Search Our Blog

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Swimming with Dolphins @ Whakatane (Videos)

Do you dream to dive into the ocean and swim with wild dolphins? Your dream can come true in Whakatane, New Zealand.

Whakatane is a small town on the East coast of New Zealand's North Island. It is the gateway to the White Island: an active volcano that became a popular tourist attraction. The town also offers local wild life tours and boat trips.

A pod of friendly dolphins

On "The Strand“, the only main street in town (the locals might disagree :p), there are several shops that offers boat trips to watch and/or swim with wild life dolphins at a reasonable price.

The Journey
These boats could carry about 15 to 20 participants. The group will be supervised by 2 or 3 tour guides, usually family members from these shops (as most of these small businesses are family owned and operated). At least one of them is a qualified guide and they do take safety seriously. However, the New Zealanders are nice people who are also really "lay back”. It is recommended to stay alert and look after family and friends throughout the boat trip.

The boat that took us to the school of dolphins

It would usually take around 1 to 2 hours to find dolphins in near by seas. As these dolphins are wild life animals, there is no guarantee that the skipper can always trace them. However, dolphins loves fishes, a fish radar is usually sufficient to find wild life dolphins. In addition, as seagulls also loves fishes, where seagulls gather (in the sea, of course) is also where dolphins gather.

Once the pod of dolphins is located, participants can quickly put on the wetsuits and goggles provided; and jump into the ocean in groups of 2 to 4 and swim with the school of dolphins! The boat will head back to the shore once everyone on the boat had enough chances to swim. The skipper might take you to the sea lions etc if time permits.


Travel Tips
Before you get all excited about your swim with the dolphins experience, let me paint a bit reality into the picture. Wild life dolphins are different from dolphins you would meet in the zoo or theme parks. These wild life dolphins are really good swimmers who will not stop and wait for you to pet them. They are unlikely to surround you and dance water aerobics with you. It takes a really good swimmer to catch up with them. However, dolphins come in pods and you can still observe them in a closed enough distance.

As these swimming will take place in open sea, to make your trip safe and worthwhile, I would recommend you to practice swimming in the sea beforehand. As you are aware, swimming in the sea is different from swimming in the pool (eg. strong winds, glare from the sun, rough waves). Finally, don't forget to look for the boat from time to time and don't get too carried away when chasing dolphins.

I personally had a great time when I swam with the dolphins at Whakatane. It was a really worthwhile trip! Enjoy your trip!