One of the most memorable moments of my trip to Hong Kong occurred on a boat in the waters off of Tai O. Tai O is a small fishing village, home to the Tanka people, located on the western side of Lantau Island. Besides the Tai O market, one of the main attractions is taking a small boat ride around the island to see the stilt houses. The boat ride is intimate, as it seats around 12 people, sits close to the water and costs only $20HK (approx. $2.60USD), which helps supports the local workers.

I happened to get on a boat with a group of older Asian women who seemed to be touring together.  The driver of the boat drove out to the seaside of the island and narrated a bunch of seemingly interesting information in Cantonese. Suddenly, the boat came to a jolting stop, throwing us all out of our seats. The driver of the boat shouted a few things in Cantonese, which I did not understand. I had a few fleeting thoughts such as, “if we’re going down, I’m putting my bag containing my camera on the life preserver and I’ll just hold on to the side of it or tread water next to it, until help arrives.” Once I felt reassured of my strategy to save my precious memory cards, should we be sinking, I realized why the driver had stopped the boat so suddenly: he had spotted a pod of Chinese white dolphins swimming around the boat.


One dolphin leaped out of the water, causing the group of women to excitedly cry out and rush to the other side of the boat. A second dolphin leaped out of the water, evoking the same reaction from the women. Their excitement was contagious and I soon found myself standing up and cheering with them when the dolphins leaped out of the water.

Each time this happened, our applause and cheering got louder and more animated. The women were exclaiming words of excitement amongst each other, but I didn’t understand what they were saying. One of the dolphins then swam under our boat causing us to rush back to the other side, where I had been seated. We all waited with anticipation to see when it would leap out of the water. I wished that I could have shared this exciting moment with these women and regretted not speaking Cantonese. Just then I turned around to the old woman seated behind me. She grabbed my hand and shook it excitedly, while looking at me with a huge smile. It was as if she knew that I wanted to share this happy moment with her and her friends, but we both knew that it was impossible to do using words. I couldn’t help but laugh and smile back, sharing her excitement at the beautiful scene happening before us. Just then a dolphin leaped out of the water and she and I looked at each other with wide eyes and a gigantic smile and started cheering together. It was one of the most magical moments that I have ever shared with anyone without saying a word.

Words and Photos: Sharon Radisch