January 16th, Monday - Road Bay, Anguilla


Dolphin Discovery was pretty cool and worth the trip, despite the big price tag.  Of course, having Cassie and Juliana there enhanced the experience, as their excitement and amazement was quite contagious. 
Upon our arrival in Anguilla on Saturday, Joe made inquiries about the dolphin swim with the immigration office.  Although Anguilla has its own government, it is part of the British West Indies and under the general rule of Great Britain.  When checking in at a new port of call, in all but the USVI, just the captain goes ashore with all the crew's passports and ship's documents.  When we checked out in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, we discovered that our ship documentation states our gross tonnage as 50 when in reality it is closer to 10 tons.  Some of the islands charge a fee based upon this figure, and Anguilla is one of those places.  We knew this would be an issue so we were ready to present other documents to support our claims despite what our official documentation showed.   Joe had a bit of a hassle getting through all that with the three customs ladies, but came out of it an hour later with a clearance for Zia, a couple of new friends, and an appointment for us to swim with the dolphins the next day at 1:30pm.
Our friendly cab driver,  Accelyn, picked us up at noon and filled us in on a little history of the island on the 20 minute trip to Dolphin Discovery.  Anguilla used to belong to the federation of British islands that included St. Kitts and Nevis.  Anguillans were frustrated, however, because the seat of government lay in St. Kitts, and whenever the crown would send over supplies for Anguilla, they never made it past St. Kitts.  In 1967, armed with barrels of oil and sticks, they fought their "war of independence."  They used the sticks to make barricades on the runway, and would spill the oil in the sea, lighting it on fire to prevent attack by water.  Simply by keeping their enemies off the island, they were victorious.  The main industry here is tourism, and there are a lot of building projects on the island, including a big new golf course community with homes starting at $1.4 million.  The beauty of the island is undeniable, being 15 miles long and 3 miles wide and quite low in altitude.  The coastline is littered with beautiful white sandy beaches and sparkling crystal clear water.  Even Road Bay, the main anchorage, enjoys these features.  The regulations for cruising here are a bit restrictive.  You pay about $40 a day if you want to anchor anywhere but Road Bay.  We are going to get a one day cruising permit for today and try to visit a couple of the other pristine and isolated beaches before leaving tomorrow.
Accelyn dropped us at the water park where we got to watch the end of the previous group's adventure and enjoy lunch before our turn.  The program begins with a video presentation that tells you what to expect once you get in the pool with the dolphins.  We were in the "Discovery" group which meant that we got to pet the dolphins, kiss and "dance" with them.  There were two other programs that offered a ride, and a boost through the water with the dolphins pushing your feet.  As the age limit for either of these programs was 8, we stuck with the basic one ($89/kid, $99/adult).  It got us about 30 minutes in the water with "Al," an 18 year old male dolphin.  We shared our time with Al with a Brazilian family and Al's trainer, Rene.   Joe opted to sit out the adventure and serve as the family photographer.  Of course, the official photographer ($15 a photo, $29 for a video of the whole program) was able to get right up close, while Joe had to stay outside the gated area.
The Discovery Group walked along the underwater platform that lined the sides of the pool to the far end where Rene had Al perform a number of tricks, including waving at us and splashing us with his tail.  He then instructed him to swim past us for our first feel of real live dolphin flesh.  Being careful not to touch Al's face, blowhole, eyes, or ears, we lay our hands flat in front of us in the water, and Al swam along the edge of the platform allowing us to run our palms along his back, dorsal fin and tail.
It was pretty awesome, touching this majestic creature as if he were our pet.  We have had several opportunities to watch dolphin in the wild, swimming past and around the boat, and it never fails to thrill us.  They are such graceful and friendly looking animals, always curious about their temporary neighbor and her passengers.  We had heard some talk about these dolphins suffering from stress as a result of all the human contact and living in captivity, but we saw no signs of that in the 8 or 10 dolphins we saw.  Upon inquiry, we were told that these dolphins live twice as long as their wild brethren, enjoying a steady food supply and regular medical attention.  Wild dolphins live up to 25 years and those in captivity can live up to 50. 
The dolphin kiss and "dance" were mostly for the benefit of the program's photographer.  Holding your hands palms up, one on top of the other, Al placed his chin in your hands, and you would draw his snout up to your cheek for a "kiss" which you then returned smack on the dolphin's mouth.  It felt kind of silly, in reality, but it was cute.  Unfortunately, the best picture Joe was able to get was of my kiss, but you can sort of make out Cassie and Jules with the dolphin as well.
Cassie and Juliana loved the whole thing, although Cassie spent a bit of time lamenting that she wasn't able to get the ride on the dolphin's belly.  She consoled herself with the thought that next time we could spring for the ride program ($129).  It was an expensive day, but lots of fun.  The girls both practically fell asleep over dinner (we cooked up more of the Mahi Mahi we caught on the way over to Simpson Bay) after the day's excitement and the previous evening's difficulty sleeping.  Joe is buying a few groceries while I post this update at our favorite beachside restaurant with internet access.  I'll close with a few more photos.  Enjoy MLK day and send us an email when you get a minute.  We love hearing from you.
Christy, Joe, Cassie and Juliana
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Many thanks to our friend Craig Homenko for his assistance in setting up the website.
We also would like to thank our buddy Scott Brunner who has been kind enough to host the website on his server.

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