*this is the second part in an ongoing series of posts about my travels so far. You can read the first one here.
I woke up to knocking. At first I tried to ignore it, but it got louder and louder, so I forced myself out of bed and opened the door. There stood Ketut with a big grin on his face. He reminded me that in my drunken ecstasy the night before, I’d paid for a dolphin tour. It was 5 AM; we were running late.
After a quick cup of coffee and some toast, I awkwardly ambled onto Ketut’s boat along with several other bule. Our boat, in turn, soon joined an entire fleet of vessels packed with tired tourists who gathered before the sunrise in search of nature’s magic mammal.
About half an hour passed before the first dolphin breached: I would have missed it entirely had it not been announced by the Bronx cheer of a New Yorker in the boat next to us:
“Oh my gawd!!! Honey, there!!! Did you see it? Oh my gawd!!!”
All twenty five boats sped toward the place the dolphin appeared, hoping for a closer glimpse; we collectively coughed for all the exhaust on the water and looked around in vain. Suddenly, the other boats sped off again: they must have seen more dolphins.
Our captain, however, went in the complete opposite direction of the pack. At first I assumed he’d seen something none of the other boats had seen. I smiled coyly, in good faith that he knew a secret of the sea. I confidently scanned the water in front of us for his private dolphins pod.
An hour passed: not a dolphin to be seen. My confidence in our captain’s sanity steadily waned. I looked anxiously at the other tourists in my boat, and they shrugged their shoulders: one of them, who was wearing a dolphin shirt, was on the verge of tears. We all took turns shooting our captain nervous, yet respectful glances. And he ignored us all.
Finally, he grunted and gestured with his chin to a dolphin about five meters Port-side. A second dolphin soon followed, and then a third. It wasn’t until the fourth one surfaced that I realized that the movement of these dolphins was incredibly strange. I rubbed my eyes as the captain cackled maniacally.
The dolphins we saw that day rose from the water in reverse, which is to say their tails led their snouts. While one might expect swimming backwards to have a negative impact upon the fluidity of the dolphins’ movement, they were every bit as graceful as the front facing dolphins I’ve since seen on YouTube. Even dolphin shirt lady later told me that she’d never seen anything like it in her life.
The dolphins’ backward glide invigorated them. Dancing around us for what felt like an eternity, the strange fish came so close to our boat we could hear the vacuum of their lungs. We took refuge in our peculiar states of ecstasy– dolphin shirt woman lapsed into Vedic hymns, and I clapped my hands chapped like half-wit child.
It was well into the night by the time the hull of our boat scraped the volcanic earth. Fires glowed red on the beach, and people gathered round to share dolphin tales. When we sat down, they asked us if we’d managed to see any dolphins that day. We simply smiled and said, “a few…”