Six miles south of Cozumel's capital city of San Miguel is the Chankanaab National Park. The park's natural lagoon attracts colorful birds, as well as fish and marine invertebrates. I visited the park to photograph the ''Dive with the Dolphins'' experience. Manager Pedro Mendizabal welcomed me with a tour of the enclosed bay where the dolphins live. A 45-minute talk by program instructor Jose Arroyo focused on the techniques that participants would need to use to stay within the comfort zone of the dolphins. Then Jose and dolphin trainer Bernice Garcia led us to the elevated walkway where we took a giant stride into crystal-clear water. We were told two dolphins might be joining us. I entered the water with the other participants and followed the directions of Jose and Bernice, only to find that we were utterly alone: eight divers and two guides, no dolphins. Minutes later they came from out of the blue - two energized silver streaks. Circling us like jet fighters, the dolphins eyed us playfully and then veered off to concentrate on Bernice, who had treats for them. She handed out the treats and then used hand signals to direct them to visit each of us. After being offered a ''dolphin kiss,'' they allowed us to gently stroke their flanks. We watched with delight as Bernice asked them to do a leap. The dolphins broke through the surface of the water, and it looked like they would continue straight up into the sky. Seconds later they made a perfect re-entry and circled us with lightning speed. During the 35-minute experience I was able to photograph and live a dream. To have shared their presence, even if for only a brief time, seemed like a gift from the gods. For more information about Cozumel diving, dolphins and dive resorts click onto the home pages below.
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