That’s where FKDC comes in.
But before I go any further, I have to answer the question asked most about the camp: Why do you hold a camp that features swimming with wild dolphins?
I spent two years working as a dolphin swimming guide in Hawaii about 20 years ago. I was amazed by the effect these wild, yet approachable creatures had on humans. I believe swimming with dolphins can not only bring one closer to nature, but also it can bring out courage and confidence.
That’s what the camp is all about: Giving children the courage and confidence to live a positive and fulfilling life. And let’s be honest, swimming with wild dolphins is a pretty cool thing to do.
So, Toru and I and other volunteers set up a 4-night, 5-day excursion to Mikura Island, located about 200 kilometers off Tokyo. It is also the stomping grounds of about 150 friendly bottlenose dolphins. It is one of very rare places in the world that you can swim with wild dolphins under the watchful eye of professionals.
This year we had 13 children attend the camp. The campers, ranging from 2nd-graders to 7th-graders, were selected based off essays they wrote about Fukishima and why they should attend the camp. We had dozens of applicants and it was extremely difficult to select who would attend. We didn’t want to turn anyone down, but the budget and space in the facilities we used were limited.
For those selected, it was quite the adventure. One that didn’t include their parents. They took a bullet train by themselves from Fukushima to Tokyo, rode a ferry with our camp staff and stayed in a bungalow with other children they had never met.
And they swam with wild dolphins.
Upon arrival and getting settled in, the campers were given a snorkeling lesson in shallow water. And then we boarded a boat and headed out to sea in search of dolphins. After 10 minutes, the captain yelled, “Dolphins!” There was a pod of 30 dolphins swimming toward to us.
To say the campers were excited is an understatement. Jumping up and down and eyes almost popping from their sockets as they stared at these friendly and approachable creatures of the sea, they were ready to jump in. So they grabbed their snorkels and masks, donned a life jacket jumped into the unknown.
In the clear blue water, the dolphins slowly approached, checking out the excited children. I could hear the hi-pitched sounds of “yeeew, yeeew” that dolphins make. They swam slowly and got within 10 feet of our group. They stayed with us for less than a minute before swimming away, but it is a time that will forever be etched in the minds of these children.
“I saw a baby dolphin!” one of the campers yelled on the surface.
“Their eyes are bigger than mine, and they swam super close and I thought I was going to touch them,” said super stoked 3rd-grader Kanta Terauchi “They were very gentle and I want to swim with them more.”