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PANGLAO3On my trip to the Philippines I spent a lot of my leisure time observing many interesting places, both natural and made by man. One day I was chatting with the fishermen on the beach in Panglao of Taglibaran . They suggested I go island hopping trip from Panglao and combine it with some dolphin, whale and sting ray watching. This made an immediate impression.

To watch out for a whale from a country boat would be a fancy whale of a story and to sight sting rays a yawn, but to maybe see some dolphins was a distinct possibility.

As a student I had read fables that depicted  dolphins to be associated with the Greek Sea God Dionysias, and also a constellation of stars. Fables also said that the God had transformed sea pirates into dolphins and commanded them to predict calm seas, rescue distressed sailors and guide ships to safe harbors. Science describes them as graceful, intelligent and affectionate mammals. I had never seen dolphins in the wild and so I negotiated a trip starting at 6 am from Panglao to the nearby Balicasag and Virgin islands, by private boat, for an hour of dolphin watching and a few hours of snorkeling on the beach in the islands.

PANGLAO1We packed some breakfast, fruit, sufficient water, snacks and drinks I hopped over into a country boat or traditional catamaran which had an 9.9 Hp outboard motor, mast, sails and a roof.

The weather was perfect with just a bit of cloud cover, a little bit of warmth from the sun and a soft cool breeze which blew away any of the yesterday blues or hangovers. Sea air cures all self inflicted ailments. It was a smooth cruising on the bay and the boat road very well on the strong but not so high waves. I took off my safety jacket as I found it to be cumbersome and tried balancing along with the other two other crew members.   After sailing in the pristine aquamarine waters for about thirty minutes, we stopped to drift along with other crafts full of tourists from neighboring islands to wait for the dolphins to emerge. It was also an interesting feeling to keep watch over the waters, to experience the thrill of being the first to catch sight of the dolphins. Luckily I was the first to notice the dolphins several hundred meters away from our craft and quietly alerted my boatman. Others spotted them too and the race was on to get a closer look. We raced and had a clear lead as we headed towards the direction of the dolphin school.

To our astonishment, all of a sudden a dozen dolphins broke water just a few meters beyond our boat. It was a shock, as well as bewildered excitement to all of us, as we cut the motors to drift along, while the dolphins played the game of hide and seek. This was a magnificent game that always caught us unawares. The dolphins disappeared into nowhere and surfaced in unexpected, nearby places.

PANGLAO2It was sheer thrill and excitement, as we watched the dolphins jump above the waves until after an hour suddenly the dolphins dived into the waters to be seen no more. They surfaced a mile away, hopping, skipping and playing while swimming further away.

In all the excitement I noticed a secret in this dolphin encounter which I believe is a small trick up the sleeve of the organizers. ( A trick I dare not reveal for the love of this adventure, sport, fun and the tourism surrounding the Dolphin encounter which happens to be a major source of livelihood for the impoverished fisherman community of Panglao as also the only pleasure, joy and fun enjoyed by the tourists.)

Having enjoyed the dolphins at play I was elated to know more than what I had read. I had seen and experienced these intelligent, friendly mammals and found the reason for the elevated status they had gained in Greek mythology, as well in our science texts.