Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Swimming With Dolphins

This was originally on

Ever since editing a piece about Dave Navarro swimming nude with dolphins in the Worst Issue Ever, I’ve always wondered what would it be like to rub my lithe, naked torso against the rubbery skin of the sea’s friendliest mammals. Last week I met a guy called Farik on a beach in Mauritius and he sold me a package tour that promised “Swimming with dolphins and barbecued lobster on an island,” so I signed up to it without thinking twice. Here’s what fucking happened.

Call me a total naïve idiot, but from Farik’s description of the package tour, I imagined I would be ferried effortlessly via limousine to a nearby exclusive cove whereupon I would dive into the crystal clear waters then be tossed aloft into the air by the thrust of a dolphin’s beak. The beast would make that clicking sound and we’d laugh and joke around while also developing a deeper understanding of ocean life. But it was nothing like that. In fact it was one of the most tawdry experiences of 2008.

Let this act as a warning to anybody foolish enough to sign up for one of these things. What happens when you sign up (which costs about £250), is that you have to be in the lobby of your hotel for 7.30AM then wait for 30 minutes for a monosyllabic Mauritian guy to bundle you into the back of a mini-bus that smelled of whatever the bus driver had eaten for dinner the night before (quite spicy), along with 16 half-asleep strangers. They ranged from a South African family, to some French old age pensioners, to a really grumpy rotund English woman and her boyfriend.

On arrival at our destination were shunted onto a beach where we had to hand over more money (£50) to a gang of shady looking guys who had a catamaran that was connected to the beach by a rusted, broken gangway that had almost completely collapsed in the middle. There were flies everywhere. Eventually we took our place on a catarman that smelled strongly of piss and had more files buzzing around it than the beach.

My girlfriend Maggie and I took our places, squashed up against the rear of the boat next to two 60 year-old-ginger haired twin sisters from France and their husband. A South African family with two small children joined us and then a gang of five drunken French gentlemen in their mid-20s wearing cowboy hats turned up with two black girls wearing thongs and cowboy hats. It soon transpired that the girls were hookers, hired by the French guys for their friend’s birthday, which I thought was a very nice gesture, even if it sat a little uncomfortably among the toddlers, old age pensioners and “swimming with dolphins” vibes that we’d gone in for.

The French guys looked like they’d been doing coke all night, all jittery and chain smoking. One of the hookers could barely stand up and so spent the whole time alternating between rubbing the French guy’s thigh while lying down and listening to Mauritian R&B on her mobile phone. It sounded very tinny. Very tinny and very fucking soul destroying and so I begged the small kid who was working the bar to give me beer upon beer and when he was distracted I stole a bottle of rum and put it in Maggie’s bag. I must have drunk half of it in 30 minutes.

After our fellow passengers had finished eating the cut up baguettes covered with cheap jam that was our “all inclusive breakfast” we set off, very slowly to go and swim with dolphins. About an hour into it, and with a very loud soundtrack CD of Crazy Frog and Mauritiun R&B we slowed down and were told that “Here are ze dolphins” by our captain, a jheri-curled man with blue contact lenses in that gave him the appearance of somebody who plays in a Prodigy tribute act.

For ten minutes we saw some dolphins 800 metres away before sailing for what seemed like three hours aimlessly around an island while the captain played, very loudly, songs by Christina Milian, 50 Cent and, again, Crazy Frog. Staggering to the downstairs toilet, which naturally was full to the brim with other people’s piss and was surrounded by a halo of flies, I cut my foot open on a broken wine glass, slipped over and cut my head open on the metal rigging.

By now I was too drunk to care any more. I wasn’t even that upset about the fact that there was no “Island visit with lobster dinner” as promised. Instead a small child brought a plastic bucket of chicken out from a cupboard by the toilet and the captian cooked it until burned to a crisp on a portable barbecue. The French guys and the hookers loved it and managed to polish it most of it themselves.

During the chicken dinner, we stopped for a while so I jumped off the side of the boat for a swim, cutting my chest open on a jagged lump of coral. I pulled myself back up onto the boat and sat there, bleeding from chest, head and foot while downing a half pint of warm rum and Sprite.

It would be three more hours of this shit before we made it back to shore.