Bahamas (1996, 2008)

A humbling hurricane experience…

In 1996 I had briefly visited the Bahamas by boat and on jet ski with some friends from Miami. We enjoyed the sun, sea and fun. In 2008, however, I was about to have a completely different experience…

In the middle of a tropical storm I decided I wanted to swim with wild dolphins…

A friend sent me an email about Dolphin Expeditions, an eco-oriented boat trip from Bimini: a week of swimming and playing with wild dolphins. I have had a few brief encounters with wild dolphins, and had always dreamed of interacting with them, so I bought a ticket for the t
iny Bimini air 15 minute plane ride. This was an experience in itself. The stewardess knows all passengers by name and everybody knows each other. “How was shopping?” “How is your sick dog?”

The weather channel says there is a tropical storm approaching florida. When I ask the people from the Bahamas on the plane, they start to laugh and say “don’t worry, you’ll be safe. This storm will pass us by!”

Arriving in Bimini it is the same all over again. The Immigration Officer also knows everybody by name. “Hi Sherry, how was your trip?”

I asked where I could find the nearest ATM and I was told “there is no ATM here on South Bimini, only on North Bimini. THE (only) bank there!”

As soon as I have my luggage, it starts to rain, not long after which it starts pouring down. Thunder and lightning take out electricity on the island.

I take a taxi to the boat where all passengers arrive completely soaked. We are welcomed by the friendly crew. They explain we may need to take it easy for a day or two, until the storm passes…. In the afternoon it seems to clear up and we explore the island.

Bimini is a small island, most people walk, some use golf carts for transportation. There is one bus, that moves back
and forth over the one road on the island. The driver also knows everybody, and drops people off where they want. He even came to pick us up on the beach when it started to rain again and he knew we were there! Sometimes the bus doesn’t show up, which means the driver is having a few too many drinks in a bar…

On the beaches there are little black flies that bite and even smaller ones that you can’t see. They are called “noseeums”.

During an occasional break in the rain, friendly people in the (one) street would greet me “hi gorgeous, how are you?” Immediately followed by “sorry ’bout the weather”… Like it was their fault I was in the middle of a tropical storm turned hurricane in stead of on my dolphin swim…

I visited Shark Lab for a tour of the research facilities, the mangroves and baby sharks they keep in the nursery. Most people are unnecessari
ly afraid of these impressive animals. There is so much we don’t know about them, and in the mean time we are killing them like flies. Do you know how many sharks are killed by humans each year? 100.000.000 (one hundred million)!!!! Watch the movie Shark Water if you are interested, and let’s try and do something about the atrocities against these beautiful yet mysterious animals.

I am sorry to say that the rest of the weeks the storm forced us to stay in a sheltered harbor. We did not get a chance to swim with dolphins. But we did
see some bottlenose and spotted dolphins on the short boat ride to and from the sheltered side of the island, so there are plenty of them and they are very eager to play. The video’s I saw and the stories I heard from other people who went on this trip during non-hurricane weeks, are incredible. I will have to go back to Bimini!

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