Wando, praise to Wando.
Dolphins are beautiful, intelligent, and charming creatures. To many, they are a symbol of the ocean; a symbol of beauty and elegance. To the one of the many aboriginal tribes of Australia, Wando, the dolphin, is so much more.
During a kayaking tour — one of my many adventures in the cheery little beach town of Byron Bay — my companions and I learned a lot about our dolphin friends. We learned that dolphins are social – they travel in pods, and only when they are hunting do they swim alone. We learned that the best way to attract a friendly group of dolphins is to also appear as a friendly group of beings, and to not travel alone, as though we too are ‘hunting.’
So upon a signal form our guide (a vertically turned kayak oar lifted into the air), all of us in our kayaks “pod up” and form a single floating mass of boats on the water’s surface. And soon enough we see dolphins dipping in and out of the water in a circular arc. We even see one or two young dolphins take great leaps — up to six feet into the air — for their dolphin fun and games.
After seeing these spectacular beings, we stopped to listen to our tour guide of aboriginal heritage tell us about all of the life on the ocean and how much each species within this fragile ecosystem, from human to plant, rely on each other for life. He told us about the flowers that grew in his winter home, which signaled the time to move to the bay with their blooming. He told us of the yearly week-long trek his family took to the shore when he was a child after the first flowers had opened. He told us about the schools of fish just below the ocean’s surface, feeding on the nutrient-dense water particles, and how the sea birds could dive up to 20 meters down into the water to catch one and resurface with it. He spoke about Wando, the dolphin, which would lead them to these schools of fish and these birds where his people could fish enough to sustain themselves and their families – always leaving enough for the dolphins who lead them to this bounty.
During this conversation as the wind was pushing us away from the shore, we were made aware that we were at the most Eastern point of Australia. On this particularly perfect day (very little wind and very small waves) we ventured further out into the deep blue than most tours get the chance to. We reached the tip of the final cape on Byron Bay before turning back against the wind and paddling home.
My adventure in Byron Bay was the first time I was able to visit an ocean, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to see and learn about all of the life of the ocean from someone who understands it so well. To all of the many people I had the chance to talk to who moved to the bay from countries around the world and never looked back, I get you.