Recently, Tours4Fun had the opportunity to send a few of our product specialists to a travel conference in Australia. There they were able to learn about and experience the latest trends in travel. One of our specialists, Chris, was able to share the highlights of his remarkable trip with us!
Larger Than Life
By Chris Vaeth
There were several tour operators at the conference whose effort in creating their business garnered my admiration and appreciation. Words like love, devotion, persistence, vision, determination, intelligence, and thoughtfulness came to mind.
There were three, however, who captured my imagination.
The first was Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. Rodney Fox had been bitten by a Great White shark; his son showed me a picture of the sutured wounds. A fascination with the animal developed and they became proponents of research and education, now offering an up-close-and-personal experience with a Great White shark in the wild, in the water. In a cage! A picture of the gaping mouth of a shark and the snorkeled face of Dani, the courageous sprite of a young woman next to me, persuaded me that it was probably a good idea to have a cage between you and a Great White. Dani said she, just like me, was terrified of sharks and never going in the ocean after seeing “Jaws.” But, two years ago, she started working for the company and began to overcome her fear. She is now a diving guide.
I next met with Terry Howson of Rockingham Wild Encounters. At the conclusion of our meeting I shook his hand and said: “It was an honor to meet you.” Because it was. It was an honor to meet a person who had done what he had done.
He had grown up by the ocean, and had a dream of swimming with dolphins. He started to study them, every day, for hours and hours. And one day, a wild dolphin came up to him. And something happened in that moment which set the course of his life. They became friends. He sought to understand the dolphin, how to be with it, how to play. Over time, other dolphins joined them, and a loose-knit group formed. And that led to offering a “Swim With The Dolphins” tour. But it doesn’t take place in a pool. And it’s not with captive dolphins. It is in the ocean, with wild dolphins. “There are only one or two times a year they don’t show up. They get in a mood and stay away.” (A guarantee is provided for those unlucky days). I thought later that the tour will end after he goes. It is personal, between him and the dolphins. The kind of person he is made it possible, and that’s why it was an honor to meet him.
During the last meeting of the day, I met with Aliza of Exmouth Diving Centre. Aliza is from England and was never going in the ocean either! But after moving to Australia three years ago, she began to overcome her fear. She now goes in the water, into the deep ocean, with customers, on their swim with a Whale Shark tour! I didn’t know anything about Whale Sharks but they are huge, gentle giants of the sea that eat plankton, not people! And you can swim with them. A helicopter spots them and guides the boat to position itself so customers can line up along the path being traveled by the Whale Shark, allowing for a close encounter as it slowly glides by.
The idea of being in the ocean with such a massive living being is almost incomprehensible. So thought Aliza. And so thought one of her customers, a woman of about 70, who had opted to observe a swim, rather than participate. But as Aliza shared her experience, her former fear, and her sense of wonderment about the experience, the woman decided to try. Aliza began to cry as she told the story, laughing at the same time because she was so embarrassed that she was crying during a business meeting in the midst of a busy convention! But when the woman got out of the water, back onto the boat, she thanked Aliza profusely for helping her do what she had done. Some 50 years ago, she had sworn to never again go into the ocean; her boyfriend had drowned in a tragic accident while they were swimming. That Aliza had that experience, and shared it with me, took me to a place I didn’t want to leave as I walked home in love with life.
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