"Let heaven and nature sing"

When the invite to Dolphins by Starlight popped up in my inbox, I was delighted. I could use my poetic license and say I danced like a dolphin. But clearly after last night’s performance, I lack the grace and finesse of the majestic dolphins at uShaka Marine World.
world-ocean-day-seaworld-thumbI know there have been complaints in previous years that the show didn’t have enough of the dolphins. This year it does. In fact, it’s the best Dolphins by Starlight show that I have attended. The jumps, twirls, flaps and tricks are a sight to behold for children and adults alike. What I loved most was the interaction between humans and dolphins; those little hugs and kisses.
But as with most live animal shows, there are protests. Social media has seen a flurry of activity from those who are against dolphins in captivity.
Captured? Aren’t we all. State capture. Are we protesting enough against that? I don’t think so. But, I digress.
One of the main arguments against dolphins at marine theme parks is that they are away from their family. This does not apply to the dolphin population at uShaka. They are a family. I chatted to uShaka spokesperson Ann Kunz ahead of the show who gave me more insight. Gambit and Frodo are the legendary founders of most of our population.  They are grandparents to Khanya, and parents to many others in the population.  Gambit has been with us since 1976 and Frodo since 1979.” And that negates another argument; that only “free” dolphins can live between 40-50 years and the life expectancy is half of that in a dolphinarium.
Are “free” dolphins really better off? Arguably, they are more at threat living in the vast oceans. Ann says the biggest threat, which has been highlighted on BBC news as well, is the amount of plastic landing up in the oceans.

The final programme in the series will look at some of the threats facing the oceans
Picture Source: BBC Blue Planet II

“Plastic never disintegrates but merely breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.  These pieces can then be consumed by many of the oceans creatures from the smallest sea creatures to the large whales that feed on krill.  It almost always ends badly for the animals who find themselves entangled in plastic.  We have even taken plastic out of the stomachs of turtle hatchlings after who were brought into our rehabilitation facility after being found stranded on a beach.” 
That is a chilling reality. And, the enormous work that uShaka is doing to create environmental awareness and help protect marine life should not be overlooked. While this debate with activists can go on, I say, let’s agree to disagree.
Picture by Val Adamson

One thing we have to agree on is that after the year South Africa has had, we need to spread some cheer. The Dolphins by Starlight show does that magnificently. It’s a live audio-visual treat with many touching moments, because at the heart of the show is celebrating a uniquely South African way of life – Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu which means I am what I am because of who we all are. We are a beautiful nation. It takes shows like this, when we all come out in our diversity, to show our unity.
Oh, and of course, Santa makes an appearance too, all the way from the North Pole. Because, Durban is where it all happens every December – yes, I’m bracing myself for that influx of holidaymakers starting… right about now! This year, Santa has ditched his sledge. He arrives in eThekwini, Mzansi in our most popular modes of transport – that, you have to see for yourself.
The entire show is wonderfully held together by talented singers from Durban. Their voices truly give voice to the love, hope and family spirit that this time of the year ought to bring for everyone, no matter what challenges they have encountered.
“Joy to the world
The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing”

As they sang this classic, with the dolphins matching the melody with jumps and twirls, I looked up and saw a trickling of rain. Indeed, heaven and nature were singing.
Dolphins by Starlight runs until the 13th of December. Booking is essential. For details visit http://www.ushakamarineworld.co.za/ (All pictures are from the website unless otherwise stated)

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