Landmark birthdays and lasting memories


It started out as a whimsical dream at the beginning of 2013.  Turning 50 loomed ahead and I’m not one for parties and loads of ceremony, so how would I mark this daunting milestone?  Besides, I had bungi jumped off the Gouritz River Bridge at 40.  How do you top that if skydiving isn’t an option (I’m scared witless) and nobody wants to go Great White shark cage diving with you, not even your adrenalin junkie 25-year old.  “Sorry Mom”, he said dismissively, “but I don’t like the idea of something sizing me up as a meal”.

And so I landed up in Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique – the quintessential ‘Point of Gold’ where the water is warm and life is simple.  Just 15km over the border from South Africa, it’s also home to The Dolphin Centre run by Noleen Withers and her amazing team.

Sadly my first day in the water was a mess.  I was inexperienced with a snorkel and mask and swallowed a ton of water as I fumbled around with the gear.  Although I felt a sense of wonderment just being in the water surrounded by a pod of wild dolphins, I saw very little under the surface.  I felt crushed, mortified even, but I wasn’t giving up after coming all this way.

Noleen turned my despair into a sense of achievement by offering lessons in a local swimming pool with the swim facilitator later in the day.  Within 15 minutes I had aced it.  Leah Darlow you are an absolute angel – thanks for your patience and TLC.

Because of this, Day Two with Ponta’s dolphins will stay in my mind for a very long time.  I managed to take only one photograph when we came across a smallish pod near Ponta Mamoli, before I joined them in the water.

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Underneath me the same mother and calf captured in this Dolphin Centre photo  (below) swam by hypnotically.  It was surreal.

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Later we snorkelled over Paradise Reef off Ponta Malangane, where I drifted away from the main group and spent what felt like eternity floating a few metres away from a turtle the size of a dinner plate, as pretty tropical fish darted back and forth.  Rays of sunlight filtered through the water, causing green and gold to shimmer off the turtle’s back and in that magical moment I knew I was hooked on snorkelling.

Then Darryl, the skipper, took us further out to sea, where pods of humpback whales made their presence known, blowing and tail slapping the surface of the ocean.

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If swimming with dolphins isn’t already on your Bucket List, put it right at the top.  Life doesn’t get better than this 🙂

Especial love and thanks to Leah, Noleen and Darryl for making my experience so totally amazing.  You guys went out of your way to make it special xxx

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11 thoughts on “Landmark birthdays and lasting memories

  1. Well happy, happy birthday Karen
    it sounds as though you had a really good time! I love looking at water, but am not very good in it or on it 🙂 I have an even bigger birthday approaching (the BIG 60) in a couple of weeks. I wanted to go and have dinner in Franschhoek, but my husband wasn’t too keen 😦 so we’re off to my favourite part of the UK – Cornwall – for a couple of weeks. I know the weather will most likely be crap – mizzle – which is drizzle and mist, but it sort of reminds me of Cape Town in the winter and is the furthest south-west part of England. Probably won’t be swinning with dolphins though, but I’ll keep an eye out 😀
    Jude xx

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    • Hi Jude,
      Thank you so much – birthday is later this week but I couldn’t take time off work then. In hindsight it has meant I get used to being 50 before it happens!!

      I love the ocean but seldom go in here because it’s too cold yet I swim in our pool every day in summer. I was just really useless with that snorkel.

      Dinner in Franschoek would have been magical. It’s beautiful at this time of year, especially after all the rain we have had but I’ve been to Cornwall too (in the dead of winter at that. It was around -1) and that is also picturesque so enjoy. You jest about Cape Town in the winter but the last two weeks have been utterly crap here – cold and downpours. It was 30 degrees in Tofo and Inhambane and I arrived back in South Africa to 7 degrees. The seasons are so messed up.

      If I don’t talk to you before your trip have a fabulous birthday and chill out totally.

      xxx, Karen

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  2. Happy birthday Karen! Wow, that sounds like a dream trip. I’ve swam with the dolphins at Ponta Mamoli twice and it was incredible. Such a healing experience and something I will always remember. What a great memory to mark your 50th!

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  3. My birthday is this month (December) and I am hitting a historic mark, 10 years beyond your historic mark. Auuuugh. Oh….to be 50 again? Luckily, when I was in my 30s, we had a sailboat and we sailed around the Hawaiian islands stopping here and there to see different things. Woke up one morning and there were dolphins all around the boat, playing, dancing, and talking/whistling/singing. The guys immediately jumped into the water (hoping to join in), and the dolphins backed off a bit—which I think was a good thing for them to do. They were big and the humans would have gotten hurt if they got caught in the middle of the play. I stayed on the boat and took photos (which were, unfortunately, lost long ago). But I have my memories. 😉

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