My Dolphin Encounter with Winter and Panama Plus a Snorkel Party


The author (me) with Panama, an elderly bottlenose dolphin in her forties.

So About a week before I returned home to New Hampshire, my sister Janis and I did a dolphin encounter program that Clearwater Marine Aquarium offers as one of it’s many dolphin interaction programs that are available to the public. The encounter usually begins with a behind the scenes tour, where you can see how the aquarium works and some of the sights and sounds of the upcoming movie “Dolphin Tale”. But because Janis and I were working at the aquarium for the summer and we simply knew everything about the facility, so it was decided by trainer Abby Stone and her team that our session would last an additional few minutes. So, at about 3:30 PM, Abby led us to the Winter Zone and that was when our encounter began.

Here is me feeding a fish to Winter the Dolphin with my sister Janis and hero Abby at my side.

When I got my feet into the watery platform, man, it was cold but at the same time, it felt pretty much relaxing too at the same time. The temperature of the water was about 77 degrees. It was just the perfect temperature for such a hot day as it was. Back to the encounter, Abby introduced us to celebrity dolphin Winter. My sister and I got to feed her fish, touch her flipper, and give her a few signals. However, While we got all touchy with Winter, we also got to learn a little bit about dolphin anatomy like the dorsal fin, and pectoral fins. Winter was a bit vocal too. But while, we focused on Winter, her adopted mother Panama come right up to us like it was her turn or something. Abby on the other hand, instructed us to not look at Panama and focus on interacting with Winter for the rest of the first session.

 

It's now Panama's turn to interact with us.

After our session with Winter was over, it was now time to play with Panama. But first, we started off her session with three photo sessions with Panama before the encounter began. Some of the behaviors we gave to Panama included “singing” to us, splashing and waving at us. It was like Panama was putting on a show of her own. It was such a great day to play with Winter and Panama while getting to know some great trainers who spend their time educating everyone about dolphins and other marine life while working the animals at the same time.

Here's how I celebrated a great summer at CMA.............Snorkle Party!! (photo is by fellow intern, Jackie Lewis)

So, on the last Thursday of my internship, CMA’s education interns held an evening boat party that took you out to go snorkeling in the harbor. When we got to a nearby sand bar, I just jumped off the boat and I began  my snorkeling experience. I swan through a bed full of sand dollars, conchs, and crabs. I would find sand dollars that were the size of my hand, and show it off to everyone before putting back in the water because they were all alive. Soon after, I found a blue crab that was resting inside an old pipe. At first, I thought there was nothing but sand inside the pipe, but after taking a good peek inside the small pipe, I found the crab in there and allowed everyone to see him for a while. Don’t worry, we did not bring him back with us, instead, we let him be by returning him to the same spot where we found him.  After our little encounter with the blue crab and more snorkeling, I ended up finding a large lighting whelk. Once I picked it up, I tell everyone “hey look what I have on me…it’s a whelk, please come take a look. Soon, everyone took a look it before it began to move around my hands for a few minutes before fellow intern Amy sighted a loggerhead turtle who was 100 yards away from us. When Amy broke the news about the turtle sighting, I put the whelk back into the water so, that I could try to get a good glimpse of the turtle myself. Eventually, she surfaced for us a few times before she swam off to sea. It was not long before it was time to head back to the aquarium because it was about to storm in Clearwater. Overall, it was such a great evening and good way to end a great summer.

I am so going to miss seeing Janis playing Tina the turtle.

My last day was the following Friday and I got invited to intern at the aquarium again next year. Don’t worry, This blog will have new entries year around. So stay tuned.


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