India Today Travel Plus Guest Writer
I started swimming at 7, and loved competing, so becoming a professional swimmer was meant to be. I was fortunate that the passion I felt, translated to success and I became one of India's best in the sport. I've recently taken up a new sport - Golf, and now dream of tasting the same success in this as well. My golf coach, Justin Parsons, is based in Dubai, and teaches at the Butch Harmon School of Golf, which trains some of the world's best golfers today. This means I get to Dubai quite frequently, and along with my golf training, because I love to travel, am becoming quite the expert on the many entertaining things this incredible city has on offer.
Given my affinity for the water, it's not surprising that one of the things I've really enjoyed in Dubai is the interactive programme for guests at the Dolphin Bay in Atlantis, the Palm where you can get up close with some of their Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins in a beautiful 4.5 hectare environment.
Maybe it's their seeming smiles, or tales of friendliness that surround this mammal; perhaps it's their incredible intelligence or their emotional connect with humans, but something about dolphins has always fascinated me. As a professional swimmer you learn to live by the clock, and all your effort is geared to getting as streamlined as possible, to building power and reducing resistance, with the goal of cutting that minuscule fraction of a second from your race time. So when you see a dolphin, do a 100 meter dash in just over 10 seconds, something that you know as a professional swimmer, would take the fastest human being about 4 times as long to finish, you're bound to feel a splash of awe and wonder for these extraordinary animals.
With seven interconnected resident pools and three interaction lagoons complete with temperature controlled water, sandy beaches and landscaped gardens, I think these dolphins have it really good, much better than many of the training facilities for pro-athletes back home! So I wasn't surprised to hear that the dolphins at Atlantis have not only reproduced in the absence of a formal breeding programme but also are expected to live much longer than they might in the wild.
After a detailed briefing that introduced us to dolphin training, physiology, and the importance of marine life conservation, the hotel's marine mammal specialists guided us into the lagoon with our dolphin - a young male called Black. Depending on how adventurous you're feeling, or how comfortable with the water you are, you can dive in deep with the dolphin, go for an exhilarating ride holding on to its pectoral or dorsal fins, or experience the thrill of a signature belly ride. You can also play simple games using a ball or hoop with the dolphin. And of course, what experience is complete today without an accompanying picture? So the dolphins at Atlantis will smile, shake a tail or fin, even dance to your tunes and happily give you a kiss that has you promising to bring your friends back for more!
One of the things that made this experience so enjoyable for me, was the very experienced staff - everyone from the receptionist to the marine specialist, was welcoming and well trained, so the encounter with these animals was safe and fun for the humans and animals!
I haven't yet got my PADI certification so couldn't do the Atlantis Dolphin Scuba Dive that fully qualified divers can take advantage of. But that's certainly next on my list!