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