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!
The 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 the dive centre can provide short courses in confined water.
The 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 to 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 the swim with dolphins trips is greater than 97% - just as successful as the 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.
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!