1 February 2006

Egypt Day 6: I Sank Even Further Than Yesterday

Israel again, this time Eilat and coastal town very close to the Egyptian border. First we went to a Coral Reef centre and the pictures have to been seen to be believed. the first animal we came across was the Sea Turtle – the very same one I was swimming with 3 years ago Barbados. I'm not going to say much more about the fish here as I think my pictures go someway to doing their beauty justice.

Two of my dreams (and surely everyone's) is to go diving at a coral reef and go swimming with wild dolphins. Now imagine you could not only do them both on the same day, but in the same place! the Dolphin Centre is a very special place that is home to 9 bottle nose dolphins originally from the Black Sea (literally all life in the Red Sea is protected, including shells). The live in a large marina and are not fed or forced to do tricks. If they want to come up to the trainer and play games with him for fun then that's great, if not they can do what ever they want. There is no Pavlovian reinforcement going on with performing for visitors. Furthermore they only get 20% of their daily food which means they remain active hunters and not enslaved in captivity. The dolphins even treat sick children with their sonar, something two doctors are studying all year round in the labs at the centre. There are several other animals here too, including a stray dog that thinks it's a dolphin, a few ducks, a few cockerels and so on. All of them are strays that just turned up one day and have decided to stay. They are free to leave it they want to.

After a little watching the girls play around my feet (there are seven females, one male baby and of course one alpha male) it's time for induction to the world of SCUBA (yes it's an acronym like LASER and GIMP). This stuff ways a ton by the way. The only problem I had was walking into the water on the pebbles as my feet are still very sore from yesterday. I can't begin to tell you how fulfilling it was to be six metres underwater with all colours of tropical fish dancing around living coral and investigative dolphins playing around you. Better than Caribbean waters and swimming with 300 year old sea turtles. The coral and other sea life was almost as good at the Coral Reef centre we were at earlier. Our tour guide told us a story afterwards that she doesn't go in the water anymore after an incident that happened to her two years earlier when she was 42. She was swimming in the human area and as she approached the edge of the dolphins home several dolphins rushed over to her. The trainer call out in Hebrew “I'm bet you are pregnant”. Needless to say she was and now has a one year old daughter!