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Angie’s dolphins: could you do this?

In January of last year (2010) I had the pleasure of meeting Angie Gullan. My brother, sister, father and I traveled to Ponto D’oro, Mozambique, to swim with wild dolphins. We were heading for a reed camp right on the beach – the home of Dolphin Encountours, Angie, her crew, and quite a number of adopted stray cats.I expected to be thrilled by the dolphins. I didn’t expect to be inspired by a diminutive, 5 foot three-ish, cigarette smoking, brown-as-a-berry, chickie from Jo’burg. But I was.

Angie’s love affair with dolphins began nearly 2 decades ago when she had a couple of ‘life-changing’ experiences with the magnificent creatures. Those encounters initiated a course of events that have lead to the very recent (March 2010) decision by the Mozambique government to finally declare large tracts of their pristine coastline ‘protected’. No more indiscriminate tearing up the dunes by quad-bikes – home to breeding turtles; no more unmonitored over-fishing; no more riding jet skis into the resident dolphin pods and feeding them canned sardines. Angie Gullan has put Ponto D’Oro, and her dolphins, on the map. But, not without a price.

In a conversation I had with her she described her unbounded love for her ‘dolfriends’, and the calling she felt to do all she could to protect them. That calling had forced her to make one of the most gut-wrenching decisions a woman could make. You see, Angie is a mother. She had to decide: follow her dolphin-captured heart, or remain hundreds of miles away in the city ….to raise her 2 children. Her parents-in-law turned up the pressure. She was told to make a choice: custody of the kids, or custodian of the dolphins. She chose the latter ….

I know that many would be shocked, perhaps even appalled, at this choice. I know it would be an impossible decision for most. But, not without pain, she made it. She told me it’s something she may feel guilty about for the rest of her life, but she felt she ‘couldn’t not do it’.

I was awed by how much courage and conviction that must have taken! I wondered if I had been in her shoes, my heart full of love for the dolphins and my children, could I have made the unconventional choice that she made? Could I have endured the struggles that she has gone through to bringĀ  such a dream to life? CouldĀ  you?

Angie has been a leader in preserving the environment on this tiny sliver of African coastline. In 1994 she founded DolphinCare-Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the marine mammals and promoting sustainable tourism. Under the guidance of several international organizations and The Natural History Museum in Maputo, Angie and her team fastidiously collect data on the dolphins and their threatened milieu.Most of their funding is generated by their dolphin-swim packages that they offer from the camp, affectionately dubbed ‘reed-ville’. Most everything they bring in gets ploughed back into the organization, to keep their research and conservation efforts going.

On June 20, 2010 her camp burned to the ground.

Everything was destroyed.

Angie, and the team, will have to rebuild from scratch.

She could use some help.

If you know what it’s like to give heart and soul to a dream; if you’re inspired by someone else’s efforts to do just that; if you’re touched by someone who is making a difference in her part of the world; and/or you’d like to lend a hand to a courageous soul like Angie here are a couple of things you could do:

– support the efforts to rebuild the camp at Ponto D’Oro on FaceBook. There is bank account info if you’d like to make a donation. $10, $20, $50, $100 ….every gift counts. Click here

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