Dolphin Pen By Kite Spot
Oil Slick Seen by Dolphin Pen
Kiting With Caged Dolphins in the Caribbean
I recently went on a kite trip to Anguilla and my first day there I had a really strange experience that I feel sharing it with the public will hopefully bring better insight into the topic of dolphin captivity. I flew into Saint Martin and spent couple days kiting there and on the third day I took the ferry to Anguilla. After leaving customs I got my rental car, called my friend who lives there. The first thing he said was to meet him at his favorite kiting spot since it was right next to the ferry terminal.
I got really excited because I didn’t think I was going to be able to kite since it was getting late that day. It was about 6pm when we reached the spot and there was no one there. The spot is located in blowing point right next to a dolphin pen. I thought it was a bit strange, but I was so excited to kite that again I stopped paying attention to it. Blowing point is a great spot, but definitely one that seemed challenging. Before I went out I was a bit nervous and decided not to take my gopro with me so I could focus 100% on what was going on. It was also a spot that once you went beyond the reef you did not want to get into trouble. When I started going deep past the reef, I encountered constant 8-10 foot deep swells. The great thing was that, there was lots of wind, about 18-20kts so I had the power handy to handle the big waves and get out, if it got dicey. As you kite closer to shore and stay on the outside of the reef by the terminal side, you can do some normal wave riding (3-5 foot waves) and man was it a blast!
In the midst of it I started to notice the dolphin pen more and more. I then saw three dolphins swimming along the cage of the pen in a back and forth motion and would not leave the spot where we were kiting. I started to feel uneasy. It felt unfair, that I was kiting right next to them, enjoying this great spot, using their environment to have fun and they were sitting in this shallow water pen for tourist entertainment. As I got closer to the pen I could see several oil slicks which I’m guessing was from all the boats that park in the port. I’ve watched the documentary blackfish, but it never really hit me until I had this up close personal experience.
I remember wanting to do the dolphin experience when I was kid. I never thought about the reality of it though. It’s almost kind of eerie to really think about it. Since most of these places get their dolphins from the wild, put them in a pen for people to come and take pictures with. With Slogans like “make a friend of a lifetime” or “have a magical experience”. Of course it would be awesome to swim and touch a dolphin, let alone as a parent see your kid doing it. When I’m kiting and I see a dolphin, it is sort of magical and you secretly hope that it starts swimming next to you. But we cannot sit here and ignore the reality of what’s really going on.
There are people profiting from these kinds of experiences, yet the animal is bearing all the cost and suffering. These places have a big goal of making money. Therefore we should not support the kinds of businesses that profit from these dolphins being taken from the wild and put into captivity, just for the sake of making someone else more money. Instead pay for a tour around the island and see them in the wild to support this kind of eco-tourism. Noted I know there are some institutions that rescue dolphins and take care of them and release them into the wild once the dolphin is healthy to do it, but again these places tend to be non-profit, they don’t teach animals to do tricks for people and are really there for the well-being of the animal.
The problem is, that there is a huge industry being formed on the backs of these poor marine animals for profit. For an experience that is simply fake. These dolphins don’t want to be stuck in a pen performing tricks for people or pushing people in the water so they can take a picture. They want to be in their natural habitat. They long to be outside of the cage. Again, I never really felt this strongly about this topic until I kited next to a dolphin pen and saw the condition/reality of the situation. It simply felt unfair. I felt as I was showing off my sense of freedom, as I kited the waves next to them, yet they remained caged up.
We kited till dark and I distinctly remember feeling the loneliness and sadness of the place as I was leaving. Nobody there, just these couple dolphins swimming around the cage. I’m thankful for the awareness I received during this experience. If you’ve ever taken a picture with a dolphin or had any of these interactions, don’t feel bad, use the experience you felt when you interacted with the dolphin and remember the aliveness of these creatures, push the message forward to not pay for this kind of entertainment and instead look at these animals in their natural environment, the experience will trump paying for something that’s fake and staged.