Adventure Time By Elena

Jambo, everyone! I’m writing to you while in Iringa, but this short reflection will be about a certain experience during my time Zanzibar. The first hotel we stayed at was called the Tamarind Hotel and it was very ‘’posh’’ as the locals like to say. Located directly beside the Indian Ocean, the Tamarind has perfect weather, food, and friendly guests- and since it is geared toward tourists, they also offer tourist-type activities. Among every activity listed, only one seemed to catch my eye. This activity was something I had wanted to do since I was little- it was something only the “cool kids” did when they went to Sea World, or on cruises to the Florida Keys; and now, I had the opportunity to do it in Zanzibar, in the Indian Ocean! This activity, (which is probably obvious by now) was swimming with dolphins. As much as I wanted to do it, the cost of swimming with dolphins for one person was very high- and it made me question if I truly wanted to commit to this decision. Since everyone else had decided to either go snorkeling or stay at the hotel, I would be going alone on this excursion, which was something else that I had to keep in mind. After a few days of mulling it over, asking my mom for advice, and even Professor Quaye, my mind was made up- I decided I was going to do it! In all seriousness, my heart was set on doing it anyway, my mind just needed to catch up.

So, the day arrived when I was to go swim with them; I woke up at 5:20 in the morning, got dressed, and was greeted by a beautiful sunrise overlooking the ocean. I got into a car with a hotel employee, and off we went! The Dolphin Bay was about an hour away from where we were staying, so during the car ride, this man was informing me of what to expect and he was also asking me questions. The questions were similar to these: “Have you ever swum with a dolphin before?” “Have you seen a dolphin in person?” and, “Have you ever swum in DEEP water?” Since all of my answers had been “Um…No, I haven’t” to every question, my stomach started to drop, and I was beginning to doubt myself (but more on that later…)

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the driver pulled up to the beach and I was greeted by my captain. He helped me try on flippers and goggles, gave me my life vest, and I was off! This was real- I had made it this far. This was actually happening, and it didn’t matter that I was by myself, this was MY adventure, and I was so excited! It took a while to get to where the dolphins were, so it was nice to enjoy the morning on the Indian Ocean. Now, here is where it starts to get tricky. We had arrived to where the other tourists were, and they were all swimming and had snorkels on, so the captain said “Jump out! They are here! Get your camera!” So I did. That would have been a piece of cake, if I was an excellent swimmer who knew how to use a snorkel.

I dove in and immediately water rushed into my mouth. Purposefully trying to stick my head under water in order to see the dolphins worsened my situation, and on top of that the snorkel kept falling out, and I couldn’t figure out the correct breathing technique. While looking down, the ocean floor seemed miles and miles away from the tips of my toes, and that was when I really started to panic. The sun was glaring in my eyes while I was trying to find my captain to explain that I couldn’t swim well enough like the others- but he was nowhere to be found. I swam in circles, sputtering for breath, and crying in utter defeat. Just in time, my captain arrived- I climbed into the boat and he asked what was wrong, and I said “I’m not *sputter cough sputter cough* a good enough swimmer for these waves! I just want to watch!” My captain didn’t quite get the message, and he wanted me to try again the next time the dolphins surfaced.

Reluctantly, I obliged- and this time, it was even worse, and I kept shaking my head and telling myself “I can’t do this, I can’t. You can’t do this, you tried, but you physically can’t.” It was definitely a bittersweet moment- I had come all this way, paid this much, and I couldn’t even swim! At this point, I was so weak from fighting against the waves and struggling to stay above water that my captain had to pull me into the boat, and by that time he finally understood that I couldn’t do it! So for the rest of the morning (which was much more enjoyable), I witnessed dolphins playing peek-a-boo with the other tourists, and even the dolphins swimming right under our boat! An hour or so passed, and the captain decided we should head back to shore, since I wasn’t going to be swimming, and the dolphins had left for a little bit.

Since all stories come to an end, and all stories have a moral, the moral of this one is: even though I couldn’t swim, it was still an adventure. Sometimes doing things by yourself is more enjoyable, and going beyond your limits is an adventure in itself. And, trying new things even if it makes you scared or nervous-that’s what makes it an adventure. I guess another moral could be, if you want to swim with dolphins, you better know how to swim!

Kwaheri and Asante Sana for reading!

Students exploring, learning, and experiencing Tanzania