10 November 2009

Dov & Dolphins

I planned on flying from Tel Aviv to Eilat, where I would dive with dolphins at a place I had learned about called Dolphin Reef. Rather than departing from the larger Ben Gurion International airport, I got a flight out of the smaller Sde Dov airport, which is closer to where I was staying. Adi dropped me off around 8:15 for my 9:20 flight -- this airport is a one room operation. This should have been fine if security hadn't, for some reason best known to themselves, targeted me as their object of scrutiny in a paranoid Israeli power trip act. They put me through a 35 minute inquisition that involved my recounting my travel itinerary to date to two people independently, showing pictures of Adi in Israel to them on my camera (after I said I had been staying with her during my stay in their lovely country), giving them names of some other Israelis I know, showing them pictures of lions and Israelis in Zimbabwe on my computer, and finally giving them Adi's phone number so they could call to verify our acquaintance.
The guard who was the magister of the inquisition said several times, "Why do you look so nervous? Don't be. You'll get your passport back and make your flight." If that was assuredly the case, why the hell were they going through all of this? I was very calm and collected for about 25 minutes of the process, and then I finally said, "This is incredibly frustrating. I have no idea why you don't believe my story and have kept questioning me about things that seem to largely be private and of no concern to anyone's security." Well, that's what I was thinking (or something very similar). What I said was certainly a much milder version which I uttered pretty calmly and with confidence because I had done ZERO wrong and was finally annoyed with the whole situation. She responded well to this, probably because they knew I was actually telling the truth about everything. Don't they regularly get foreigners coming through here saying hey met people from their country while working with lions in Zimbabwe?! She said they were just going to call Adi as the last part of the process. They did. Fortunately, she wasn't so fed up with me as to say, "David who?"

I was on my way after that. In retrospect, I'm wondering if they have some sort of special x-ray scanner that showed them the Palestinian kefiya I got in Jerusalem in my bag. Hmm…

Upon arriving in Eilat I headed straight for Dolphin Reef. The dolphins there go out at night into the Red Sea but they come back every morning to spend their days around the resort. In addition to the excitement from this being the first dive after my Open Water certification in Knysna, I was mesmerized by the fact that these dolphins were swimming all around me -- that I was truly in their world more than they were in mine, which is the case at an aquarium or a place like Sea World. This event triggered lots of memories from when I was younger and wanted to be a marine biologist studying animal communication.

One fantastic aspect of Dolphin Reef is their emphasis on non-tactile interaction. The dive master I swam with stressed that under no circumstances should we touch the dolphins during our dive, even if they swim right past us. This is not a petting zoo for the guests who come. These are not trained dolphins. There was one scientist who was talking about the dolphins to people. If they dolphins came up to him, he'd rub them for a minute and they'd swim away and maybe come back a while later. My analogy is that these are more like playful cats than the dog-like trained dolphins who jump through hoops or do tail moonwalks on command. Dolphin Reef also has a more new-agey area that offers water relaxation workshops and relaxation experiences in some pools of different temperatures, with audible music below the water. Maybe I'll check those out next time. Being underwater with the dolphins and sitting on the beach for a couple of hours afterwards was relaxing enough for me. In a heartbeat I would dive again with these animals.

No comments:

Post a Comment