The two-hour Beluga Interactive Program is an excellent hands on learning experience with the added value of fun. For a $170 you will have a once in a life time thrill limited to two groups of about 4 people each. Going up to the information counter to get information, the gentleman took us a tour to where the changing room and lockers were as well as the pools where the beluga were being trained. Okay, we’re convinced, sign us up. It just so happened the encounter would be in fifteen minutes.
The program began with showing us some pictures of various belugas, indicating habit areas on a map and informing us how few of the little guys there were and why the diminishing numbers. The four of us directed to the lockers where we would don swimsuits (provided) and a full length wetsuit, relinquishing any jewelry and camera (grrrr) we had.
The pool seemed small, but realizing that this was where training took place, it made sense. Another group was there ending their experience with a different instructor and whale than us. Walking to the corner of the pool we were instructed to descend a couple of steps and stand on the ledge that jutted out. Wow, was the water cold. In a wetsuit only waste deep, I held my arms up as if I would be any warmer.
The guide beckoned the beluga to come over and we began a new understanding. These little darlings understand whistles, vocal commands and hand gestures. We participants, got to engage in communicating via hand gestures. The first, motioning as if knocking on a door, elicited a similar movement from within the famous bump forehead. I had to laugh at weird it looked. It was as though an alien creature was within and trying to get out.
Moving the hand horizontally at the wrist elicited a "no" shaking of the head from the whale. We discovered patting the tongue felt good----even to me. A playful act consisted of tossing water into the open mouth. The return was a scoop of water tossed back. When my turn came, I angled the water to appear to be coming from my sister who was standing next to me. This resulted in her getting the water tossed into her face. I just had to test my theory. After everyone laughed, except perhaps my sister, I tossed water again making sure I was the recipient of the return.
The highlight was being able to pet the smooth skin of the beluga, careful not to cover the blow hole. How would you feel if someone plugged your nose while patting you on the head? We each got to have a photo taken while wrapping our arms this now-seemingly small whale, while hoping to meet again.