For many years, the closest interaction I’d had with marine mammals was taking a dip with my friend Corey (whose “playful humpback whale” impersonation was, and is, second to none).
That was until, of course, Andy and I chanced upon a reef shark in its natural habitat on the Great Barrier Reef! I think I might have forgotten to mention that we also saw a whale playing just a few metres off the starboard side of the boat. We certainly got value for money that day.
It’s not the first time I’ve seen a (real) whale, though. When I was living in Waverley, I used to take regular walks along the Bondi to Bronte route. One sunny day, Andy and I spotted a whale off Bondi. (When I say “spotted”, we basically followed where all the tourists’ fingers were pointing and worked the rest out for ourselves). They don’t call Australia “The Lucky Country” for nothing because I also seem to recall being taken out of class by at least one primary school teacher to watch whales from the school’s playground (which has since been bought out and turned into expensive apartments. With a view like that, I am not in the least surprised).
I’ve seen plenty of dolphins off the heads at Port Macquarie and (between bursts of hangover-induced nausea) during a dolphin boat tour at Port Stephens. I think I may have even quickly patted one on my last trip to Sea World, although patting the Dugong was far more memorable (did you know they have giant wire-like stubble on their backs? It’s kinda cool).
I guess my point is, I’ve been fortunate to encounter plenty of marine wildlife without ever really trying too hard, but I haven’t yet had the chance to swim with a dolphin!
Number 7 on the list, ‘Swim with a dolphin’, came courtesy of my friend Alana. For those who don’t know Alana, this choice was an easy one for her. You see, Alana is a dolphin trainer at Sea World!
While the rest of us were busy photocopying our way upwards and out of menial office jobs, Alana was working the rides at Sea World trying to make somebody notice that, with a degree in Marine Biology, she was kinda overqualified for the task. Eventually she scored a job as a seal trainer and, after lots of hard work (and in spite of the clear “seals versus dolphins” rivalry at Sea World), she eventually scored the World’s dreamiest of dream jobs. Sure, like any job, it has its downsides, but I’m sure you can agree that she’s hit the big time when it comes to filling in the “occupation” field on a customs form.
From my perspective, the biggest downside of Alana’s job is that it lured her away to sunny Queensland, so I certainly don’t get to see her as much as I would like. This challenge therefore serves the additional purpose of giving me an excuse to go and visit! The trip is planned for early November which, as luck would have it, coincides beautifully with Alana’s birthday and Hens night! Now all I need to do is make sure my ‘Aqua Adventure’ coincides with Alana’s shift!
My singing teacher would happily tell you that I often sound like a (dying) dolphin during some of the more challenging vocal exercises, so I’m looking forward to seeing whether they speak my language: EH! eh-EH! EH-eh! EH!
What’s the most memorable encounter you’ve had with an animal? Share your wild and/or woolly story in the comments below!