Peaking into the wayback machine, I bet it was Lloyd Bridges – aka Mike Nelson – in “Sea Hunt” who planted the polyp in my brain coral about being an oceanographer. So, after years of snorkeling, diving and wondering about a watery career, I was delighted yesterday to get up close and personal with a sea-lion, two manatees and a couple of dolphins at Dolphin Discovery on Isla Mujeres.
A short ferry-boat ride from Cancun, the Dolphin Discovery center is an e-ticket for watery fun. Participants spend a good couple of hours interacting with sea mammals. Trainers talk about the creatures’ origins, food preferences and natural habitats. Then those of us who shelled out more than a few pesos get to stroke, feed and delight in sea life.
The highlight for me was kissing a Florida manatee. These “sea-cows” are peaceful, slow-moving mammals who love romaine (hold the Thousand Island, please) and other vegetables. Their thick skin is soft and slick – covered with a thin layer of algae. Although most of what we did with the animals was for the staff photographers (who later asked for $140 US for our smiling interactions with Rico and Miranda) I was delighted to place my lips on the cow-type nose of a manatee.
First, I was told to make a cup in the water with my hands, palms up. The female presented herself, placed her 6-inch schnozola in my hands and waited for her kiss. She had short, soft whiskers; wide-set eyes; and smelled only of salt water. Our nose touches for several seconds, then I turned my cheek for her to kiss. I’m in love.
Places like this – plus zoos and aquariums – are important in reminding us we are not alone on this planet. We have a responsibility to take care of each other … all creatures, wet or dry! Maybe this weekend, you can visit your local aquarium or zoo. Tell your children about these magnificent creatures who need our help to survive.