Travelling has been a part of my life since May 2009 - it was at this point in my life that I was able to get onto a coach and travel with a group of like-minded people to Sydney to see a now-disbanded US country music duo named Brooks & Dunn. Since then, I have done four more coach trips and a four-sector flying trip to Coffs Harbour - here's how the Coffs trip went.
Day 1: Friday July 13, 2012 - Transit Day/Dolphin Marine Magic
Arrived at Dubbo Regional Airport at 5:45am for a 6:30am departure for Sydney - flying Qantaslink on flight QF2037 (de Haviland Canada DHC-8 Q315). Departed on time - arrived in Sydney at 7:30am. Had 4 hours to kill between arriving and departing for Coffs Harbour. Departed Sydney at 11:50am flying Virgin Australia on flight DJ1165 (Embraer ERJ190-100IGW). Arrived in Coffs Harbour at 12:35pm - boarded a shuttle bus and headed to my accommodation for the weekend. Checked in, dropped my gear and took a walk down to one of the best-known attractions in the area, Dolphin Marine Magic. I also had to find out how much it was going to cost to hire a wetsuit so it was off down the road a little further to a nearby dive shop. Back to my hotel for a shower and dinnner, then off to bed.
Day 2: Saturday July 14, 2012 - Dolphin Marine Magic (Full Day)
The day I had been waiting on for so long had arrived - I woke up at 5am so excited I could not get back to sleep. I knew today was the day my dream was going to come true - it came true in not just one but two ways. Had to wait almost 2 hours so I could have breakfast at a nearby cafe - I had breakfast then it was back to the hotel to get ready and go get my wetsuit. Got it and headed back to Dolphin Marine Magic, checked in and signed all the paperwork ready for my in-water encounter. Went and took a look around - got my free kisses and the subsequent photos. During this time, I was lucky enough to meet the other participants in the group I was in - two sisters from Sydney. We only got to see half an hour of the first Marine Magic Presentation then it was off to the Encounter Meeting Area in preperation for our encounter. It was during this pre-encounter briefing session where the first trainer gave us a run-down on where we could and could not touch our given animal, sanitise our hands and where we found out which of the dolphins we were going to be working with.... when she said we were working with Bella, I could not believe it! I stood there in shock... it took the trainer who took us into the water to repeat what the first trainer said for everything to totally sink in. It was then time to get into the water - what an amazing experience we all had! The best $180 I had ever spent for the most amazing 20 minutes... we learnt a lot about dolphins and their adaptations. One of the more funnier moments is when we were able to feel how hard a dolphin can exhale through their blowhole - we were asked afterwards what was on our hands. One of the others said snot (nasal discharge) and we all lost it. We also got to pat, feed and play with Bella - the best part was a water fight and I was chosen to do the water fight first. Now that was interesting - if there is one thing I learnt about that, it's that a dolphin will win hands down! A few of the other amazing things we learnt were how to tell the age of a Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (there is a method and it involves looking at the spots on their belly - the more spots they have, the older the animal is). Here are a few more Did You Know's:
Did you know.... a dolphin's skin is soft??? You actually don't realise this until you touch one....
Did you know.... dolphin calves don't have a physical "gag" reflex for swallowing like we do?? The edges of their tongue (about an inch from the tip) are "feathered" and these edges link together to form a straw - the mother can then squirt milk from her mammary glands into the calf's mouth then it will swallow
Did you know.... their tongue is as soft as the skin on the rest of their body??? Well, it is true.....
Did you know.... dolphins don't use their teeth to chew??? Their teeth are there only to grip their food
Finished the in-water interaction, collected the photos, went and returned my wetsuit and went back for the rest of the day - back to my hotel, shower, dinner and drinks at the nearby bowling club. Back to my room to bed
Day 3: Sunday July 15, 2012 - Free Day (Big Banana and general drive around)
Breakfast at 6:30am. With thanks to a friend of mine, I was able to spend some time seeing other parts of Coffs that I would not have been able to otherwise. One of these was The Big Banana - what a attraction. Coffs is a big area for banana growing and The Big Banana pays tribute to those early days.
Day 4: Monday July 16, 2012 - Final Day and Transit Day
Woke up on this day saddened to know that this was my last day on the mighty Coffs Coast - went and had breakfast and went back to my room to start packing. At 9am, I checked out of the hotel and rang the shuttle bus operator I used on the Friday to take me to the airport. Got to the airport and sat down and waited for my flight - cleared security and ETD. Boarded the plane at 1:10pm (Virgin Australia DJ1164, B737-800) and arrived in Sydney at 2:20pm. Had a 4 hour 40 minute layover before my homeward flight that departed Sydney at 7pm and arrived back in Dubbo at 8:05pm (Qantaslink QF2048, de Haviland Canada DHC-8 Q315). All in all, a wonderful weekend and one I have not forgotten!
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