For Many . . . A Life-Changing Experience!
By Darby Davis

I don't know about you, but high on my "list of things to do" has always been to swim with the dolphins... not in a controlled environment, but with wild dolphins in the ocean!

After speaking with Cindy Gianelli from Dolhume Synergy, based in Prescott, Arizona, I was convinced this was my opportunity - an exciting one-week trip to Baja. It had been a while since I took any time off and I was feeling exhausted mentally and physically. I was ready to go right then . . . just needed 15 minutes to pack!

So on the morning of June 8th I boarded a plane bound for Cabo. Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but I really think they were just jealous. After arriving in Cabo San Lucas around noon Sunday, several of us enjoyed a 45-minute taxi ride to the Hotel Finisterra. As we talked and laughed about the condition of the plane we flew in on, we soon discovered that three of us were part of the "dolphin group". By the time we reached the hotel, Ron, Oscar and I had already become great friends. After we checked our luggage, cameras and other gear, we all climbed the stairs to a lounge loverlooking the ocean, where we finally met trip organizers, Cindy, Ellen and Coco.

Members of the group arrived throughout the day, and at about 4:30 p.m. twenty three of us boarded mini-vans for La Paz. What a diverse group of individuals ‹ including an inventor, a 19-year-old college student, nurse, teacher, psychologist, publisher, marine biololgist, map maker, various healers, a retired couple, an AIDS counselor, and a 67-year-young lady who radiated with excitement. They came from as far away as North Carolina, Texas, Washington D.C., and Colorado, as well as Arizona and California.

The drive to La Paz was about 2-1/2 hours, and by the time we arrived, we were all tired and hungry, but it seemed as though we had known each other forever. We quickly checked into our rooms, and then joined each other again for dinner and to discuss the schedule.

We stayed in La Paz for four days, rising each morning between 6-7 a.m. (I thought this was supposed to be a vacation!) After breakfast we boarded the boat for a day of wonder and excitement, enjoying the incredible clear green waters in the Sea of Cortez. After mastering our snorkeling skills, we were turned loose to view some of the most beautiful coves and caves along the coastline, each with awesome displays of sealife. Cindy's husband Steve, a marine biologist and certified scuba diver, identified various creatures and explained their behaviors. Later that first day, we encountered an island of sea lions, many who had recently given birth. Though I was "snorkeled out" by then, exhilarated but exhausted, many members of the group jumped in and actually swam with the sea lions. It was interesting to watch the male sea lions as they marked their territory, carefully protecting their young. Later that day I realized I had been so into my snorkeling that I had not properly protected myself from the sun and discovered I was very badly sunburned, so I just took it easy and enjoyed the salt air and the incredible scenery.

The next morning I was in pain! Against my better judgment, I boarded the boat thinking I'd be OK once we were out on the water. Surprise, surprise! About the time we encountered the dolphins who put on an incredible display of jumping and flipping, I crashed on the deck, sick as a dog. That is where I spent the rest of my day. So much for pictures . . . I couldn't even sit up and hold the camera, nevermind swim with the dolphins. However most of the group did jump in and experience these truly breathtaking and gentle creatures. I could feel their excitement as I heard statements like "did you see that?", "this is absolutely amazing!", "look at them, they're awesome!", and various other shouts of joy! Though disappointed at being unable to join the others in the water, I did feel the energy of the excitement, and the energy from the dolphins . . . it is not something easy to explain.

That evening I was "treated" to every remedy imaginable, from creams to teas and only God knows what else, but I was finally able to sleep. Boy did I learn a lesson I won't need to repeat ever again!

We searched for dolphins again Wednesday, but to no avail. We did observe a sperm whale, a marlin, lots of sea lions, hundreds of pelicans and a multitude of colorful fish. As the day came to a close, we had so enjoyed this time together that we all opted to skip the scheduled shopping in La Paz the following morning, and instead took the boat out for our "final fling" - a few more enjoyable hours on and in the water.

Our youngest member of the group, David, a nineteen-year-old college student from San Diego, was always the first one in the water. He snorkled, he climbed rocks, he participated in our evening meditation and discussion groups, and shared with us that he is dedicating his life to working in some area of ecology. He is one of our incredible young people working to save the planet! And then there was Nancy, the 67-year-young from North Carolina, who demonstrated that one isn't necessarily limited by age ‹ it is heart that really counts. She snorkled like a pro, taught us Sufi dances and made us laugh . . . a lot! She was such a kick!!

I can't say enough about our crew . . . Jorge, our boat captain, demonstrated that language doesn't need to be a barrier ‹ he simply communicated by guiding members of the group gently through caves, proudly showing off "his" part of the ocean and its sealife and allowing them to feel comfortable in the water. Lorenzo assisted with the boat operations, prepared all the food for our always-hungry group, and shared with us the concern of the Mexican people for the oceans. He described the rescue operations they have established to save beached whales, and said that often hundreds of caring individuals will join in to literally dig these enormous creatures out of the sand and get them back into the water. Evidently a lot is currently being done to educate the Mexican people, and especially the crews on the fishing boats, about the importance of keeping our oceans clean. And it seems everyone is very receptive ‹ it just takes more education, more awareness!

Thursday afternoon, we all hesitantly packed our bags and boarded a bus headed back to Cabo where we spent the night before heading home. As we rested and enjoyed some authentic Mexican food, it seemed all we could talk about was our "next" trip.

Friday morning the group started to dwindle, as one by one we left for the airport and headed home. It was really hard to say goodbye- we'd had such a great time together . . . but somehow we knew that at least some of us would be together again.

Although I missed my opportunity to swim with the dolphins, I learned another lesson in patience. God does not provide "dolphins by demand" - I will have another opportunity. It was a good trip- relaxing, informative, fun people, great food, lots of laughs. Just "being" a part of this unique group, sharing their energy, enjoying the ocean and the clean air, and the beautiful Baja coastline was such a treat.

For more information on upcoming trips with a group that really cares about our ocean and its creatures, call Cindy at (520) 445-0214.

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