Aloha. Love, hello, goodbye – it’s a word with plenty of meanings. Beyond it’s use as a ‘word’ or salutation, noun or verb, Aloha means one thing to me.
In November 2014, I packed my GoPro, dive gear and beach essentials and travelled to the Big Island of Hawaii with intention of staying for 2 months or so. I have an amazing friend, Roberta Goodman, who offered me a once in a lifetime experience to spend time on her boat and help her with her company. Wild Dolphin Swims Hawaii is based in Kailua Kona, Hawaii and basically is exactly what it sounds like; a company that provides guided tours to customers to swim with the wild dolphins of Hawaii in the ocean. For those people who don’t know me personally, dolphins are my life. The reason I am motivated to practice my passion, the reason for my internal bliss and self acceptance and the reason I chase my dreams to spend as much time possible in their natural habitat, just observing their presence. I don’t know where this love for nai’a (Hawaiian word for dolphin) developed or why, perhaps I was a dolphin in a past life, or a sailor who was saved from drowning by a whimsical Bottlenose, or maybe I was a mermaid and a dolphin was the Flounder to my Ariel. Where my passion sparked or stemmed from I don’t exactly know, but I do know I’m so blessed and lucky to know what my passion is. After travelling for a day over the Pacific Ocean to land late at night on my new island surroundings, I settled into an ocean side bachelor unit and slept listening to the sound of tumbling waves outside my lanai (Hawaiian word for patio). I woke up in Hawaii. Beyond the sounds of the pounding waves against the black lava rock along the coastline, I took notice to the mellow warmth that invited me outside. I opened my lanai door, sat on my white deck chair with the warmth of the sun rising over Mauna Kea and inhaled the salty mist that lightly grazed my skin from the sea shore across the street. The palms were tall, the flowers vibrant and the little friendly green lizards were crawling around my feet. I began my day with an explorative walk around my new neighbourhood, some light unpacking and a meeting with Roberta. Roberta Goodman is a dolphin goddess. She has been swimming with dolphins for thirty years, a true dolphin guru, an accomplished author and dolphin activist. Beyond her many notable accomplishments, she is a warm and trusting soul with a heart of gold. Her and I connected long before my arrival to Hawaii via email discussing our love of dolphins, our passion for their freedom and our dream to swim with them in their natural environment. I was honoured she trusted me to come join her on the island and share her experience swimming the Hawaiian Spinner dolphins, who I was convinced she must know all by name. As we bonded over Mai Tais at the Royal Kona Resort Bar, we connected over our love of dolphins. I finally felt like I was among my people. My first swim with the dolphins came quickly, the very next day I met the pod Roberta calls her friends. We set out on Roberta’s boat, the Blue Jay (named after her two granddaughters) and headed north of the Honokohau Marina. Before I could even get my sea legs back, I heard “dolphins!” That was fast! We spotted a huge group of spinners on the reef north of Garden Eel. As we all greeted the dolphins with an onslaught of cheers and applause, they took to our bow and cruised along with our vessel. “Looks good,” Roberta said to her captain, Eric. There was about five of us getting ready to get into the water after we established that the dolphins were social and accepting of us. I don’t even think I de-fogged my mask, I was so keen to get in as soon as I could. With my fins on and snorkel in my mouth (and a huge surrounding smile around the snorkel!) I followed Roberta and slid gently into the warm, salty blanket of the sea. I call it my salty blanket because it’s where I feel warm, cozy, at home and relaxed more so than on land. That was the first thing I noticed before I spotted the dolphins, the water. The water in Hawaii is like a dream. It melted into my skin as I dove below the surface on my first Hawaiian duck dive. I kicked my legs and sent power to my fins and explored the ocean floor with my eyes. We must have been at about 70 feet of depth, but I could see the bottom composition with ease. The ripples of the sand, the yellow tang darting in and out of a coral on the neighbouring reef, the deep blue hue at depth, I was enraptured as I dove down deeper. Before I could even process the immense beauty of the environment I was in, I saw dolphins coming right at me. This was the first time I had seen dolphins in the water for about seven months. I instinctively spoke to them in my very own dolphin call (a melody I greet the dolphins with every time I enter their home) and watched in awe as they approached me. Just to paint a picture, when I say ‘they,’ I’m referring to hundreds of dolphins. The Hawaiian Spinners congregate in massive pods in comparison to other species. It was like a dolphin highway. My heart beat raced as I turned to swim alongside them. Gliding alongside the pod, I was accepted to swim with them in their home. As a land-dwelling being, I have the utmost respect for the sea and what resides in it, as it is not mine to call home. It belongs to the animals, creatures, mammals, plants, amoebas, plankton, and sand, we can only be so lucky to be accepted and welcomed by these inhabitants. I wanted to let the dolphins know I respect them, so I kept my distance and swam gracefully at their pace. I don’t know these dolphins, they don’t know me, but I knew I wanted them to know that I only wanted them to be comfortable with my presence. As they continued to swim south, I stopped for a breath and a conscious moment to appreciate what I just saw. The other swimmers and I rejoiced and high-fived in sheer joy that at the experience. Even though we celebrated altogether, I had the grandest internal celebration which I kept to myself. I smiled in my heart and felt the flow of life in the ocean water that lifted me to the surface, I was home, or at least where I wanted to call my home forever.
Over the course of the next few months, I had never felt more loved, alive, welcomed, accepted, appreciate, grateful, nourished and blissfully happy. Living in Hawaii meant all these things to me. The people, the ocean, the dolphins, the feeling, the lifestyle and the intention was speaking to my soul. To me, living Aloha means living with the intent of positivity and happiness always. I am so thankful to Hawaii Nei for teaching me how to keep Aloha in my heart and take it with me, and more importantly, honour it and share it within myself and to my fellow neighbour and friend.
The Wandering Wahine