By Bo, co-founder of SeaBookings, working from Lisbon:
From all sea experiences that we provide on SeaBookings, swimming with dolphins has always been the one that fascinated me most. In Portugal, you can only swim with wild dolphins on the islands of the Azores and Madeira. The first time I was on Madeira, I did not have the chance to make this dream come true. Fortunately, the second time, I made my dream to swim with dolphins in Madeira come true. And it totally exceeded my expectations.
For me, regarding all tours involving cetaceans, like the whale and dolphin watching and swimming with dolphins tours, it’s very important to be sure that they’re done with respect for nature. At SeaBookings, we try to select the tour operators that are truly involved with the species’ welfare. In Madeira, we have a great partner regarding this aspect.
During the briefing before the tour, we were informed about what the tour would be like and what we could expect. We also learned about the different species of dolphins and whales that can be found around Madeira, some resident and some migratory. And we also learned that to respect the animals, we can only spend limited time next to each pod, to not bother them too much. Besides, they are not fed, so they are truly wild! Being truly wild animals means that these tours are always a real adventure. You never know what species of dolphins and/or whales you’ll find in the open water of the middle of the Atlantic, if any!
The experience to swim with dolphins in Madeira takes place on the same speed boats and schedules as the dolphin and whale watching tours. This is great because if you go with a group and not everybody wants to swim, you can still go on the same tour. To swim with the dolphins, a few conditions are a must: the dolphins should be of the species Common Dolphins (Delphinus), they should not be feeding, not have calves and be calm. Only then, you can calmly get into the water and swim with dolphins in Madeira.
It was with the second pod of dolphins we found that all criteria to be able to swim were satisfied. Oh damn, I was so excited. Was I really going to make the dream to swim with wild dolphins come true? Yes, the skipper and the marine biologist onboard, gave me and two other “swimmers” (on a boat with 12 guests) an “OK” to calmly get into the water.
1, 2, 3, here I come, dolphins! The water was warm, 22ºC and I was wearing a bikini and lycra and a snorkel mask. With one hand, I was holding a rope that was tight to the boat. The boat was moving, but very very slowly. The dolphins were all around me. All around. They’d look at me, come closer, and swim away. They were super curious. I could hear them talk, their noises are so cute! And loud! They are big! Common Dolphins can reach up to 2,5m and that’s very big if you’re swimming next to them!
Wow, here I was in the middle of the Atlantic, at a depth of more than 2000 m, surrounded by 15-20 friendly and curious dolphins. What an amazing feeling. While writing this, I can still feel the excitement!
While holding on tight to the boat, I was going above and under the surface of the sea. And when above, I was telling the people on the boat how amazing this was! I needed to share my excitement! I’m not sure for how long I was in the water, probably only for 5 minutes, but this was more than enough. I will never ever forget these unique moments underwater, these indescribable encounters with such a magical species!
I feel extremely grateful for this experience swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat and I strongly recommend it to all nature lovers out there. To swim with dolphins in Madeira was with no doubt one of the most remarkable experiences of my life! Feel free to contact me per email if you’ve got any questions about this experience 🙂