Dolphin swimming advice


Dolphin swimming advice

Natasha Preston, from our supplier Exodus:
“You can swim with dolphins, but it depends on the time of year and on sea conditions. The Azores are very isolated, so when the weather comes in the sea can be pretty treacherous. There are very strict codes of conduct, the guides are very careful and know how to read the dolphins behaviour and whether they are stressed or upset. If the boat or the human presence is upsetting them, then there’s no way they would let you get into the water with whales or with dolphins. So it very much depends on the sea being calm and safe enough for us to let people swim, and the animals showing the right behaviour. It’s done on a per-trip basis – as with any wildlife encounter, you can’t guarantee it..”

Tips on being prepared

Sue Grimwood, from our supplier Steppes Travel:
"Our swimming with dolphins tour is only offered as a one-week trip. Rather than jumping in and swimming with dolphins and saying “that was great!” you can do it four or five times and get more used to it so that the dolphins become more relaxed in your company and you understand their behaviour. In the Azores, you’re in the middle of the Atlantic, there’s a big blue ocean out there, so it can be cold and just getting in and experiencing it for the first time can be intimidating. So by doing it a couple of times you get past that, and the guides spend time teaching you what you should and shouldn’t do, and how you should and shouldn’t react. So it’s a much better experience for the dolphins as well as the humans."

Responsible dolphin
watching advice

Amanda Stafford, from our supplier Whale and Dolphin Connection:
“Be aware of how the driver approaches the animals. Ask: what’s their ethical policy, their good practices? They should have that written down. It’s about having sensitivity and respect, and learning about boat approaches for different species. Some skippers are so experienced, it’s like they know the language that each species speaks. They know their movements and how to move the boats. So if you see striped dolphins you just power up and go like the clappers – you keep a distance but you keep up with them. They never approach the boat. But with other species you slow down, and they all swim like a herringbone up to the bow. They’re all around you like you’re in the middle of a dolphin soup! So there are different approaches with different species and any operator in any area should know the animal and the way it behaves.”

Safety advice

Sue Grimwood, from our supplier Steppes Travel:
"When swimming, it’s the getting in and out of the boat that’s not so easy. It’s open to anybody but the fitter you are, the more you’re going to get out of it. Certainly, if you’re going out in a zodiac or a rigid inflatable for a long period, you tend to bounce around quite a lot. So if you have back issues then take a back brace – a lot of the zodiac drivers wear them if they know the sea’s going to be rough. They normally give you a good idea as to what sea conditions are going to be like before you go out, so you can decide whether or not you want to go out, depending on what the weather situation is going to be like for the next few days."

Advice from our travelers


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful dolphin swimming advice and dolphin watching tips that our travelers have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Get out every single time you can, you can't see wild dolphins + whales + fish + turtles in Oxford Street. Take an underwater camera - even as a first time amateur, I got some amazing shots. - James Bromley

Cancel and send me instead! No seriously go prepared for all weathers. Wet suits and layers, sun cream, hats. You might need them. - Amanda Kirby
Be flexible, we were unlucky with weather so it was difficult to plan as the boat times kept changing, also sometimes you go out for a few hours and see very little. However the skippers are brilliant and do their best - when you do see the animals it is all worthwhile. - Emily Norton
Take a selection of gear, closed shoes, flip flops, light towels that dry easily etc... - Victoria Johnson
Take good snorkelling gear and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy swimming. Don't be afraid - it seems scary but in reality it's not! - Michele Pink

It's not a cultural or beach vacation, but purely for seeing dolphins and taking it easy. This was what we wanted, but some other people on the trip expected more. So, make sure you know what the trip is about. - Sigrid Mikkelsen

This isn't Disneyland, if you want to get touchy feely with dolphins, this is the wrong vacation. They don't do tricks. If you want to appreciate the beauty of these creatures, then this is the right vacation and you'll enjoy a humbling, enriching experience. - Anthony Wedlake
Photo credits: [Top box image - dolphin face: Ste Elmore] [Boat and dolphin image: Alberto Perdomo] [Lynn Macdonald review image: Steve Jurvetson] [Sunita Mason review image: Ewen Roberts]
Written by Vicki Brown
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