Gussie Mae and Laguna aren’t two names that would top most people’s baby naming list. But, these two youngsters aren’t complaining. The two “godmothers” who christened them with these uniquely Bahamian names got a chance to treat their classmates to a fun-day on Blue Lagoon Island, frolicking in the sun with their dolphins.
Dorothy Mae Eldmire of Kingsway Academy and Marissa Maura of Lyford Cay School took home top honours in the 2007 Dolphin Encounters baby naming competition. Andrew Kiriaze of Lyford Cay School, who received an honourable mention in the contest, also visited the dolphins. Now, just four months after the ceremony, all three students returned to Blue Lagoon Island to enjoy a full day on the island doing encounters and reuniting with their finned friends.
The students’ dolphin names were handpicked from hundreds of submissions from students across the country. Ms. Eldmire chose the name Gussie Mae as homage to her middle name, Mae and Ms. Maura selected the name Laguna because it reminded her of her 5th grade field trip to Blue Lagoon Island.
During their encounters, the students along with their classmates fed, danced, took pictures and took part in basic husbandry duties with the dolphins. Later, they headed over to meet the California Sea Lions and visit the touch tank. Ms. Maura has visited Blue Lagoon Island several times, but said it was her first time actually doing the encounter.
“I’ve been here about two or three times, but I never had the chance to actually get in the water and play with the dolphins,” she said. “It was wonderful. I had such a great time. My classmates are really happy.”
Laura Zimmermann, a Lyford Cay student and classmate said she was “thrilled” to visit the dolphins.
“I’m so glad Marissa picked us to go with her to Blue Lagoon Island. I’ve been here before, but it’s so much better when you come with your classmates,” she said.
Ms. Eldmire said she was really happy to finally come face-to-face with her dolphin.
“She looks really good, and she’s so big. I can’t believe how smart she is,” she said.
Gussie Mae was born last September to mother Chippy. Laguna was born a month later to dolphin, Dot. A third dolphin, Cacique was also born in September. He was named by the Dolphin Encounters staff.
Dolphin Encounters is home to 18 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and six California sea lions. The all-natural facility is located on Blue Lagoon Island. A non-profit element of the marine park called Project B.E.A.C.H. (Bahamas Education Association for Cetacean Health) was developed in close consultation with the Bahamas Department of Education, the National Science Teachers Association and BREEF (Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation). To date, hundreds of local students and teachers have benefited from its innovative, on-site and classroom programs.