Imagine riding a wild dolphin. The dolphin's body is sleek and smooth. It feels kind of like a wet rubber raft. You hold onto the dolphin’s fin, while the up-and-down strokes of its strong tail pull you through the shimmering waves. What an adventure!
Dolphins look and swim like fish. But they are mammals, just as human beings are. They have warm blood, breathe air, and give birth to live young. Some people today even believe that dolphins try to communicate with human beings.
Dolphins may sound like the magical animals in fairy tales, and riding a dolphin may seem like a crazy fantasy. But stories of children riding dolphins go back almost two thousand years. More recently, wild dolphins have been filmed playing with people. Some wild dolphins have become tourist attractions because they have stayed so long in one place.
Dolphins may sound like the magical animals in fairy tales, and riding a dolphin may seem like a crazy fantasy.
One of these dolphins is called Opo. Opo spent a summer near a beach in New Zealand. Opo allowed swimmers to pet it and played a beach ball they tossed to it. Opo formed a special bond with a thirteen-year-old girl named Jill Baker. Opo would recognize Jill even from behind, slip under her, and give her rides through the water.
Jill said that she thought Opo was especially friendly to her because she was always gentle with the dolphin. Also, she didn't rush to try to touch it, the way some swimmers did.
Perhaps one reason wild dolphins play with people is that they are naturally fun-loving. They often invent their own games. Divers have seen wild dolphins playing “keep-away" with bits of seaweed and fish skin. Two dolphins in a marina played for hours with a feather. They placed it near a jet of water in the side of the tank and then chased it as it shot through the water. And wild dolphins are often seen "surfing" on the waves created by large ships.
The playful creativity of captive dolphins often surprises their trainers. Brenda was a dolphin at a New Zealand marina. A trainer arrived at her tank with a bat. Brend had never before played baseball, but the immediately used her nose to toss a ball at the bat. The trainer was amazed because dolphins usually toss balls directly to people. Later, the trainer expanded the game and added it to the dolphin show. Brenda pitched, and three other dolphins played in the outfield.