Always up for trying new things, but a wimp in the water and inclined to be intimidated by playmates I don’t know who weigh several times what I do, I had mixed feelings about swimming with the Pacific Bottlenose dolphins at the Nuevo Vallarta Dolphin Center – even if they are lovable, smart and the same species as Flipper.

But to my absolute delight, not only did I immediately feel completely comfortable with them, in awe of their zeal for fun and how well trained they are, I actually felt they were protective of me! As one was carrying me across the pool, I let go of a dorsal fin when my hand cramped. And without missing a beat, and without any instruction that I could see, another dolphin slid under me for support. Yet I really shouldn’t be surprised, since everyone I have ever met who has had this outstanding Vallarta Adventures experience says they would do it again in a heartbeat.

And so would I. By the time you’re in the pool with these magnificent creatures that can live to 45 or more, an audiotape has given an overview of their behaviors, their trainer has answered any questions, and you’re wearing a life jacket freeing you to concentrate on interacting with them and not on staying afloat.

I was surprised at how many endearing and often humorous vocalizations they have, akin to beeps, clicks, chirps, purrs, murmurs, squeaks and even a baby’s cry and the sound of someone giving a raspberry. The other thing that struck me is how much they seem to love being touched, especially having their silky-soft bellies rubbed. Perhaps they’re not that different from cats and dogs and you and me in that department. And when you think about it, we’re all mammals, so why should they be?

Once you have this genuine experience of interspecies communication at one of the world’s few dolphin educational centers, it’s impossible to look at our fellow creatures the same way again.