Swimming with wild dolphins is something most can only dream of, and jumping into pools with captive animals has become increasingly controversial with environmentalists condemning it as cruel.
But a Dutch nonprofit believes it has found a way to bring people, especially the disabled community, closer to such a joyful experience through the technological, immersive advances offered by virtual reality.
The Dolphin Swim Club is the realization of a more than two-decade journey by artist Marijke Sjollema, who had her first chance encounter with a dolphin in 1993 while snorkeling off the coast of Mexico.
“I saw this gray shadow under the water and my first thought was, ‘This is the end.’ I thought it was a shark,” she told AFP.
She tried to stay calm “but this shadow was following me. And then there was this split-second that [I] realized that it wasn’t a shark. It was a dolphin.”
“I didn’t know anything about dolphins, but I instinctively knew, ‘Oh a dolphin, I’m fine. This is a good thing.'”
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