What Countries Can You Swim with Dolphins?


There are many countries around the world that still allow humans to swim with dolphins. Swimming with dolphins has been a popular tourist excursion in the Caribbean for decades. Even in places like Hawaii and Florida also offer swim with dolphins tourist experiences.



Swimming with Dolphins in Hawaii


A news story out of Hawaii is putting the spotlight on the consequences of tourists flocking to swim with dolphins. This has caused the Federal officials to want to ban swimming with dolphins in Hawaii. The proposed rules, announced by the NOAA Fisheries, seeks to ban swimming or approaching Hawaiian spinner dolphins within 50 yards. Many popular tourist activities, such as dolphin watching in boats or snorkeling with dolphins, would also effectively be banned.


Federal officials believe the presence of swimmers is negatively affecting the quality of life of dolphins by disrupting their natural behavior in the ecosystem.


“We think by identifying 50 yards as the minimum distance that there still can be a viable tourist industry in Hawaii,” Ann Garrett, an assistant regional administrator for protected resources for the National Marine Fisheries Service.


However, tour operators disagree and believe if these new regulations are passed they would destroy their industry.


“It would be the end of legitimate dolphin swimming,” said Kevin Merrill, an owner of Dolphin Discoveries in Hawaii. “We couldn’t offer the people the quality interaction that they expect.”


Is it Cruel to Swim with Dolphins?


Conservationists have criticized these swimming with dolphin excursions. Their belief is that dolphins are not meant to be held in captivity and are often treated poorly in these environments. Dolphins are naturally predatorial therefore humans are also at risk when participating in swimming with dolphin excursions.


Dolphins are the animal closest to humans in terms of intelligence with the unique ability to pass on traditions through generations. These are highly-complex social animals that need the stimulation and enrichment that the open ocean offers them. 


Do Dolphins Enjoy Swimming with Humans?


While they are remarkable mammals, federal officials are making the case that we should not be using them for our own entertainment. Some countries have put policy into effect to help protect dolphins and keep them in the wild, however, the battle is far from over. Wildlife conservationists will continue to make the case that dolphins can experience extreme stress and psychological issues from being kept in captivity. 


In this blog post, we will be exploring why swimming with dolphins continues to be an important issue to address. 



Swimming with Dolphins for Tourism 


The underbelly of the swimming with the dolphins’ tourism industry is evident. These dolphins are kept in captivity so that tourists can have the experience of being in close proximity to these marine animals. 


About 60% of dolphins in the United States are bred in captivity, while the rest are caught in the wild. Plucked from the ocean, placed on a large boat, and transported to a marine park or aquarium. 


However, there have been reports of dolphins being neglected and having to live in poor water quality in marine parks and other captivity environments. The fact is tanks and pens don’t provide dolphins with the enrichment that they would experience in the actual ocean. 


While many people believe swimming with dolphins is safe as long as a dolphin trainer is closeby, this is not always the case. Conservationists believe dolphins grow tired of being touched and that the constant stress from humans can lead to long-term health problems for these animals. For humans, the prospect of swimming with dolphins can also be risky. Some participants in dolphin encounters have received bites and broken bones, according to the Humane Society of the United States.


Dolphins are Similar to Humans


In 2013, India was the first country in the world to ban keeping dolphins in captivity. This was after their government decided to classify dolphins as non-human persons with their own specific rights. This is a result of the growing evidence showing just how similar dolphins actually are to humans. The benefit is that since dolphins are similar to humans it may make humans think twice about dolphin swim programs (I bet most people wouldn’t like to be kept in captivity and have their freedom stripped).


Geneticists have found the human genome and the dolphin genome are basically the same. Texas A&M Scientist Dr. David Busbee explains, ”It’s just that there are a few chromosome rearrangements that have changed the way the genetic material is put together.”


Scientists have found that dolphins have the same brain evolution to that of primates and humans. The reason they are so advanced as a result of their ability to cope with large, complex social groups. Their brains are also MASSIVE. In fact, dolphins and whales have the largest brains in the ocean. This allows them to recognize themselves in the mirror and even solve complex problems. Interestingly, dolphins also have emotional intelligence and they can even feel emotions like empathy. 


Like humans, dolphins have families and social groups. They could have as little as two individuals in their group or a pod could be up to 1,000 dolphins.


Dolphins also engage in cooperative hunting and pass skills on to their young. 


Depending on their geographic area, dolphins speak in different dialects and can even learn each other’s languages. They even have specific whistles for different dolphin names. Wow!





Swimming with dolphins for tourism purposes is a loud conversation in the world of animal conversation.  These marine animals share so many similarities to humans that will make many people think twice before subjecting them to inhumane treatment. Environments where dolphins are kept in captivity typically don’t provide them the quality of enrichment and stimulation that they would experience in the open ocean.


There are negative issues for dolphins who are forced to participate in these tourist attractions. However, there is also a risk posed to humans when participating in swimming with dolphin tourism excursions. People have experienced broken bones and even bites. This could be a result of the dolphin’s unhappiness with constantly being placed in stressful environments. 


What do you think about swimming with dolphins? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!