Is there some way I could swim with the dolphins outside of a "Sea World" type environment (not captive!)? Ah, nature at her best, wild and free. The spinners dolphins often swim right up to the boat and display their aerial skills, being quite the show-offs. They also like to catch a "free ride" on the bow, often spraying your dangling toes with their blows or splashes.
We believe this is the best experience, the free swimming dolphins join us because they want to, not because they are fed or coerced in any manner. It may also be possible to slip into the water and swim in the midst of them.
There is really an art to this (respect for the animals being vital), keeping in mind that we are now on their terms.
Please see our "swim with dolphins" page, regarding outside influences which we cannot control - but will give 110% to make the most of... Please realize that due to these influences and that we never know how long the "dolphin swim window" will be open, TIMING IS CRITICAL. When we approach the dolphins, please be focused, attentive, and economical in your movements. Be responsible for your connection with the dolphins.
It is not realistic to expect to swim alongside wild dolphins unless you know how to swim and snorkel, are physically and mentally prepared, are able to get up the ladder and back on the boat, and are potentially able to swim a hundred+ yards at a steady pace.
~ The more comfortable you are both in the water ("in your element") and with snorkeling, the higher your rate of success will be. Not being either may turn the "dolphin swim" into a snorkeling lesson for you, and can distract from the success of others.
~ Things to consider for success, comfort, and your safety;
Participants must be able to climb a ladder, both sit on a swim step and get up off it, and be able to board and move around the vessel comfortably and with minimal assistance. You must also be able to listen to and follow precise detail, and effectively communicate with the crew.
Make sure you are present and attentive for all safety and information briefings.
At times the water can be very deep - you will not be wading in from shore - on some occasions, you may not even see the bottom;
People have the tendency to overestimate their swimming and snorkeling abilities, and to underestimate their health and/or limitations. If it looks like it may be too much, it probably is.
The quicker you can be geared up, the better your odds will be. All gear fitting is done before the boat leaves the dock. Time spent taking pictures from onboard, putting on sunscreen, pulling back your hair, finding safe places for glasses, digging for a towel, neatly folding clothes, etc. rather than gearing up will directly subtract from successful in-water time with dolphins. If we are pressuring you to hurry, its because your success rate is going to decrease with the legnth of time needed for you to get in the water. Timing is a learned art, please trust us, and for the sake of both you and the dolphins, be ready.
Stay focused on the dolphins, where they are, where they are going, how fast or slow they are moving, how fast or slow different pods are moving, activity levels, if you get in and aim for that pod, and you cant keep up, is there another pod behind it? Be responsible for you trip, if you dont know where they are, get your head up and look. If you know where they are, stay with them.
Fully grasp the meaning of this profoundly powerful four-word phrase, "Swim with, not at." Parellel them in every sense of the word. Blend, blend, blend...
Also, if really important to you, book more than one trip, or take a multiple day trip. Not only are the odds of getting skunked on two trips unheard of, but EACH time you see the dolphins you will be more comfortable, heighten your interaction chances, really hear our guidance, etc.
There are very few places in the world with these types of near shore conditions where swimming with wild dolphins in their natural habitats, by their own choice (no training or feeding) are available.
How long will I be able to swim with the dolphins and for how long will they stay near me? Because the dolphins encountered are wild animals, no predictions about their behavior (mood) can be made. They are not depending on us for food or other needs, so it is mostly up to them, but also up to our actions how interesting or benign they find us. They may disappear within a few minutes of entering the water, or they may swim in close proximity until you are too cold or tired to swim anymore. We let the dolphins decide when the swim is over. Please trust our judgment on the best encounters for all. << Back to FAQ page
What if the dolphins don't want to swim with people? That's completely up to the dolphins. Encounters are designed to be at the dolphins pace, on their terms, and at their activity level. It's not a captive-dolphin swim program, with no choice (likewise it is not a controlled environment). For the dolphins, its stimulating activity. If they're not enjoying it, we won't do it.
After almost 20 years of interactions with the resident pod, we have known many of the dolphins since infancy. We know how to read them, and know they will only interact with us if they feel like it. Or more aptly, the better we mimic and follow their lead, the better the encounter.
We limit our encounters to pre-defined areas. That's sort of like a security blanket for the dolphins. If they move outside of the envelope, we know the encounters are over - we won't keep at that them.
Can I touch or "ride" the dolphins? Riding or touching dolphins in any manner is unnatural. Touching the animals is not encouraged nor permitted. The dolphin's sense of touch is much more acute than ours and moreover, the act of reaching out is considered threatening. Attempting to touch the animals will probably frighten them away, bringing to an end the possibility of a wonderful encounter.
"If petting dolphins is what you need to do, you should visit a captive facility (amusement park) where you will be lead to believe that dolphins have chosen to be there to please you, that dolphins like you, that they enjoy being petted being fed dead fish, that they like do all kinds of neat tricks." << Back to FAQ page
Can we SCUBA dive? While we do use , SCUBA diving is not conducted. Bubbles may act as a deterrent, and horizontal swimming with the added equipment becomes slow and cumbersome in the presence of agile dolphins. << Back to FAQ page
Will I be in danger? Your safety is paramount. There is always someone on the boat (if not also in the water with you) watching those in the water.
All participants are given orientation sessions, to become familiar and comfortable with snorkel equipment and the art of dolphin interactions. It is vital that you inform us of any medical conditions o physical limitations that you or members of your party may have.
Spinner dolphins can move at free will if something upsets them or they do not want to be with us. However, we do not want to create such a cause, and will err on the side of precaution at all times.
We will also not let you in the water if we feel the dolphins behavior is at all "sketchy." This may mean that they sense threat from a predator. We have learned to follow their advice on this. Other reasons we will stay onboard are if the dolphins are traveling (you can't beat being on the boat for this!). << Back to FAQ page
Are there any legal restrictions or considerations involved in swimming with dolphins? Different countries have different rules and regulations surrounding cetacean encounters, invariably with the animals’ welfare in mind. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States, it is illegal to harass, hunt, capture (where do those captive dolphins come from?), or kill any marine mammal. We strictly adhere to self-regulating our trips (over and above locally-imposed regulations) with additional guidelines that have been designed to protect our guests, the animals and their habitat. Wild Side adheres to the IWC's General Principles for Whalewatching to minimise the risks of adverse impacts of whalewatching on cetaceans. << Back to FAQ page
What about taking underwater photographs? There is a very wide choice of underwater cameras, and it's surprisingly easy to take a good picture with even the cheapest disposable camera if the sun, water visibility and animals all come together at the right moment! Always take shots near to the surface (where the light is brightest), as near to the subject as possible, but don't let the 'need' to get good photographs take over or detract from the experience of actually enjoying your encounter. << Back to FAQ page
Can I feed the dolphins? No, absolutely not. To do so would be to directly interfere with their natural food intake (wild dolphins never eat dead fish), hunting instincts/behavior and their naturally balanced diet. << Back to FAQ page
When is the best time of year to see the humpback whales? Here's the scoop. The humpbacks begin to arrive as early as late October. The population rises as the season progresses as different whales leave Alaska at different times (i.e. lactating females leave last). So although there are many whales in January, the peak population comes a little later (closer to Feb. - March) likewise, the most action/behavior viewing also comes later in the season (the season being mid Dec.- April). Similar to closing time at some bars, males will be giving a last ditch effort to "catch the gals" (no offense guys)! << Back to FAQ page
Do you guarantee whale and/or dolphin sightings, etc.? As we interact with the marine mammals in their wild state, encounters are not 100% certain. We do have sighting rates of 95% of the time.
We feel if we guarantee something (especially something we have no control over like weather or wildlife sightings), then the pressure to make it happen becomes foremost. When meeting the guarantee becomes priority, then safety and providing a quality experience slips out the window. We also feel this is what makes our company unique. Our motto is “Tours with Integrity”, and we do our utmost to uphold that motto, while providing a quality experience. Wild Side adheres to the IWC's General Principles for Whalewatching to minimise the risks of adverse impacts of whalewatching on cetaceans. << Back to FAQ page
"We cannot approach any real inquiry into truth, with any assumption or belief what so ever. We must be willing to see things as they are, rather as we hope, wish, or expect them to be." ~ Buddha
Can I swim with whales? In most locations including the Hawaiian Islands, swimming with whales is not allowed or encouraged, as whales are not accustomed to people in the water. It is also possible for swimmers to be unintentionally harmed swimmers through sudden movements or flicks of huge whale tails or fins. << Back to FAQ page
West Side Specialty Dolphin and Snorkel Tours
Waianae Boat Harbor
Near Ko Olina and Disney Aulani, Oahu