Courtney Ward has been “dancing with dolphins” for ten years in the warm waters of southern Mozambique at Ponta Malongane. People say she is part dolphin and you can believe it when you see her gliding through the water like a mermaid with her mono-fin.
Dolphins crowd around her and out of a pod of over two hundred she knows about thirty individuals on sight. They may arrive together or in small groups and Courtney and the dolphins give each other the eye (or was that a wink?), acknowledging an understanding that she says is, “a very physical and joyful relationship.” She says they love to play and so does she. Courtney also talks about the real soul connection she has with the dolphins, which she finds funny, since she originates from about as far from the sea in South Africa as you can get; Kimberley. She calls herself the, “dolfyn van die woestyn,” dolphin from the desert. She has such inter-connectedness with the dolphins, that they even visit her in her dreams.
This may sound like esoteric mumbo jumbo, but we all go inexplicably soppy at the sight of dolphins and the possibility of swimming with them, is for many, the ultimate wildlife encounter. For the love of sharing of this experience, Courtney runs retreats at Halo Gaia Camp in the Parque de Malongane Holiday Resort in Mozambique, about 18km north of the Kosi Bay border on South Africa’s north east coastal border. There’s just one thing you need to acknowledge; the dolphins encounter you on their own terms.
This is possibly the crux of why a Halo Gaia retreat is so liberating; you have to let go of control – completely. You cannot dictate a thing; not the time, the place, the weather, the duration. Nothing is in your power any more.
But it turns out that the dolphins are just the conduit for a much deeper connection – the one with yourself. This is really what a Halo Gaia holiday is about, and it may dawn on you after a couple of days that dolphins are not actually the main attraction at all. Courtney has seen people lift out of depression during a retreat. She has seen them experience a cathartic release of internalised fears, has witnessed an autistic child find expression through a drumming circle and watched a divorcing couple bring closure to their relationship.
Most people don’t come with the sole intention of having a spiritual release, it just seems to happen naturally at Halo Gaia. Perhaps this is because everyone is invited to express themselves, not necessarily by baring their heart, but more by screaming into the wind as the boat crashes through the breakers into the open sea. And of course, with any luck, by having a moment or two with dolphins in their natural habitat.
Courtney also uses music to enchant her guests and plays about 30 different instruments in a meditative ‘Sound Journey’; yet another tool to keep the mind and body in the ‘now’. Sounds a bit ‘hippy’ doesn’t it? But what joy it is, in the life of a hectic, slightly jaded adult, to feel utter stillness. The Halo Gaia concept is all about bringing people into a state of tranquillity, respect and deep inner listening. “We all have the ability to intuit,” says Courtney, “and if invited into a space to enable it, people come away with all sorts of experiences.”
You don’t have to get deep or even very spiritual; you just need to be in a state of acceptance. Harish, an Occupational Therapist from the UK joining friends to celebrate someone’s 40th birthday here, said that he wanted to take away the grace and effortless in actions that he had found here. “It’s joyful to be yourself; I have realised it doesn’t have to be an effort.” Pam, the mother of the 40 year old woman, said that the power of being on the water gave her huge peace. Susi the yoga teacher, Erika the opera singer and Lucy the waitress, who had travelled from far flung places to be here, all looked like they had witnessed Courtney’s purpose; “to go away to come home to your self.”
In November 2010 there is a big party to celebrate a decade of dancing with dolphins at Halo Gaia. Find out what other retreats are planned, which include all sorts of facilitators like yoga, or create a retreat just for your chosen group.