Swimming with Dolphins is something that has probably been on most people’s dream wish lists at some point and when they arrive in a holiday destination that offers it, they jump at the chance of ticking it off their list.
I am putting up my hands and saying I am guilty of having done this myself 10 years ago when on honeymoon in The Bahamas, at Dolphin Cay, a popular facility at Atlantis, a resort on Paradise Island.
After experiencing it firsthand and seeing the conditions the Dolphins were kept in, it continues to be something I majorly regret to this day and will NEVER ever promote or encourage. At the time I was distraught at seeing the pools they were kept in, and when one of the Dolphins, Jona, misbehaved, I realised that this was not at all natural for them.
I researched into it as soon as I got back and I now know the full extent of how being kept in captivity impacts dolphins, who are not used to being confined to small swimming spaces compared to the wide ocean, and how not being able to be social with other dolphins can really affect them.
I fell for the “these are rescued dolphins from the hurricane’ story when booking the excursion and I know now to be very suspicious and always assess the conditions in which animals are kept. There are so many places that offer this and I really hope that through this post I can discourage people from paying to do this activity.
For example, in Dubai, The Atlantis hotel there also offers it but just pause and think whether Dubai is a natural place for dolphins to be and how they got there at the resort! Food for thought.
What activities are usually offered?
Venues may offer swimming with a dolphin, being photographed with a dolphin, pulled through the water by a dolphin (called the “dorsal tow”) or being kissed by a dolphin. You may even be offered a chance to be a a dolphin “trainer for the day.”
Other places may have dolphins performing, jumping through hoops, doing back flips etc.
These are excursions you may book on land or are popular excursions offered by Cruise Ships for Port days.
How do the Dolphins end up in Dolphinariums?
When you pause to think how these gorgeous dolphins end up in captivity for you to swim with, touch and kiss, it is actually upsetting! They are usually chased in to nets, lifted in a boat and transported to wherever they are being sold to.
Can you imagine how distressing and traumatic this must be for the Dolphins?
During the process they are at risk of becoming entangled in the capture nets which could essentially lead to them suffocating or suffering stress-related conditions from the the trauma.
They may also be split from their families (pods), which isn’t ideal.
Those Dolphins who are then born whilst in captivity have the added issues of losing their instincts making it harder for them to ever be released back into the wild.
Why are the Dolphinariums so bad?
The small confined places the dolphins are out in can be compared to a jail cell for a human. They are used to open oceans, and this is nothing in comparison and not their natural habitat.
Most of the experiences are a “shallow water” opportunity so that they are child-friendly or catered for those who do not know how to swim. Dolphins are not used to shallow water in the ocean!
Dolphins in the dolphinarium are usually put together with other dolphins who may not be from their original pod. As much as humans find it awkward to be stuck with people they may not know, dolphins find this too!
The dolphin interactions start early in the morning and go on all day and the dolphins are seeing so many people! This is exhausting and also they are put at risk of picking up illnesses from humans.
They may accidentally swallow items like coins, toys, plastic that may be dropped in the water, which could make them sick or choke them.
What should you do?
Stop the lifetime of suffering for the dolphins involved in these ‘swim with dolphins’ opportunities and say curb the demand by not buying tickets for the experiences and educate others who desire to do it or want their kids to do it on why it is so wrong!
Instead, why not go snorkelling or diving and see sea life in their natural habitat.