quite the ladies' man around town.

It was pretty amazing to not only pet and befriend Coral . . . but also to hold her fins as she rode through the water with great force!

Then, the next weekend, as part of our Discovery Cove package, we got free entrance into Sea World, a theme park that, despite my being born-and-bred in Southern California (which also has a Sea World park in San Diego), I'd never visited. We saw pilot whales, more dolphins, walruses, sharks, and even manatees that kiss!

But the most amazing part of the day was, hands-down, the 30-minute "Believe" show with Shamu. I've heard about Shamu my whole life, and I've never been one to hype up on amusement park shows at all, but this one holds an exception. The show is about Shamu and her four other killer-whale friends. They're huge! And so beautiful and powerful.

About twelve handlers run the show (it takes that many to contain the whales!), and their love for the animals is so evident in the way they ride and pet and feed and talk about them. Perhaps what made the show so powerful, besides the tricks and the great visual effects of the four rotating screens on the platform, was that the show was built around story. There's a visual component that tells the story of a boy who loves whales and befriends them in the ocean, and this paves the way for him to be "transformed" into one of the handlers who runs the show.

I didn't expect to get so caught up in one of these shows, especially one with lots of hype and based on a killer whale. I mean, it's just a whale, right? But I loved it. My day would have been made if that was the only thing we saw all day. I guess the bigger blessing is that we got to see all those other things, too. What a one-two punch! This happy couple had a blast.