For the last 20 years of my adult life I have wanted to swim with dolphins. I had the opportunity in Mexico when in Cabo San Lucas, but my travel companion had already done it so we opted to go snorkeling instead.
As I continue to travel and have plentiful opportunities to interact with animals I have developed more of a social conscience and have refrained from doing things that compromise various animals’ welfare.
So when the opportunity arose to swim with dolphins in Kona, Hawaii – in the wild, not in some pool or amusement park I jumped at the chance!
Sure I won’t have close up photos with me kissing a dolphin’s snout, and I won’t get to ‘ride’ along their backs, but an encounter with them in their natural environment would hopefully be just as unforgettable.
We chose Splashes Ocean Adventures, an eco tourism company that supports the welfare of the dolphins. Pods of spinner dolphins rest in the mornings after a night of hunting off the coast of Hawaii’s big island. With only 5 of us aboard our small vessel, with a guide and a driver we set off early in the morning.
I’m not the most confident snorkeler, or swimmer, so jumping off the boat off shore into the open ocean had the potential to completely freak me out. The first challenge was to find the pod of dolphins, which are half sleeping, half swimming south. Out boat then raced in front of the pod and we had mere minutes to get in the water, snorkel into their path and hope to see them and swim right above them. The company makes no guarantee to see or swim with dolphins (as you would expect with an in the wild encounter) so we were incredibly lucky to jump in and swim with them not once but 3 times.
Your behaviour in the water also determines how successful your interaction is with the dolphins. You need to keep quiet and just kick over to them, arms by your side. All of sudden the pod was coming and our guide jumped in, and our driver said ‘go now – go now!’ and then I was in the water madly paddling towards them. The need to reach them in time quelled all fears I had of being in open waters and then there they were! Just metres under me. It was so quiet and peaceful under the water, one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. And then after a few seconds it was over and the pod has passed. A few metres the wrong way and we would have missed it.
So lucky to have three chances to see these animals in the wild and so up close. It was definitely the highlight of the whole trip and we were so glad we chose this as our ‘expensive activity’ of the week, seeing as we could only afford one!
We the followed the dolphin experience with more snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay. Another fantastic experience and a chance to see more dolphins in the wild, jumping and flipping!
I was so glad to tick this item off my ‘bucket list’and have an authentic experience out in the open ocean. Highly recommended!