There is little that gets me as excited as seeing dolphins. My fascination with these beautiful creatures began 14 years ago, when I did my first swim in Cancun, Mexico. Since then I have had many wonderful dolphin experiences, locally and overseas.
Admittedly, most dolphin experiences come at a relatively high cost, so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered I could swim with dolphins in the wild for just $80 and only 3 hours north of Sydney in the stunning seaside town of Forster.
Thrilled to be on this adventure and accompanied by Master 7 and Master 13, my friend and I boarded the Dive Forster Swimming With Dolphins cruise one sunny Saturday morning. Prior to our departure we were given wetsuits and at 7am the boat headed out.
The swell was pretty high and I felt a little nervous, not knowing what was going to happen, but the very friendly captain soon put our mind to rest and explained the whole process.
As the boat headed to the sea we watched for flocks of birds flying above the water, as that is usually a spot where dolphins gather. Soon someone spotted a pod and so we cruised in their direction. Everyone put on their wetsuits and masks with snorkels.
When we reached the dolphins we took turns being in the ocean. One person at a time jumped into the water from the side of the boat and holding onto a rope tied to the side of the boat pulled themselves along until they reached the front, where they placed their foot in a loop.
The captain would then slowly follow the dolphins, while we held onto the rope. We were encouraged to make noise in the water so as to attract the dolphins.
When it was my turn I could barely contain my excitement. I jumped in, quickly pulled myself along the rope, put my foot in the loop and started "communicating" with the dolphins. And what I saw took my breath away. 3 to 4 dolphins at a time swimming beside me and in front of me. I figured the noise of the boat's engine and the sound of the ocean would drown my calls, so I turned it up a notch … and more dolphins came. Holding onto the moving boat, making noises and breathing through the snorkel, while trying to take everything in, takes a lot out of you. But I wasn't going anywhere while the dolphins were around me. For a few precious minutes, I got to enjoy the dolphins in their natural habitat – it was truly an experience I will never forget.
When I finished my swim, I got back onto the boat feeling totally elated. My beloved 13 year old son was laughing, as were the other passengers. I couldn't understand why, until junior showed me a video he made while I was in the water. My dolphin call, which I was sure no one could hear, was heard far and wide and I sounded like a chicken! We all had a good laugh and another turn swimming with the dolphins.
The cruise lasted 2 hours, although it felt like only a few minutes and was definitely one of the most amazing bucket list experiences I've had.
If you ever find yourself in Forster, I would recommend you book to go. The cruise departs at 7am on most days, providing the weather is favourable. You will need to phone Dive Forster the day before to confirm that the sea conditions are OK.
Don't forget to bring your swimsuit, a towel, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a bottle of water. If you suffer from sea sickness, don't drink or eat anything in the morning and 30 minutes prior to the cruise, take a tablet against motion sickness. Minimum age to swim with dolphins is 15 years.