Posted by: marinmom | August 28, 2007

Swimming with dolphins in Hawaii for free

Recently, my family and I were in Kona, Hawaii and spotted some dolphins swimming in a protected cove.  We excitedly placed the kids on the boogie boards, donned our flippers and swam out to see them.  It was an amazing two hours.  They swam around us, spun up and out of the water and seemed to be as curious about us and we were of them.  I think for a moment I thought we were the stars of Flipper (a great TV show, get it for your kids.) We told everyone at our hotel about the experience and their location.   A few days later we spotted an article in the local paper discouraging this very activity. Unknowingly, we interrupted the dolphins’ rest and caused harm to this stunning creature.  Duh!  Somehow, I  knew it was too good for me to be good for the dolphins. And isn’t that the crux of the matter.  How to travel without trampling? 

Next time, I visit Mother Nature, I will show more restraint. 

My friend did it right.  With some guilt still remaining, I recommended a friend of mine seek out wild dolphins instead of paying top dollar for 15 minutes at a resort. (O.k. if you must do this, check out this article, Aloha Friday in SFGate or go to DolphinQuest.) She talked to the locals, found out which beach or areas the dolphins visited, brought her binoculars and watched them swim in the sea.  She even checked with the local ranger to find out how close she could get to them in the water without causing harm.  Unlike me, she had a wonderful experience and did no harm.  (At this point, I don’t want to say how close or far you should get.  Ask a ranger. Let those tired dolpins sleep.)

Families should seek out the effortless beauty of animals in the wild.  Kids and adults need to see animals in their natural habitat to understand why it needs to be protected.  Teaching our kids and ourselves not to get “too close” is just as important as learning not to litter or to recycle that bottle.  Next time I head for the mountains, the beach or even the local park, I will refrain from literally and figuratively diving in after them as I did. 

I do have a tip for dolphin viewing on Kona.  Rent some kayaks from Kona Boys and go to Captain Cook’s Bay (Kealakekua Bay).  The dolphins are often resting there.  Check the dolphins out from a distance and then snorkel for the day in the beautiful reef.  Environmentally responsible, a memorable vacation day, and fun without remorse.  Lucky you.



  1. Thanks for this insightful post. Yes, tourism is a balancing act. I recently swam with some domesticated dolphins at UNEXSO dive shop and felt that the shop was extremely responsible about care for the dolphins. I think there is case to be made both ways that dolphins in captivity are not a good thing, but a lot of that can depend on the facility and conditions. UNEXSO was good but I didn’t feel so good about SeaWorld in San Diego.

    great post!

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