Our guide to swimming with whales and wild dolphins

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While whales and dolphins roam all of the world’s oceans, only a handful of destinations are suitable for jumping in the sea with them – and even fewer can ensure this is done responsibly, with well trained skippers and enforced regulations. When choosing a destination, take into consideration how much traveling you’re prepared to do (even the Azores can be a day’s journey unless you manage to book a direct flight), how much time you want to spend on the water when you’re there, and whether or not you’re keen to try out other activities – from trekking and land-based wildlife watching, to beach-lazing and cultural encounters.
Azores Norway Red Sea Tahiti Tonga


(Best: May-Sep for calmer seas) The Azores has some of the most abundant dolphin sightings, with seven species commonly seen alongside sperm whales and orcas. This is one of the best places to swim with dolphins, with expert guides and boat drivers who can monitor the behaviour of each species. Week-long trips offer the chance to build your confidence in the open water and use a snorkel around the curious cetaceans.


Between fjords, following the herring migration, whales in Norway are a sight to behold with pods of up to 80 orcas congregating around coastlines close to Tromso to offer liveaboard boat passengers the chance to swim and snorkel - in dry suits - during the magical month of November. Combined with comfy conditions, USEA certified guides and, perhaps, the Aurora Borealis, Norway’s come a long way from its whaling past.

Red Sea

(Best: Mar-Nov) A horseshoe-shaped coral reef marks the spot where a pod of spinner dolphins spend their days recuperating after a long night feeding. The reef is “zoned” to ensure boats don’t disturb them – and only the curious will come out to inspect the boats. You can snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles and a huge variety of reef-dwelling creatures here, in safe, shallow bays – unusual night boat expeditions are also available.


The pilgrimage to Tahiti for expectant humpback whales takes place from Aug to Oct with the island of Moorea, 15kms from Tahiti, providing a breathtaking location from where to swim safely with whales and newborn calves in what will be an incredibly humbling experience. Set sail into the sheltered waters of the South Pacific onboard a catamaran and swim with whales surrounded by French Polynesian islands.


(Late Jul - early Oct) The Antarctic winter sees humpback whales migrating thousands of miles to the balmy Tongan waters where they give birth. This is one of the only places in the world where you can snorkel with these 40-ton giants in crystal clear seas - and their newborns. Onboard hydrophones let the skippers locate singing whales – if you’re bobbing above them, your whole body will softly vibrate.

Family travel


The Red Sea is a great choice for young families. With warm, calm waters and most dolphin swimming trips take place in a safe, sheltered reef. Child-friendly resorts sit beside shallow beaches, and children will love snorkelling with the colourful reef fish. The Azores offers special family departures with presentations tailored for youngsters, and experienced guides well equipped to look after children. Traveling in family groups means that the children make friends – and parents get a little time to themselves. Whale swimming vacations in Tonga are recommended for over 18s only. However, there are some day trips which accept younger children – though these are not orientated specifically towards families, and parents will be fully responsible for their kids.
Photo credits: [Top box: bm.iphone] [Azores: Jolene Bertoldi] [Norway: ] [Red Sea: Simon Lewis] [Tahiti: Paul Gaugin Cruises] [Tonga: Roderick Eime] [Quote box: Roderick Eime]
Azores activity holiday, incl swimming with dolphin

Azores activity vacation, incl swimming with dolphin

Snorkelling with dolphins on São Miguel Island, The Azores

From £1395 8 Days inc UK flights
Azores island hopping holiday, small group

Azores island hopping vacation, small group

Faial, São Jorge and Pico - a three island Azores tour

From £1035 10 Days ex flights
Budget Tonga vacation, swim with humpback whales

Budget Tonga vacation, swim with humpback whales

Once in a lifetime chance to swim with humpback whales.

From £1799 10 days ex flights
Azores holiday, Faial and Pico

Azores vacation, Faial and Pico

Responsible travel experience in Faial and Pico, Azores

From 390 5 Days ex flights
Swim with killer whales and humpback whales in Norway

Swim with killer whales and humpback whales in Norway

Swim near magnificent whales in the cold Norwegian water

From £4400 8 Days ex flights
Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

Live a dream and swim with wild dolphins

From £657 8 Days ex flights
Family swimming with dolphins in the Azores

Family swimming with dolphins in the Azores

A family focused adventure and experience of a lifetime.

From £715 7 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Brandon Cole via Roderick Eime]
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