All you need to know about swimming with dolphins in the Azores

Swimming with dolphins is a unique and life changing experience for many people.

In the Azores this activity is particularly rewarding as you will swim:

  • Out in the deep blue ocean: You should realise that we operate in the open ocean. The dolphins are often far from the coastline in deep and unsheltered waters. 
  • With dolphins that are completely wild and free: All the dolphins we swim with are completely wild! Please note that the dolphins do what they want when they want, we must respect that. We may observe a variety of natural behaviours and hear their communication. Although, we can’t guarantee interaction. We try our best to ensure that everybody has at least three chances to see the dolphins under water.
swimming with dolphins azores

Swimming with dolphins is made with the maximum respect for the animals and not in an intrusive way. We will be following the rules of the ethic code.

Rules and Codes of Conduct 

Futurismo is proud to be a Partner of the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA): the world’s largest Partnership working to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans). 

To protect the dolphins in this activity, we follow the rules of conduct defined by the Regional Government of the Azores and the World Cetacean Alliance. (Decreto Legislativo Regional Nº 10/2003/A de 22 March)

Below is the description:

  1. Swimming with whales is strictly forbidden;
  2. The decision to put swimmers in the water and the distance from the animals is a responsibility of the captain of the vessel and must take into account the welfare of the animals and the swimmers;
  3. Vessels that have swimmers in the water must have a second crew member (marine biologist) apart from the captain who is responsible to keep watch for the swimmers and animals ensuring their welfare;
  4. Each vessel is limited to three attempts of releasing swimmers. If the animals show signs of avoidance they must be left alone;
  5. The swimmers, always wearing snorkel equipment, and never in a number above two, must keep together in a radius of 50 meters around the vessel; intentional physical contact with animals is strictly forbidden; movements must be slow and noises avoided;
  6. Swimmers must not stay in the water with the animals for longer than 15 minutes at a time;
  7. While there are swimmers in the water the engine must be disengaged;
  8. The recovery of the swimmers must be made with minimal disturbance to the animals, keeping a distance of at least 50 meters from them. 

What to expect from the activity

  • We go to the ocean in small groups with a zodiac boat;
  • This trip is led by a one of our qualified marine biologists and a trainned skipper that understand dolphins behaviours;
  • Each trip is preceded by a briefing that explains how we swim with wild dolphins while respecting them, how to enter the water and behave around the dolphins.
  • We provide masks, snorkels and wetsuits, but if you are used to your own, bring it with you!

Swimming rules and guidelines

Respecting the dolphins: Top priority!

Finding them: We don’t use any kind of sonars! We use lookouts. They are our “trick” to find dolphins. They are strategically placed in high spots with powerful binoculars and they can see around 45 km out of land. After finding the animals, they indicate their position to the boat via radio.

Approaching them: No hurry! Rush is the enemy of perfection! Before we start the activity, we observe the behavior of the dolphins. If they are curious, we begin our activity. We approach calmly and people only get into the water when the dolphins are in a good position to be observed. 

Swimming with them: They are in their home, we are just visitors! 

  • Only two people are allowed to enter into the water at the same time while having a maximum of 3 chances to see the dolphins.
  • When the dolphins show being displeased with our presence, the activity ends. If dolphins do not want to swim with us, we cannot force them to stay.
  • This activity just depends on the dolphins’ will. If they don’t want to swim, we will try to find another group. If we don’t, we cancel the activity and we change it to another day.

Golden Rule: This activity requires some physical and psychological strength. Listen to your guide advises!

  • You must know how to swim: There are currents and you cannot see the sea bottom.
  • You must practice the use of a mask and snorkel: To see the dolphins under water, you must use a mask and snorkel. Strap must be tight and your hair should be free from the front and sides of the mask (If you have any eye problems, bring your contact lens or a special mask).
  • Entering the water: When the skipper says “go”, you must slide smoothly into the water. The dolphins can easily be frightened by the noise when we splash. Just relax and enjoy the show.
  • Watching the dolphins: Remember to look down, inside the water, while breathing calmly through the snorkel.
  • If you have to use glasses to see: It is better to bring contact lenses or your own adequate personal mask.

Our responsibility term to read and sign during the check-in

  • This activity is not recommended for children under 8 years old.
  • Children should always be accompanied by an adult.
  • To be more comfortable aboard, we advise you to take only what is necessary for the activity (raincoat, towel and flip-flops). Everything that is not required should be left in the store.
  • You can bring your camera and cell-phone if properly packaged (prevent wet with splashes, rain, etc).
  • It is forbidden to consume alcoholic drinks aboard.
  • Smoking is forbidden aboard. 
                forbidden to smoke
Article by Mariana Silva, Marine Biologist 
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