Dear Jess, Your Bucket List is My Bucket List – Dolphins!

garrett gee travel

Dear Jess, I know you’re absolutely gaga over dolphins. It’s fun to see the pure joy that comes to your face every time you see them. Since the day I found out it was your bucket list dream to swim with became my bucket list to make your wish come true : ) we have found out together over the past 5 years, swimming with dolphins is no easy feat. Especially since I did NOT want you to settle for one of those expensive “swim with poor captive dolphins” experiences. No offense to Kimberly ; )

garrett gee travel

Jess, after years of failed attempts to swim with dolphins in the deep blue sea, your special moment finally came! I’m so glad I was able to share it with you. Here are some excerpts out of my journal from that day:


“I have looong been trying to make J’s dream come true to swim with dolphin’s in the wild. We have been snorkeling and diving all over the globe but never saw dolphins. We even traveled to a dolphin hotspot in the South Pacific where divers see dolphins 99 out of 100 times. We were that 100th time : (

This time was different. Before flying to Hawaii I connected with Jake Marote, my buddy online who is an underwater photographer and basically the most kind souls I know. He let me know the best days and locations for wildlife and water clarity.

garrett gee travel

This morning, we woke up at 430am, met up with Jake, and drove 2 hrs from the North Shore to the west side of Oahu.

I love Jess. But, for some reason I reeaallllyy love Jess in the water. She’s adventurous and super brave and luckily so because I assumed that Jake would take us out on a boat like our past dive experiences. Not the case. We arrived to the beach, grabbed our goggles and fins, and Jake said “alright, the dolphins usually swim about 300 yards out so let’s head out there..”

Uuuhh, okay. So we just walked into the water and began to swim outward .. into .. the .. deep .. blue .. unknown. *gulp*

garrett gee

I swam a little behind Jess so I could keep an eye on her and about every minute or so she would flip around and check her backside. Shark check ; )

garrett gee travel

The swim out actually wasn’t scary at all. The pretty weather, crystal waters, and gorgeous sand distracted us from any nervous thoughts we initially had.

Clear waters on top of a clean sandy ocean floor is my favorite thing on the planet. It’s basically what determines most of my travel plans ; )

garrett gee travel

Shoutout to the classic oval dive mask :


Sooo..I’m kinda foolish in a high maintenance but totally awesome way ; ) I really love experiencing things in the most natural way possible. Keep it real. Keep it raw.

Well, this time I may have gone too far. I didn’t have a snorkel. I didn’t have a wet suit. And although the water didn’t seem cold initially, 2 hours later the chili temperatures had reached my heart and I was beginning to shut down.

garrett gee travel

We had been waiting for the dolphins, treading water for over 2 hours. Jake has a wet suit and really had nothing to worry about. Jess had a long sleeve rash guard so that helped a little bit but she too was faaarrreeezzzing. But, we didn’t want to miss the dolphins after all this effort! the picture below you can actually see me hugging myself. I would keep my arms close to my chest and cross my legs to keep as much body heat together as possible. I would also float on my back on the surface to expose my chest and heart to as much warm sunlight as possible. Basically, I was quite sure I would die out there. But hopefully see a dolphin first ; )

Garrett & Jessica-21 copy

Jake kept trying to encourage us that the dolphins could come at any moment. He kept telling us to hang in there just a little longer. But, at about the 3 hour mark Jess called it a day. She said she couldn’t handle the cold and treading anymore and was heading back to shore. As for me, I was too exhausted to even swim back so I figured I’d wait for the dolphins until the sea was ready to claim my frozen soul ; )

Just as I was ready to surrender, treaded high enough above the surface so I could look to shore to make sure Jess made it back safely. To my confusion, she was going crazy, jumping up and down, and waving her arms like a crazy woman. She had been trying to get our attention so we’d look at what was coming our way.. DOLPHINS!

Dozens of fins were popping in and out of the water and the mass of them were coming straight for us! I told Jake to look and he said, “yep : ) Here they come! Put on your mask and look down..”

It was like any cold or exhaustion I was feeling immediately left my body. I put on my mask, took a big breath, a left the reality of the world above the surface and entered a world I had long been searching for : swimming with wild dolphins!

garrett gee travel

They were below me, above me, and all around me. So unreal.


After swimming amongst the dolphins for a while I noticed my chest was hurting. I needed to resurface for air ; ) I didn’t want to. I was seriously asking myself and literally trying to decide, “Do I come up for air? Or enjoy 5 more seconds of this beauty..?”

garrett gee travel

When I finally surfaced I immediately looked for Jess. She was head down swimming her heart out towards us!


She was freestyle paddling faster than I’ve ever seen before. She looked up and saw me and let out a super loud “HELP ME!” by the time we reached each other I could tell she was totally out of breath but could care less. Her face was all worries. Mine was all smiles. I knew she had made it in time to still see the dolphins. I passed on the wise words of Jake and told her “Jess, look down..”

Garrett & Jessica-33

It was a magical moment to see Jess dive down and see her dolphins. Some of them came over to her and swam around her. It was as if they knew how long she’d waited for this special day.

jake marote

The dolphins were gorgeous spinner dolphins. Such brilliant creatures.

garrett gee travel

As the dolphins swam onward, Jake and I turned and swam back to shore. Not Jess. She stayed locked in watching the dolphins until each of them disappeared off into the deep blue.

I love Jess. I love that she was able to have this experience.

Afterwards, Jess and I sat alone in our car. We couldn’t believe everything that just happened. It felt like a dream. So unreal. Luckily we had photos from Jake to remember the day by..or did we???

Later that night, Jake sent me the message below :

jake marote

Jake’s memory card had crashed and all our photos were lost : (

garrett gee travel

Pic on the left : Us trying to be optimistic. (ps. I love kind people)

Pic on the right : The glorious moment when Jake messaged me with good news!!

They were very stressful (and prayerful) hours while we thought we had lost all the pics. Thanks to everyone on Facebook and Twitter that helped with their expertise when I reached out in distress. In the end, everything was recovered and now, perhaps we have even more appreciation for these treasured images..

Below are some other pics and a video I made from the trip to Hawaii:


South Oahu

garrett gee travel

Cocoa Head hike

garrett gee travel

Cocoa Head hike


Look at all these rocks! Now look at them longer and watch them become turtles ; )


Turtle at Waimea Bay

garrett gee travel

Such a fun family adventure. Here is a video I made to save some of the memories :

Safe travels. Happy travels : )



Share Button