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Swimming with dolphins in the Azores
Common dolphins - picture taken by photographer George Karbus

SWIM WITH DOLPHINS IN THE AZORES

Without doubt watching cetaceans in their natural environment is an unforgettable experience. However, here in the Azores, it is possible to enrich that experience with an even more exciting one - swimming with the dolphins.

For some people the experience is something mystical, for others it is like returning to our origins, for everybody it is a lifetime experience!

Our trips to swim with the dolphins last 3-4 hours and allow each swimmer to enter the water at least 2-3 times. Sometimes it is possible to swim with more than one species at the same time.

To get the most out of the experience, some confidence with fins, mask and snorkel is necessary. However, do not worry if you do not feel comfortable with this as we can provide short courses in confined water.

MEET THE DOLPHINS IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT

Our swim with dolphin tours aim to offer a truly natural experience. Dolphins are neither attracted with tricks nor they are fed.

They can swim much faster than humans; therefore, decisions such as 'how close we get' and 'how long for' are entirely up to them.

That said, they do come close to the swimmers because they are curious animals, and the success rate of our swim with dolphins trips is greater than 97% - just as successful as our Whale Watching tours.

Swimming with wild dolphins is very different to swimming with captive ones, the latter being confined and rewarded with food whenever they complete the tasks given by the trainers.

The "tank" where we meet the dolphins in Pico was not built by humans and is called Atlantic Ocean.

Our guest Silvia during a Swim with Dolphins trip

THE SPECIES YOU CAN SWIM WITH

In the Azores swimming with dolphins is allowed with 5 different species!
  • Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
    They are the biggest dolphins you can swim with and, in the Azores, they are bigger than in most other areas. The Bottlenose dolphin is the most targeted species by ocenaria. Maybe because of this, it will be even more rewarding to see them living free and happy.
  • Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis)
    Despite their name, only the adults are spotted. They reach our waters with the newborn around end of June and stay till the end of the season.
  • Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
    They are unmistakable, due to their hourglass color pattern on the flanks, whose anterior part is yellow. We sometimes see in large groups of many hundreds.
  • Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus)
    Almost as big as the Bottlenose dolphin, the Risso's dolphin has a round snout which makes identification easy. Adults are covered with white scars that accumulate over time, so that the oldest individuals appear to be almost completely white.
  • Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)
    Similar in size to the Common dolphin, Striped dolphins in the Azores are usually quite shy, unless associated with other species. Their tendency to porpoise at very high speeds makes them a better subject for photography than for swimming!
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

HOW DOES SWIM WITH WILD DOLPHINS WORK?

PREPARATION ON LAND

Briefing
- Introduction to dolphin behaviour and biology
- Safety on board and in the water

Gearing up
There are a few pieces of gear you need for swimming with the dolphins. Do not worry if you miss anything as we will give you all you need at no extra cost:

- Mask and snorkel
- Short wetsuit
- Fins
- Waterproof jacket and trousers

BOAT TRIP

The dock is just a 30-second walk from our centre!
Based on the information received by our look-out on land, we will be heading to the area where the dolphins were spotted.

Once with the dolphins, the crew will evaluate the opportunity of swimming with that particular group. Should the group turn out not to be suitable (e.g. showing boat avoidance) we will find another one.
If the dolphins are OK, we will swim with them 2 people at a time.

There are a few golden rules designed to give you and the dolphins the best shared experience:
  1. Do not enter the water before given the OK by the crew.
  2. After donning fins, mask and snorkel enter the water noiselessly without a splash - enter feet first holding your mask against your face and your snorkel in your mouth.
  3. Swim slowly and avoid making splashes.
  4. When in the water, look down - the dolphins often swim right underneath you or approach from behind.
  5. Listen underwater - often you can hear the dolphin's squeaks and whistles.
  6. Do not chase or try to touch the dolphins.
  7. Remember your limitations.
  8. Carefully follow the crews advice.
Bottlenose dolphin leaps close to a swimmer
osvaldo_soeiro@2009




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