Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals, and swimming with them can be a magical experience. They are more than mere fish, as they are highly emotional and expressive creatures. With its long coastline and rich marine environment, California has plenty of dolphin-watching trips, but the opportunities it presents for swimming with the dolphins are mostly limited to its marine theme parks. To swim with them in the wild is a haphazard affair, one you'll have to pursue independently.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
This park presents a family-friendly option if you are in the San Francisco area. Swimming with the dolphins at a marine park offers a controlled environment, and none of the risks that the open ocean poses to weak swimmers. That makes it much safer for children. Six Flags has two programs that include opportunities to get into the tank and swim with dolphins. The first is Dolphin Discovery. This starts with some classroom work to learn about dolphins and receive safety instruction, which is then followed by getting into the tank. The second is Trainer for a Day, which is a seven-hour, two-part program where participants follow the trainers around as they work with both dolphins and sea lions. This program involves substantially more interaction with the dolphins. The 2009 rates for these were $149 per person for Dolphin Discovery, and $400 per person for Trainer for a Day. Dolphin Discovery participants under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and no children under 12 can participate in Trainer for a Day.
1001 Fairgrounds Dr.
Vallejo, CA 94589
Sea World Adventure Park
This park also offers an aquarium-based program and, like the aforementioned Six Flags, it is a sound and safe choice for children or adults who want to go swimming with the dolphins in the San Diego area. However, they only offer a classroom plus swimming-in-the-tank experience, akin to the Dolphin Discovery program provided by Six Flags. The 2009 rate for their Dolphin Interaction Program is $170 per person.
500 Sea World Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109
If swimming with dolphins in the wild is what you want, then you will need to charter you own dolphin-watching trip, either by renting a boat or some sea kayaks. While California has plenty of dolphin- and whale-watching trip operators, none features the opportunity to get out of the boat and go snorkeling with a school of dolphins as part of their tour. An example of where to go looking can be found on the outskirts of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This is a marine reserve that stretches from Marin to Cambria, and extends roughly 30 miles offshore. Dolphins are often found within the sanctuary, and while snorkeling and scuba diving are permitted here, to go specifically swimming with the dolphins is not. Within the sanctuary, the best you can hope for is to pick a diving or snorkeling spot near where dolphins are known to congregate. The alternative is to make a similar trip to an area just outside the sanctuary. Consulting with area boaters and fishermen should give you a good idea where and when to find dolphins under those circumstances. But you need to be aware of the dangers of swimming in an unguarded, natural, deep-water environment, however.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.