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A sweet escape

By Blog
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The end of the Dolphin Swim Club?

This is the first update about the Dolphin Swim Club in quite a while. As for so many of us, the past years of the pandemic have been a difficult time for us personally. I lost a parent, and at the same time my husband Benno, who is also the producer of the Dolphin Swim Club VR, suffered a stroke. So, it was time to take a rest in order for him to fully recover. And he thankfully did!! As was also the case for most of us, traveling was on pause as well. We were afraid that this might be the end of the breathtaking journey of the Dolphin Swim Club VR, which started as my art project in 2015.

The dolphins remained free as ever

This, however, was not the plan of the dolphins. They, of course, remained free as ever and unaffected by any pandemic in their ocean world. Even the virtual dolphins kept on traveling as never before, continuing to find their way to bring well-being to clients globally. They even helped Intensive Care personnel to have brief moments of relaxation during their heroic efforts to care for an overwhelming number of patients. Here you find an example filmed by a Dutch news show: Een Vandaag. It shows the VR goggles of one of our partners being used by IC personnel in several hospitals in the Netherlands. This, and many more inspiring stories I would love to share with you.  This project never ceases to amaze me. What have the dolphins been up to, while we were in our cocoons at home?

Reach for a dream in South Africa

In the early months of 2021, the Dolphin Swim Club was contacted by Dominic Eskofier and Maxine Nel, both working for Eden in Johannesburg, a research and development lab exploring emerging technology.

Eden works with South African non-profit organizations like Reach for a dream. This organization seeks to bring comfort to terminally ill children and their families, by providing these dreamers with the opportunity to realize some of their greatest wishes.

During the pandemic, it was a great challenge for Reach for a dream to make dreams come true for these children. So they teamed up with Eden for a very special project: supplying 14 Virtual Reality headsets with content that speaks specifically to children’s dreams. And which child doesn’t dream of swimming with dolphins?

A Sweet escape

The dolphins visited the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg. The kids absolutely loved the experience. The dolphins truly put many smiles on kids’ faces. The doctors were also blown away by how much the kids were distracted from their hospital environment.

Because this visit was such a great success, Eden has delivered 6 more headsets to hospitals in Cape Town and Durban. And the Dolphin Swim Club has donated the swimming with wild dolphins in Virtual Reality content to Reach for a dream. It is now featured in their dream kit, which is bringing quite a bit of magic to children in South African hospitals.

Connect with the beauty of this precious planet

I have wondered why just experiencing swimming-with-wild-dolphins-in-virtual-reality has the beneficial effect that it has on users. Why do so many people dream of meeting, and swimming, with wild dolphins? What many users tell me is that by having a sense of being fully emerged in the turquoise ocean, surrounded by a large pod of wild dolphins, they can connect with the beauty of this precious planet. They experience a sense of peacefulness and an existence in freedom. As a dear friend once said:

“If only we could see each other through the eyes of a dolphin.
We could achieve world peace within a generation”.

 

May the peace of the dolphins be with you,
Marijke Sjollema.

Dolphin VR Bibi

Can dolphins aid students in reducing stress? Introducing Bibi

By Blog
Reading Time: 3 minutes

An inspiring encounter

My first encounter with the Dolphin Swim Club was three years ago in 2019. After hearing about the project, I asked for a meeting with Marijke Sjollema. This talk went on for hours and we immediately connected over our massive passion for the oceans and their fascinating inhabitants. I remember how the conversation flowed and how I felt when I left, having learned so many new details about dolphins and virtual reality. It really expanded my horizon.

How it all began

As it has been my passion for a long time to bring animals and people together again, I saw how the Dolphin Swim Club project could open our hearts toward animals again. As for this passion, I started studying Animal Management at the Hogeschool Van Hall Larenstein four years ago. I focused my study on psychology and Animal-assisted therapy because I always felt that we can make the biggest shifts in people’s minds through these subjects. This study, along with my experience of working hands-on with dolphins under human care in Malta and Curaçao as well as with semi-wild dolphins in Australia has given me a good indicator of how much these beautiful animals can benefit and teach us.

Now, with the dolphin-VR project, it seems that the Dolphin Swim Club has found a way to create the same incredible benefits for people without the need to take the animals out of their environment.
Finally, in the summer of 2021, I reconnected with Marijke and Benno and started to research the Medical Virtual Reality Dolphin Experience and its effect on students. This was going to become my bachelor thesis. You can find the finished results here.

This idea came to fruition after I saw so many of my fellow students struggle greatly with pressure, stress, and even depression during their studies. Since I have experienced these struggles myself, I wanted to see if there could be a direct and easy solution that could help my fellow students to cope with their stress. Not knowing that this idea was going to be a big success I started the research in September 2021.

Can the dolphins help students?

The main question was: To what extent does a student in the Netherlands undergo a decrease in pre-exam stress during a virtual reality dolphin experience?

My research Partner Shiva Jalalizadeh and I, let students come into our little lab during a high-stress period, the exam week, and let them swim with virtual dolphins there shortly before their exams. The students rated their self-perceived stress levels before and after the experience. We measured their heart rate and observed their body language during the experience to detect any signs of stress or relaxation.

The feedback and the results were amazing, out of 34 highly stressed students 32 experienced a significant decrease in their self-perceived stress levels. Almost no signs of stress-related body language were detected during the experiment as well. The students were rather deeply immersed in the experience and showed this by grasping for something that they saw and by looking around them to not miss anything. Shoulders were relaxed and smiles were formed on a lot of faces. ‘Omg there is a baby dolphin’ one of the students yelled out with pure delight.

Only the heart rate did not decrease as expected within most students, it was rather enhanced in some cases. Pairing these results with the positive experience and the stress decrease the students felt, it is a big possibility that the heart rate went up because of ‘eustress’ which is positively perceived stress and enhances motivation and focus.

A deeply relaxing experience

All in all, it feels safe to say that the relaxing and deeply immersive experience of swimming with the virtual dolphins of the Dolphin Swim Club has a very positive effect on a student’s stress level, especially during high-pressure periods such as the exam weeks. I am really glad to have discovered this enhancing and easy implementing tool, that can be used to lower perceived stress levels and to relax. Furthermore, there is a possibility that this decrease in stress could even lead to higher performances.

Even though my thesis is finished, my journey with the Dolphin Swim Club isn’t over yet, and I am happy to say that I will be supporting Benno and Marijke for the upcoming half a year to take their message further into the World.

I am looking forward to sharing new insights and adventures with you.
Bibi van Neuss

The male singer

By Blog
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The male singer


The Captain turns off the engine and lowers a hydrophone attached to a long cord into the ocean. He plugs the other end into a brightly coloured funky looking radio, serving double duty as a loudspeaker, and cranks up the volume. A party of 10, passengers and crew, Europeans, Americans and locals all gathered on this tiny vessel in the coastal waters of a Polynesian Island. Our lively conversations fall still, we concentrate on listening. The silence is only broken by the sounds of the waves gently rocking against the hull of the small boat. Some squeaks from the radio as the captain proceeds to lower the cord.

Silence. No one says a word, then suddenly, as if on cue aware of the perfect dramatic moment, a haunting moan… A sound coming from the ocean below us finds its way to the yellow and pink radio. Our native Polynesian captain, handsome and with some impressive tattoos on his legs, smiles and says; ‘we’ve got a singer!’

The male singer

A large humpback whale bull floats nearby and produces these strange and highly enchanting sounds. He is calling out to the other whales: a communication that carries through the oceans, singing the song of new life, and all these other things beyond and a mystery to most humans. My mind drifts off, wondering about these things, and I have to remind myself that this is really happening, live, not a recording, in the ocean at about 200 meters distance.

What a dreamy state! I close my eyes, listening, breathing the fresh tropical sea air. After about 20 delightful minutes, the singing stops. The whale comes up to take a breath as well. Just as he breaks through the surface, we hear this very powerful exhaling sound: PFWOOSH, accompanied by a meters high spout. The drops glisten in the sun, reflecting a rainbow. A ‘rainblow’.

Creating rainblows

He takes a few more breaths, fuelling up on oxygen for his next dive, creating these colourful ‘rainblows’… every powerful exhalation through the two blowholes on the top of his head. As the created mist drifts in our direction, I prepare myself for the rather fishy smell (the only downside of being lucky enough to see a whale up close and personal). Finding oneself downwind a whale’s breath. But there is none, just fresh air. I realize that we are not on this whale’s feeding grounds. He and his family are here in the warm waters around Polynesia, migrating from Antarctica to mate and give birth to their young, fasting during the entire period. Still, the whole magical experience in its turn takes my breath away.

Songs of the Humpback Whale

My mind drifts off again, back to January 1979. I live in Holland and return home from school as a young girl. The postman has delivered the latest issue of National Geographic magazine. I can’t read English, but it comes with a very interesting-looking little package.

In it is a so-called detachable sound sheet, which you can put on top of another vinyl record on the gramophone. I put the needle on and the living room fills with the strangest and unfamiliar vocals. The sounds are loud, long and with complex sequences and repeated phrases. I am listening to the very first recordings of the songs of the humpback whales by Katy and Roger Payne. I play it over and over again.

The new land

At the time I live in a part of the Netherlands below sea level, in a part that was claimed from the sea only a few hundred years earlier called the new land. In my imagination, I wonder how it would have looked like if the living room was still ocean and the whales would be swimming right there.

Many years later, I find myself in Tahiti, awarded by the Human Underwater Society from Papeete, and sponsored by Air Tahiti Nui to come and visit the Islands and receive the award for the whole Dolphin Swim Club VR project. Decades after listening as a child, over and over, to the first mesmerizing recordings of a humpback whale song. It’s the season of the Humpback whales, and we spend a lot of our free time at and in the Pacific Ocean around the Islands of Tahiti and Morea.

A symphony of the deep

Only days after listening in real life to this ‘symphony of the deep’ as the Payne’s called it, the experience would deepen even more. I find myself in the ocean, floating just above a whale. I can barely see him through my diving goggles, the visibility is not very clear, but a dark shape lies motionless about 20 meters below. He starts to sing…

I am here

Wow, this is not just hearing a sound with your ears. It is vibrating in my entire body. I am swimming in sound, filling up all the empty spaces between the cells that make up the biological me. Leaving no room for thoughts or any other senses. Two tones, this time, not a very complicated song. It felt more individual… like he was introducing himself to the world by calling out his name. I could not help myself by answering back, and I gave him the underwater version of my name. When I hear the funny sounds that I make I start giggling.

A silence.

The whale stopped singing and I see it slowly coming up towards me on its way to the surface for air. His body becomes clearer and clearer. I can see his eye. This magnificent and large creature looks at me. What a strange and overwhelming sensation to be part of the awareness of a whale. I feel as large as the whale. Then, I shrink into a mere point in the ocean, and back again. What is this huge brain registering? What an all-encompassing presence. We break through the surface at the same time. I am watching his spouts, while he breathes. After a while he dives again, arching it’s back, revealing all the powerful muscles and, with a last elegant wave of his huge tail, he disappears in the deep. I find myself floating in the Pacific, need to switch on some senses again. I find myself snorkelling next to my beloved husband, with whom I have shared so many amazing adventures. We both heard the whale call out; I am here.

Greetings, my dear whale friend; I am here too.
Marijke Sjollema

 

 

 

 

Sometimes life brings some good old magic!

By Blog, News
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sometimes life brings some good old magic!


These photos are taken over 25 years ago. As a young artist, just out of art school I started working on a ship to be able to travel the world gathering inspiration by experiencing it. One of the places I visited were the stunningly beautiful paradise like Islands of French Polynesia. A little seed of longing to one-day return was planted in me forever.

Yes, sometimes life does bring magic moments.

In the beginning of 2019 we received an award by the Human Underwater Society (HUS) for the innovation & development of our underwater VR goggles and the swimming with wild dolphins VR!
As the Human Underwater Society (HUS) is based in Tahiti, and our ticket sponsored by Air Tahiti Nui, I will return to Papeete coming weekend!

We are so much looking forward to meet the people behind the Underwater Society, and doing a community project with them with the waterproof VR goggles! As well as meet up with the local dolphins and other sea creatures of course.
What is very exiting is that in this period the humpback whales who have their feeding grounds around Antartica, will be in the warm coastal waters around the Islands for the females to give birth to their young, while the males are singing.

And of course we will look into the possibilities of filming in VR, so that you too can have the experience of looking into the eye of a baby whale and visit this paradise, truly one of the most beautiful places in the world.

I’ll keep you posted!

Marijke – Founder of the Dolphin Swim Club VR
PS. If you want to receive updates on our adventures in your mailbox, sign up for our newsletter!

Blue Whales

By Blog
Reading Time: 3 minutes

September 15th 2016…
Off the coast of Dana Point, California.
Meeting for the first time, the incredible amazing Blue Whale.
Bigger than any creature that has ever lived on our planet. A Gentle Giant, we are in awe.

The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale. It weighs more than seven tons.

It’s as big as a room. It is a room, with four chambers. A child could walk around in it, head high,

bending only to step through the valves. The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon.

This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long. When this creature is born it is twenty

feet long and weighs four tons. It is way bigger than your car. It drinks a hundred gallons

of milk from its mama every day and gains two hundred pounds a day, and when it is seven

or eight years old it endures an unimaginable puberty and then it essentially disappears from

human ken, for next to nothing is known of the mating habits, travel patterns, diet, social life,

language, social structure, diseases, spirituality, wars, stories, despairs, and arts of the blue whale.

There are perhaps ten thousand blue whales in the world, living in every ocean on earth, and of

the largest mammal who ever lived we know nearly nothing. But we know this: the animals

with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries,

their piercing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.

Mammals and birds have hearts with four chambers. Reptiles and turtles have hearts with

three chambers. Fish have hearts with two chambers. Insects and molluscs have hearts with

one chamber. Worms have hearts with one chamber, although they may have as many as

eleven single-chambered hearts. Unicellular bacteria have no hearts at all; but even they have

fluid eternally in motion, washing from one side of the cell to the other, swirling and whirling.

No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.

So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.

We are utterly open with no one, in the end — not mother and father, not wife or husband,

not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of

the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly

harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savour and sustain

us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised

and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile

and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defence and how many bricks you bring to

the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as

you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman’s second glance, a child’s

apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words “I have something to tell you,” a cat with a

broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand

in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from

the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.

 


 

Reprinted from The American Scholar, Volume 73, No. 4, Autumn 2004.

Copyright © 2004 by the author.

Whale tale

Californian Diary

By Blog
Reading Time: 2 minutes

So we were in Los Angeles, invited by professor Skip Rizzo, to present the Dolphin Swim Club at the Internation Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technologies (ICDVRat). What an amazing gathering of Virtual Reality pioneers, medical scientists and artists, all dedicated to curing people with the aid of science and technology. Someone suggested to compare the often asked question ‘Does Virtual Reality work for patients in healthcare?’ with this question ‘Does a syringe help?’ The answer was that it really depends on what you put in it. Content is queen. For an artist, this is of course great inspiration!

Dana Point

Since we were already in the area, we decided to spend some time on the Pacific Ocean. We wanted to see if we could make new cetacean friends in the rich coastal waters. In the harbour town Dana Point, we went out with a whale-watching catamaran where we had the great honour to meet the magnificent Blue Whale for the first time. The greatest creature that has ever lived on our planet! But there was so much more to see. We spotted some Californian Sea Lions, Mola-Mola fish, Short-beaked Common Dolphins, Long-beaked Common Dolphins, Coastal Bottlenose Dolphins, Sea-otters, Pelicans, Elephant Seals, Humming Birds, Rizzo’s Dolphins (we joked that this was in honour of our host Skip Rizzo), Porpoises and Humpback whales. What a great day!

Saving Whales

Captain Dave, the owner of the whale-watching operation, introduced us to his friend Barry Curtis. Both are members of a whale rescue team trying to set free sea life entangled in fishing nets. Barry invited us to join him on his boat the next morning. The mission was to try and find an entangled humpback whale, spotted the day before. On a beautiful sunny, windless September morning, we set out from Dana Point to see if we could find the humpback in trouble. The plan was to ‘babysit’ and keep score of its position until further rescue efforts could arrive. Although the conditions were perfect, we never found the whale…

Barry’s companion is a very special dog, his name is Otter (the dolphin dog). He is, if possible, even more passionate about dolphins than we are. So when we couldn’t find the whale, at some point Otter became restless. And yes, there they were! Lots and lots of Short-beaked Common Dolphins all around in a ‘stampede’. Yes Barry, it’s a wonderful world indeed.

The only thing weighing down this magical day was the thought of the poor humpback soul out there in trouble somewhere. Until a few days later when the news arrived that the whale managed to free itself!! A very happy ending indeed. So to all our new friends from California, whether Cetacean, Canine or Human, wishing you safe travels and free passage to wherever your dreams may lead you.

Selfi

A wonderful meet-up in Denmark

By Blog
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ever since we started with the Dolphin Swim Club VR experience, on behalf of (or perhaps even requested by) the dolphins, our lives have been filled with adventures and sea creatures of all kinds. As well as with people with a big heart for the sea, or even simply a heart as big as the ocean.

Jewelbox Studio

Friday afternoon, June 10th, we visited the Jewelbox studio with owner Pepijn Buitenhuis. He was working on the last bits of the sound design, with only the natural recorded cetacean voices for the 15-minute healing VR version. So now the dolphins are ready to swim into people’s lives and do their thing!

Medical research

And they are. Medical research on the healing effects of wild dolphins, done by UMCG (Groningen University) has started. They are joining the VR programmes in several hospitals and healthcare facilities around Europe and the USA, (Cancer Society Oslo, Norway, ‘sHeeren Loo, the Netherlands, UMCG Groningen, the Netherlands, University of Southern California, USA) to name just a few.

Selfi and Delfi

On a Friday evening, we set off on a 500 km drive towards Denmark, to look for our ‘ambassador’ dolphins Selfi and Delfi. The next morning we set out to search for our friends. And we found them under a bridge like clochards in Nyborg. Such a happy reunion it was. We even met up with our friends Ann-Sofi and Clifford whom we met last autumn when Selfi and Delfi were visiting the Kalmarsund…

Safe travels my dear friends.
Safe travels to all sentient beings out there in the waters and on the land.

Marijke at Bynt

The dolphins introduce us to wonderful people

By Blog
Reading Time: 4 minutes

A lot has happened since we got back from the shoot in Egypt. The whole team was busy with post-production, the website and meeting wonderful people: pioneers in the world of 360° Virtual Reality, people working in healthcare, medical research, animal welfare, research and rescue, environmental protection, education, marketing, the cultural field and journalism. By itself, it is a great joy to meet all these people passionately trying to make the world a better place by doing what they love. So here is the follow-up story with a very grateful heart, to all beings involved and especially the cetaceans of course.

Water Alliance

The Embassy of the Cetacean ImagiNation, a non-profit start-up presents the Dolphin Swim Club: a healing 360° VR experience. This project is foremost about sharing the joy, playful spirit and beauty of wild dolphins in their home, the free oceans of the world. To meet a dolphin or a whale underwater and look into their eyes is perhaps one of the most amazing encounters one can have on this planet. It is our dream to share this experience through 360° VR, and so inspire a love for the oceans and all its inhabitants.

Spinner dolphins hugging

The stress reducing and healing effects¹ of meeting dolphins are widely known. All throughout history there have been many stories and legends accounting that. In modern medicine, these seemingly magical qualities of cetaceans are used in so-called ‘dolphin-assisted therapy’. Unfortunately, the facilities offering these programmes are keeping dolphins in captivity. As we continue to learn more about the amazing intelligence, language and complex societies of cetaceans, it has become apparent that this is a highly undesirable situation. Captivity leads to drastically shortened lives and endless suffering.

So we thought: ‘Lets make a great alternative’, and we did! In 360° Virtual Reality.

Of course, wanting to film wild dolphins in the free oceans does require an element of luck (besides working with the best crew on the best location), so we made sure that all circumstances were as perfect as possible for the shoot. Most importantly, the dolphins must want to be there. And they did, they showed up and now we are able to have people experience through Virtual Reality pods of more than 90 spinner and bottlenose dolphins. That is more than we could ever dream of…

Ghost nets

Medical Research

In January 2016, both Dr. Wim Veling of the University Medical Centre Groningen and Professor Skip Rizzo of the University of Southern California decided to start official medical research in the field of depression, psychoses and anxiety disorders and autism by using our VR experience.

360°VR preview

In April of that same year, we launched our 360° preview which is now available through our special player. You can order VR Goggles to watch the dolphins with your own smartphone in 360°VR, and you may want to leave a donation to support our efforts, highly appreciated!

Healing VR

Several health organisations in the Netherlands have pre-ordered the Dolphin Swim Club under water 360°VR dolphin footage. They want to open up the world of multiple disabled patients or provide an opportunity to reduce stress within all kinds of healthcare.

Norwegian Cancer Society

Early May, the Norwegian Cancer Society decided to use our images for the treatment of patients (age 13 to 19) who will undergo bone marrow transplants. The Dolphins offer a beautiful distraction from life in an isolation room (5-6 weeks).  They want to explore practical implications and whether the use of VR can help children and young adults to cope better with the adverse effects of their treatments.

VR Cinema

Starting May 4th, our high quality 360°VR preview is shown in Amsterdam and Berlin, in Europe’s first VR cinemas. To us, this project is just for fun, as we love to share the joy of the dolphins with everybody. And we think it’s really cool that you can now buy a ticket to the VR movies instead of a dolphin show!

Seal project

Next to the production of several VR films and watching the dolphins find their way into healthcare and delighting viewers everywhere, we do have dreams left. We would love to make waterproof VR-goggles out of waste plastic, taken from the ocean. Because not only cetaceans but all ocean inhabitants would greatly benefit from a clean sea. We teamed up with Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen, a Seal Rescue Centre in the Netherlands. They are running a programme gathering abandoned fishing nets (ghost nets) and other plastics from the Waddenzee in the north of the Netherlands. This debris is recycled into a special granulate.

The waterproof feature will add an extra sense to the healing experience and would be very suitable for severely paralyzed patients.

As a non-profit start-up, all revenues will flow back into the project for the funding of the research and the development of further underwater experiences.


¹British Medical Journal 2005;331:1231
Spinner dolphins

We did it!

By Blog
Reading Time: 2 minutes

I don’t know where to start really. I would like to state that I am super proud of the whole team at the Dolphin Swim Club.
The dolphins, the Egyptians, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Swiss, the Germans and last but not least one Irish / Norwegian soul. A true Cetacean-African-European joint venture.

And we’ve done it!

With full dedication, we stretched ourselves to the limit. And perhaps a bit further. Especially our free divers Stephen Hutton, Ahmed Ibrahim Hamza and Mohamed Ismael, who were diving with the heavy camera rig until their lungs nearly burst and their muscles almost collapsed. But most of all, we had so much fun during the whole production. Now it is time to get the dolphins home to you.

We managed to capture hours of beautiful moments with the spinners. Every now and then a pod of bottlenose dolphins came to visit us. We even managed to record their natural sounds of clicks, squeaks, moaning and singing. It is amazing to listen to their acoustic world and be part of all their grace and playfulness. Like voices from an undiscovered world. Like the most interesting symphony you will ever hear. Accompanied by amazing footage so you can experience being surrounded by dolphins as if you were truly there.

We are now back on land and busy editing. Image yourself being surrounded by more than 80 dolphins in the studio… The films are going to be even better than we imagined. And we have so much material to choose from that it will take some time to be ready. We’ll keep you posted!

Jumping dolphin

The Dolphin Swim Club goes on! On our way to more miracles?

By Blog
Reading Time: 4 minutes

We have some bad news and a lot of good news.
To start with the bad news: we didn’t reach the amount of funding we had hoped for. However, almost all our backers have continued their support. So that brings us to the good news. The Dolphin Swim Club goes on! All wondrous events following the inspiration to make a Virtual Reality production about swimming amongst dolphins convinced us to go ahead!

And more good news: the two bottlenose dolphins that so magically appeared at the day of the launch of the Dolphin Swim Club at the front of the ‘headquarters’ in the Baltic Sea, are alive and doing well. They are slowly moving, visiting different bays and harbours, still delighting people everywhere with their presence. They now have their own Facebook Page: Kalmarsunds delfiner. Here you can find out about their whereabouts. People post their wonderful pictures and films, experiences and questions, as well as some discussions about the best way to interact with them. As of course, dolphins are not native to the Baltic Sea, so it’s new to everyone.

For the team of the Dolphin Swim Club, we had to make a rather difficult choice. We found ourselves in the middle of this miracle. Every day could be the last to see them. When would they decide to turn back to the North Sea? Time spent playing with the dolphins is always the best. That’s why we love to make Virtual Reality films in the first place, to share the magic. And the dolphins gave us beautiful wise advice: life is happening here and now!

Sunset in Figeholm

So instead of managing the crowdfunding project from behind a desk we were out playing with the dolphins! Such an adventure! In the process, we have met wonderful people as well. We’ve been out paddling canoes with strangers, we’ve been dining and sleeping in the house of strangers and we’ve been handed coffee, homemade cookies and apple-pie by strangers. We had very special and wonderful conversations with such interesting and talented people. All these strangers soon became new friends.

All of us so fully aware of the magical times that the two dolphins brought upon us.

This sense of urgency to fully live life. Like flying out to Stockholm in the evening to be in a morning talk show for national television. Getting up at 4.30, being interviewed about swimming with them. Then to take the first flight back to rush to the bay for another paddling tour. Just for the chance to float in the sea, listening to the wonderful puffing sounds of the dolphins breathing and swimming nearby. To see a shimmer of a fin, lit up by a moonbeam.

By being the first person ever to swim with dolphins in the Baltic (probably), and by making underwater footage used by Swedish television, we managed to get a chance to talk about the Dolphin Swim Club in both Sweden and the Netherlands. This proved to be helpful in order to find a bit of additional funding for our dream. Other dolphin-lovers offered to donate their time and skills in order to realize the Dolphin Swim Club content. This is really helpful in order to lower the production costs a bit as well.

However, the final realization of such a complex production remains a costly business. And the project isn’t yet fully funded. Nevertheless we did decide to take a leap of faith and to go ahead.

Figeholm

Imagine you are a child living in a little coastal village in Sweden. One wondrous day two bottlenose dolphins visit your harbour and give a splashing show. The faces of these children, and adults alike actually, inspired us so much. Thinking about meeting the gaze of the dolphins underwater earlier that day, I made a silent promise to all.

When dolphins can travel thousands of miles into unknown waters to show up for the opening of the Dolphin Swim Club, we ourselves must certainly cover the whole distance. How amazing would it be to have this experience of dolphin magic available right in your smartphone or computer? Go swimming with the dolphins wherever you are.

In the meantime, we have interviewed specialists about using our footage for research in the treatment of patients. In the fields of autism, depression, childbirth, and also post-traumatic stress disorder. The reactions are very positive, so there is a good chance that the dolphin-magic may also work in these settings. And it is also in this area that we have found additional funding.

We have just opened up a webshop where you may pre-order, and find the same products as presented on the crowdfunding site. The date of delivery will still be around the end of the year.

We have booked a boat for the beginning of December to make the footage. The owners of the boat have supported the project as well with a generous offer and we will be 7 days at a unique location to capture the life and joy of wild and free dolphins. Due to their gift we have now four extra places on board available, in two duo shared cabins. Is swimming with dolphins your dream? Now there is a special opportunity! We invite you to share this unique experience of swimming with spinners and sometimes bottlenose dolphins in the clear aqua-blue tropical waters of the Red Sea. As well as sea turtles, all kinds of colourful fish and amazing coral reefs. Apart from the film crew, there will be a snorkelling/diving guide and a marine biologist on board. And not all that unimportant a great chef who will cook all our meals! There are several decks on board, so there is always space available to sit and relax after spending hours with the dolphins or take a mid-day rest.

Apart from that you will probably have the greatest time ever, you will also help us to realize the footage for the Dolphin Swim Club. We are so much looking forward to starting the next chapter of this project, which has been so full of magic so far.

A big thank you to everyone for all your support! I leave here with this very warm feeling of gratitude.

Jumping dolphin