Swimming with dolphins is the holiday dream of thousands of people. The idea of taking pictures while the smart mammals play some tricks, such as kissing people or jumping after receiving some food, certainly looks like a great time.
Dolphins are sociable by nature. They live in large groups and swim significant distances every day. Unfortunately when they are kept in aquariums, their space and social life becomes limited. The animals are also often forced to showcase their tricks. Often the animals live in poor conditions in those places and visiting them means unknowingly supporting this type of tourism.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t swim with dolphins. There are several places around the world where you can swim with a dolphin in the wild and the experience is much more intimate than in an aquarium! You can, for example, see one of the most magnificent dolphin pods in the world in Brazil, enjoy a boat ride across the coral reef in Australia, watch the unique sardine run in South Africa, or even meet a rare type of river dolphin in Bolivia.
The best part of taking part in these tours is that you are often guided by a group of biologists, professional photographers and/or divers. They will give you all the instructions you need and the contact with the animals is not forced. It’s important to respect the space of the animals and follow the instructions. Some places are implementing strict rules about this, including fines for people who touch the animals.
20 20. The Azores, Where Nature Will Surprise You
If you dream about swimming with dolphins, the Azores, an archipelago that belongs to Portugal, should be on your bucket list. The place seems to be untouched by humans and you will find forests, waterfalls and, of course, dolphins.
Tourists who visit the island will find five species of dolphins, but the most abundant type is the bottlenose. It’s possible to book a day trip that lasts 3-4 hour for approximately $75. The boat will stop in different spots where tourist can enjoy the animals. The guides don’t use tricks or food to attract the dolphins and tourists are forbidden to visit with a guide.
19 19. Fernando de Noronha, The Brazilian Treasure
Fernando de Noronha, a group of 21 islands off the coast of Brazil, is considered one of the most gorgeous places in the nation and is a UNESCO World Heritage. According to TripAdvisor, the main island has the most beautiful beach in the world - Praia do Sancho. Those are enough reasons to visit Noronha, but the best part of the island is under the sea.
Noronha has the world’s biggest pod of spinner dolphins - specialists believe more than ten thousand dolphins are living in that region. Once you arrive on the island, there are agencies specializing in tours to see the dolphins. They cost approximately $75 per person, with lunch included.
Visiting the island will also allow you to see turtles, sharks and countless fish shoals.
18 18. Puerto Vallarta, Not All Dolphins Are In The Aquarium
Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination in Mexico and is famous for its aquariums with captured dolphins. However, it’s possible to interact with the animals in their natural environment as well. The tours last approximately 4 hours and costs from $68 up to $80, it’s expensive compared to the $7 ticket at the aquariums. But interacting with wild dolphins is an entirely different experience and they don’t try to exploit the animals with tricks.
Usually, the tour guides are biologists, who are plentiful in knowledge about the bottlenose dolphins. Some boats have hydrophones, where tourists can hear dolphins communicating. They also offer professional photographers on board.
17 17. The Bahamas, The Best Dolphin Encounter In The World
What could be better than spending some days in the Bahamas and enjoying the beach? Well, how about swimming with dolphins in the ocean, and then soaking up the sun on a beautiful beach?
When you arrive in the Bahamas, you will often hear tourism professionals saying that the island has the “greatest encounter in the world.” They are talking about the Bimini Islands, which is also part of Bahamas, and dolphins are indeed the main attraction there.
It’s one of the few places in the world where the dolphin encounter is a guarantee. Just like most places where you can swim with dolphins on the wild, in Bimini they are not forced to do tricks or baited with food.
16 16. Egypt Is Not Just About Pyramids
The Pyramids and the Sahara Desert are not the only things that attract tourists to Egypt. Sharm El Sheikh receives thousands of tourists who want to enjoy the sun and the beach. The Red Sea is well known for its diverse marine life and dolphins are one of the highlights.
The animals are common around Sharm El Sheikh, so it’s easy to find agencies offering boat trips to see dolphins in the wild. There are also some diving tours available and you can be even closer to the creatures. However, if you are lucky enough, you can see them while snorkeling at the beach.
15 15. Dolphins Can Make Your Experience In Hawaii Even Better
Kona, in Hawaii, is an excellent place for people looking for some contact with dolphins. The tours are not that cheap if compared to other areas ($140), but you still should consider it if you are there. The tours last for approximately 4- 5 hours and aims to find the Hawaiian spinner dolphin and the spotted dolphin.
Specialists often guide the tours and will give more details about the dolphins and nearby marine life. They respect the space of the animals and try to avoid disturbing them, especially if they are nursing. It’s difficult to predict their behavior, but they usually are okay with human beings around them.
14 14. Pipa, Brazil - Where You Can Stand-Up Paddleboard Surrounded By Dolphins
Pipa is a small town in the Brazilian northeast and it’s one of the most popular destinations for people visiting Rio Grande do Norte. After riding along an unpaved road for approximately 40 minutes, you will arrive at the town. Many people choose to book a boat trip where there is a chance to see dolphins, and it costs approximately $50.
However, you can spend the day at Madeiro Beach or Dolphins Bay, where you can often see them jumping by the beach. It’s also possible to rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and be surprised with dolphins following you.
13 13. Byron Bay And The Coolest Kayak Tour Ever
In Byron Bay they take kayaking to a whole new level. Tourists can book a trip, guided by surfers and marine specialists, that will take you to Australia’s most easterly point: Cape Bay Marine Park. The place is home to several bottlenose dolphins, but also humpback whales and three species of sea turtles. The interaction is not invasive and the guides try to make sure the tourists don’t cross the line and disturb or touch any animal.
The tour lasts for approximately 3 hours and people can enjoy seeing the animals along the way. It’s certainly a unique experience.
12 12. Dolphins Are Not Only In The Sea (Bolivia)
The sea is not the only place where you can find dolphins. In Bolivia, they are also in the Madeira River. Known as bufeos, they are scarce and only found in some parts of the river. There are a few river tours available for visitors and the guides try to make it very educational and convey the importance of protecting the animals and their environment.
It’s also possible to find dolphins in the Amazon River (in Brazil and Bolivia), but they are a different species. Bolivian river dolphins have been isolated from their neighbors in the Amazon for more than 3 million years and therefore have evolved into a different species.
11 11. Kaikōura - Mountains And Sea Life
Kaikōura, New Zealand, has a fantastic landscape and offers a tremendous view of the sea, surrounded by mountains. The tourism in the region is also focused on these two environments and attracts many climbers and divers.
People who go there focused on the sea life won’t be disappointed, as dolphins, seals and whales are abundant in the region. Choosing the dolphin encounter costs approximately $120 and some tours have spotted more than 300 dolphins. There is no doubt that seeing these animals jump in and out of the water is an unforgettable experience.
In Kaikōura, the pods are completely wild and the tours are regulated to ensure the dolphins are not affected by humans.
10 10. Dolphins Can Make Tuscany Even Better
In Italy it's also possible to have a close experience with Dolphins. In Cala Rossa, tourists can book a day trip and swim with the animals, or just watch them from the boat. The tour takes approximately seven and a half hours, so you need to plan a day just for that tour.
They live in the Pelagos Sanctuary and specialists believe there are 2500 dolphins in the pod. The area was created to protect the animals and is a partnership between Italy, France and Monaco.
There are also other animals in the area, such as turtles and whales. It’s certainly a great place to be during summer and will make your time in Tuscany (even more) unforgettable.
9 9. Nelson Bay - A Tour During The Sunrise
Nelson Bay holds the reputation of being one of the most beautiful places in Australia. The beach is not far from Sydney (just 2.5 hours driving). One of the most popular tours in the region is a boat trip at sunrise to watch and swim with wild dolphins. You have to wake up early, since you have to be at the place at 5 am, but it’s worth it. The tour costs $135.
The group is guided by professionals, and there is also a professional photographer available on the boat. Each tour brings approximately 12 - 15 people to see the dolphins.
8 8. Cozumel - You Can Still Find Wild Dolphins
It’s common to find dolphins showing off their tricks in the aquariums in Cozumel. However, the animals are often not treated well and this is the type of attraction you should avoid. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still get up close and personal with dolphins while traveling to Cozumel.
A day trip to Holbox Island will take you to “Reserva Natural de Yum Balam,” where it’s possible to see a pod. The number of wild dolphins is smaller than other places on this list but that won't detract from your experience. There are also several boat trips where tourists have spotted wild dolphins swimming near the boat, but you need to be having a lucky day for that to happen.
7 7. Dolphins in Florida Are Fun For The Whole Family
People who visit Key West, Florida, have the chance to get up close with the playful dolphins.
Everyday there are cruises bringing people to witness the bottlenose dolphins enjoying their natural habitat. In some tours, it’s allowed to touch them, but you should pay attention to the instructor and wait for him to say you can go ahead. It costs approximately $99, but you can also book a private boat for $550.
The tours are available throughout the year and it’s a perfect program for the entire family. There are also some options for whale watching tours.
6 6. Grand Cayman - Avoid Dolphins If They Are Alone
Although dolphins are not abundant around Grand Cayman, it’s certainly possible to see them. However, the government strongly advises people to avoid it.
Department of Environment (DOE) reinforces that although seeing the animals in the wild is a privilege, when they are alone they can be unpredictable and dangerous when approached by swimmers.
Just in case, it’s better to resist the temptation to jump in the water with dolphins when you are at Grand Cayman.
5 5. You Can Also Book A Two Day Trip (Isla Holbox)
Mexico is one of the most popular destinations for people who love interacting with dolphins. However, in most cities where you can find them, the easiest way to get close to them is by buying a ticket to a dolphinarium. However, there are also options to see dolphins in their natural habitat.
There are some companies specializing in wild dolphins tours . You can take a day trip to a pod nearby, or you can also take two days to head to Isla Holbox (Holbox Island). Although it’s the same destination offered by Cozumel, this tour stops at several small islands along the way.
4 4. Galápagos Islands - the paradise for nature lovers
The Galápagos Islands are at the top of the bucket list for many travelers who love nature. The animals don’t fear the human presence too much, so visitors have the chance for a uniquely close experience. Of course, the marine life is also vibrant and diverse.
There are 24 species of whales and dolphins identified across the Galápagos Islands. Most of them live between Isabela and Fernandina. The best time to watch the animals is between June and October. The best choice is to book a boat trip, but if you're lucky, sometimes you can see whales and dolphins jumping when you're standing on the beach.
3 3. Ningaloo Reef, The Largest Population Of Humpback Dolphins
Western Australia is one of the best places in the world for dolphin encounters. But the remote Ningaloo Reef has something special: the area has one of the most significant populations of the Australian humpback dolphin.
The best time to visit Ningaloo Reef is between March and August and there are some tours available. During the boat trip, tourists can see and interact with dolphins, but also swim with whale sharks, manta rays, turtles, dugongs and countless tropical fish.
There are also some projects aiming to protect the dolphins at Ningaloo Reef. During the tour people will learn more about it and decide if they want to become a contributor.
2 2. The Unforgettable Sardine Run In South Africa
South Africa is a great place to travel any time of the year. However, if you visit the country between June and July, you can go to the east coast and see one of the of the most significant natural phenomena in the country: the sardine run - the annual migration of billions of sardines.
But what's this got to do with dolphins? Well, they are one of the sardine’s predators and the sardine run is a paradise for them. The visitors will hardly have the chance to interact with the dolphins, but they will see dozens of them jumping in the water and hunting the fish.
1 1. Baja California, Where You Can See Dolphins and Whales
Baja California receives fewer tourists if compared to other destinations in Mexico, such as Cancun or Cozumel. If you want to avoid thousands of tourists, that’s already a great reason to choose Baja California as a holiday destination.
But that is not the only reason. It’s easy to find dolphins swimming in the region and you can book a boat trip or try your luck at some snorkeling spots.
The best time of the year for those who want to see dolphins (and whales as well) is between October and December and also March and April. Those months are less windy and the water has better visibility.