Dolphin Trek is a “diving” experience, except that you don’t need to be PADI-certified. Non-swimmers can participate in this activity as basically, you wear a helmet which some would call “an inverted goldfish bowl” and get to interact and observe dolphins underwater at a depth of 4 metres.
All dolphin interaction programmes at Dolphin Island include a one-day admission ticket to Adventure Cove Waterpark, one set meal at The Bay Restaurant and complimentary use of Dolphin Island lockers, towels, wetsuits and flotation devices during the interaction programme.
My Dolphin Trek experience was scheduled at 10:20am and I was required to report 15 minutes before but I was running late and only arrived 5 minutes before – thankfully I was still on time! I was greeted by Yong Wei, one of Dolphin Island’s guest relations staff who was like a chaperone to us throughout the programme (i.e. apart from our time in the water which was supervised by the dolphin trainer).
Lockers are found outside the entrance to Dolphin Island and you are required to deposit all your belongings apart from the clothes you have on and your footwear. I would suggest that you already have your swimwear on before you arrive or at least have them on under your clothing. All loose articles must be kept at this point – i.e. watches, rings, earrings, etc. These lockers (seen on the right side of the picture below) use a combination lock and are only available for complimentary use during your time spent at Dolphin Island.
Upon entering, you are asked to disinfect your footwear by stepping onto a mat containing some liquid disinfectant, and rubbing the soles of your footwear against it several times.
I was then taken to a pavilion (after crossing several foot bridges across the various pools) where I was asked to fill out an indemnity form. This programme is supposed to have a maximum of 2 guests per session and I was surprised to see 2 other people there (this meant there were 3 of us and I was the only female in the group)!
Whilst at the pavilion, as I was seated at the corner which was closest to the pool/lagoon, one of the dolphins kept swimming back and forth with its eyes above the water and its gaze on me. It even called out to attract my attention so I waved back at it. ^_^
We were each given a wetsuit and a pair of boots and told to change into them. Bespectacled guests will also be given a spectacle band so as to ensure that your eyeglasses are secured. Changing rooms are available if you need them and another set of lockers are available at the pavilion for you to store your clothes.
Before entering the water, we had to sit through a powerpoint presentation and were briefed about the procedures to be followed. We were also taught the hand gestures to be used whilst underwater as we wouldn’t be able to communicate verbally then (these are similar to the hand signals which are used by divers – e.g. ok, up, down, problem, come, move backwards, stop).
In the picture below, you can see the SeaTREK helmets which will keep our heads dry and help us to breathe underwater. They are manufactured in the United States and made from an injection molded, durable polycarbonate. Each helmet weighs a whopping 32kg on land but this changes to weigh only 6kg once you are underwater (due to buoyancy). We were told that 3 times more oxygen than we require will be pumped into the helmet so at all times, breathe normally!
I was the first to descend (using a vertical ladder) into the water and found it was still a little cold even with the wetsuit on. The equipment used is a SeaTREK Self-Contained Backpack System, which incorporates an integrated air supply (air cylinder) secured to a stainless steel backpack. A continuous flow of air is supplied to each helmet, without air lines to the surface. The backpack is first placed on your shoulders, with the oxygen tank resting in the cradle…
….and the helmet goes on next. This literally gives new meaning to having a “weight on your shoulders”!!
The air line is then connected from the air cylinder to the helmet – when that was being done, there was a loud POP and a sudden gust of air blew in and tossed my fringe over my eyes! Okay, now I was ready to descend into the depths…
With each step that you take down the rung of the ladder (i.e. by this time you are already completely submerged in water), your ears could feel blocked due to the change in pressure (similar to flying in an airplane or swimming in a pool) so you’ll need to pop your ears with every step. Just take your time, breathe normally and remember to keep popping your ears – by the time your feet touch the floor of the lagoon, you’ll be fine. Anyway, the side of the lagoon which we were at was only 4 metres deep but I noticed the opposite end looked like it had a depth of about 5 metres. The area that I was in can be seen from the Dolphin Island viewing panel of the S.E.A. Aquarium – gosh, I guess that meant I became one of the aquatic exhibits too?
We were introduced to Singa and Hui Hui, two Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins who were about 6-7 years in age (a dolphin’s lifespan is about 30-40 years).
The trainer got each dolphin to meet us one at a time and we were told to stretch out our arms and the dolphin would swim by and brush against our hands, so we got to touch it at arm’s length. This was also a safety precaution to prevent a situation where the dolphin swims too close to us and hits our helmet with its dorsal fin or tail. In case you are wondering how they feel like – their smooth skin has a rubbery texture (some say the texture more closely resembles the inner part of a hard-boiled egg). One thing to note is that you should never touch a dolphin’s eyes or blowhole as this will irritate the dolphin.
On cue from the trainer, one of the dolphins blew some bubbles through its blowhole. Wow…I’ve seen that being done before in documentaries but never in real life!
We got a chance to see the dolphins swimming around above us and also had some one-on-one interaction time with one of the dolphins in which we got to hug it and also had it plant a kiss against the front of our helmets.
The SeaTREK helmet has a “tri-view” lens, which is supposed to be designed to give guests a clean, undistorted view through the flat front, left and right panels but I found that it had two blind spots so I had to keep turning my head to be able to see what the trainer wanted us to look at. In addition, I had a little trouble finding my balance underwater and would have preferred if I had a weight belt on so that I could have my feet firmly planted on the floor of the lagoon. Looking at the other 2 guys, they didn’t seem to have any issues with balance and I guess that’s because they are heavier? The assuring part when I was underwater was that I could see a safety diver stationed beside the ladder behind us so I guess we should be in safe hands if we ever ran into difficulties.
All photo-taking at Dolphin Island is done strictly by their official photographers and we are not allowed to bring our cameras in to take any pictures. Unfortunately for Dolphin Trek, they do not provide underwater photography so we have no pictures but only memories of our underwater experience.
Once we were back up on the surface and had all the SeaTREK equipment removed, we were then ushered to a shallower side of the lagoon which was about waist deep and we had a chance to further interact with the dolphins, plus have our pictures taken with them.
Each of us had the opportunity to kiss a dolphin…
…and we also got a peck on the cheek in return!
Alas, it was time to say goodbye and the dolphins waved their tails to bid farewell. I guess I didn’t wave as I didn’t want to it to end yet. (^o^)
We changed out of our wetsuits and boots and were each handed a blue bath towel (with a Dolphin Island embossed logo) to dry off. Clothing which was previously stored in the lockers is then retrieved at this point and we were ushered to an area to view the photos which had been taken and make your selection if you want to purchase them. Collection and payment for the photos are to be made at the Reef ‘n Wave Wear gift shop, which is located at the exit of the waterpark. Do note that the photos are not cheap and the staff do a lot of hard selling!! (Prices can be found at the end of this post)
Once we were done with our photo selection, we returned the towels and were escorted by Yong Wei to the exit of Dolphin Island. Kudos to his excellent service! I was then handed this recyclable bag and a bottle of water as I was about to leave the place. Umm…the bag is quite nice!
After retrieving my belongings from the locker outside, I headed to lunch.
Included in the programme is a set meal at The Bay Restaurant – this comprises of a main course, a drink and an ice-cream. I ordered a Grilled Chicken Chop with pasta in chunky tomato sauce and it was a satisfying lunch. The voucher for the set meal is worth $8 – I learnt this when the cashier tried to charge me $8 for the meal (she insisted that I had to pay and said the voucher did not specify that the meal was free)!! Thankfully her supervisor was around and told her how to process the voucher (it’s a meal voucher so technically I shouldn’t have to fork out any more money!) – guess not all staff have been briefed on how to process the meal vouchers! 😦
Overall, the Dolphin Trek was an interesting experience and is one of the items on my bucket list which can now be struck off.
Price of Dolphin Trek:
Adult SGD$ 248, Senior SGD$ 238
RWS Invites members get 20% off (until 31st December 2013).
Adventure Cove Waterpark Annual Pass members can get the cost of the admission ticket deducted from the price of the programme.
Terms and Conditions
▸ Senior (60 years & above).
▸ SCUBA-certification is not required.
▸ Suitable for non swimmers. Guests must be at least 15 years old to participate.
▸ Maximum group size is 2 guests per session.
▸ A parent or guardian (21 years old and above) must be present to authorise participation for all programme participants who are below 21 years old.
▸ Guests must NOT be due to fly within the next 24 hours.
Prices of the photos taken:
1 (6 X 8 photo) —- SGD$ 25
1 (8 x 10 photo)—- SGD$ 35
1 DOLPHIN CD (up to 50 images) — SGD$ 125
1 DELUXE CD (up to 75 images), including 1 (8 x 10) photo and 2 (6 x 8) photos — SGD$ 150
1 DELUXE CD (up to 75 images), including 2 (8 x 10) photos and 1 (6 x 8) photo — SGD$ 175
In case you’re wondering, there are no discounts on photos unless you are a staff member of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).
Adventure Cove Waterpark, Resorts World at Sentosa, Singapore.
(click on the above link for more information about the waterpark)
FYI – Another dolphin interaction programme which is available and suitable for non-swimmers is Dolphin Discovery <-click for more details.