Years ago, when I was working on the ship there was a crew excursion to swim with the dolphins in Mexico. Sounds amazing, right? Swimming with actual dolphins. And it was really cheap – about $30.
It had been a year of pushing myself out of so many of my comfort zones around water (I can’t swim and am petrified of the sea and water and there I was living and working on a cruise ship!) so this seemed like the obvious next step. Plus, dolphins are fascinating so it would be amazing to see them up close.
Myself and a group of friends took the taxi to the location – I can’t remember the name of it (probably lucky for them), we arrived excited and grabbed our lifejackets. There was free tequila tasting in an outbuilding round the back that we promptly decided we would do after our dolphin excursion.
Walking through the building and out into the back we were greeted with the ocean… and a wall. The wall segmented the closer half of the ocean to us with numerous sort-of swimming pools of varying sizes. There was a large one that you could see some people already meeting dolphins in which I assumed we would be in.
Our group was led around the side to a pool about the same size as one you’ve probably had in the back yard of your holiday home rental. There was dirty netting acting as walls, with bits of pollution caught in the net, such as plastics and bottles etc.
Then two dolphins were unveiled in this tiny tank. This pair of dolphins delighted us with synchronised performances, bobbed out of the water to give us ‘kisses’ and allowed us to swim along side them while we ‘rubbed their belly’ and were pushed along by them on mini surf boards. All for the sake of photo opportunities.
As soon as I saw the size of the tank it felt wrong. What did I expect? I don’t know. I think I was just naive.
You probably initially think ‘oh they’re being protected here from the dangers in their habitat.’ Their dangers are us. We are the danger.
There is plenty of space in the ocean for them to swim freely, so there is no need for them to be caged in to these small tanks and forced to swim around and perform tricks to entertain us for their entire existence. Goodness knows how they are trained to perform these tricks and ‘shows’ for us; I dread to think.
If I could go back in time and relive the experience, I wouldn’t. Was it cool to be up close to a real dolphin? Yes, of course. It is amazing to be close to and at peace with a totally different species that you can’t communicate with – how special and incredible! But would it have been better in the wild? Absolutely.
Would I have preferred to have seen dolphins from a boat cruising the ocean? Yes, that would have been just as magical (and I can say this from experience after watching a pod of dolphins dance and play alongside our cruise ship once as we crossed the Transatlantic – it was magical!)
Believe me, you will get through your life perfectly fine without ticking ‘swim with dolphins’ off your bucket list. It isn’t an amazing experience for yourself and your kids. It is exploitation.
Don’t be fooled that ‘because it’s not Seaworld it’s totally fine’. Sea creatures shouldn’t be in captivity. Period. There is a big wide ocean out there that they should be living in and enjoying. Not trapped in a tank and tortured every day of their life.
The pictures from this experience show excitement from me and my privileged experience, but when I look at the poor dolphins I have the pictures with, all I see is sorrow. If you truly love dolphins, please don’t swim with them.