Date of Trip: May 2007
By Herb Rubinstein
It’s early morning and the sky, still streaked with pink, is reflected in the crystal clear waters of Half Moon Bay Resort. This famous resort, favorite of royalty and presidents, sits on 400 acres of the most beautiful beachfront in Jamaica, perhaps the Caribbean. Luxury villas line the beach, each with its own private bay.
Here you can ride horses right out into the ocean and swim with them, you can play golf on their championship course and you can interact with Dolphins. That is what I am off to do this beautiful morning.
As I arrive at the lagoon where the Dolphins live, I can hear them clicking. They have swum up to the beach and are clicking for food. What a cool sound, Dolphins make over 200 distinct sounds, all out of their blow holes.
I am enthusiastically greeted by Oneil. He is an enthusiastic young man who openly shares his story with me. He tells me that when he was a little boy, he lived in a middle class neighborhood of Montego Bay. His aunt, on his 4th birthday gave him a stuffed animal, later in life Oneil would look back at that moment as a turning point in his life.
Oneil studied hard and took his classes seriously but he excelled at soccer. He was on his high schools’ winning team and later went on to play professional soccer with a major Jamaican club.
However 25 is a little old in the soccer world and Oneil was looking for something else that would perhaps have a more promising future. He heard about a company that was looking for people to learn to train Dolphins. He couldn’t believe his good fortune, he had read everything he could find and had studied these noble creatures for years. He applied and was immediately hired.
He started his studies at the Educational Center for the Marine and Terrestrial Wild Life Animals in Kingston and then went on to work at Dolphin Cove at Ocho Rios and then eventually here at Half Moon Bay Resort. Jamaica law is very strict concerning the keeping of Dolphins. They have adopted the USA laws concerning their care and handling.
He is the one who now greets me and begins the orientation. The two Dolphins are Bruno, 8 years old and Miguel 7 years old. Both came from Cuba and Oneil makes the highly questionable statement that they only understand Spanish, right. Other interesting Dolphin facts are: they can go 3 days out of water (of course they need to be regularly hosed down, this is how they transport them), they can live up to 3 times longer in captivity 50 – 60 years! They nurse their young for 18 months and they can glide thru the turquoise waters of the Caribbean at 22 miles per hour.
Not only do tourists and nature lovers enjoy these Dolphins, Bruno and Miguel have played host to children from the Make A Wish Foundation who come to frolic with the boys. They have also interacted with Autistic children and children with special needs who all seem to create a special bond with these majestic creatures. The trainers tell me that the Dolphins seem to sense when there is a child with special needs and they seem to make an extra effort to communicate.
Then we gather our group of 10 (never more) and float out into the lagoon. We swim out and line up and the dolphins shoot by and jump up, what power, how graceful they are…and these guys weigh in at around 500 pounds. Now they do their tricks. Miguel swims up and lays his cute Dolphin head against my cheek; he lets me run my hand down him…so smooth. Then I am positioned in the middle of the lagoon and Bruno and Miguel swim up on either side of me and I am instructed to hold on to their fins…wow what a ride, they pull me for about 50 feet and really fast.. I felt like Poseidon being pulled by his band of sea horses.
Well the boys were getting tired and so was I. We headed in to shore and out of the hot sun that was reminding me I was in the tropics. I had one more chance to thank Oneil and all the guys. Oneil, “I asked”, “so what was the toy your aunt gave you back then”? “Oh yeah, mon, it was a Dolphin. Now I am the Dolphin Master of Half Moon Bay”. Somehow I knew that was coming but it still gave me a chill. His aunt had given him a gift that opened up his world. Now Oneil gives that gift to others as he has given it to me. Tonight I will sleep peacefully in my bed while I dream of Dolphins.