Dolphins are known as “dogs of the sea” because of their highly intelligent and affectionate behavior. Not long ago, there was a video sent in to a news stations showing a dolphin with a hook embedded in his skin swimming up to a diver for help. It’s this type of innate empathy and intelligence that draws so many people towards these creatures. But like all creatures, divers must use caution around these majestic creatures to ensure the safety of themselves and the dolphin.
Is It Legal?
Some people automatically assume that swimming with dolphins is perfectly safe and legal. After all, there are dozens of documentaries and television shows depicting dolphins and divers together. The truth, however, is that laws vary depending on your country. The US Federal Law according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that feeding, harassing and yes – swimming – with wild dolphins is illegal. If you are diving in US waters, you should keep your distance from these creatures to abide by this federal law.
Of course, other countries do in fact allow interaction among divers and dolphins. Before setting off on a dolphin dive trip, check the local laws to determine whether or not it’s legal. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than legal trouble in an unfamiliar country. A short online search or call to the local authorities should reveal whether or not it’s legal to dive with dolphins.
Don’t Approach Them
The golden rule of swimming with dolphins is to wait for them to approach you. If there’s a pod of dolphins in the nearby area, don’t harass them by continuously swimming up to them. Instead, maintain your position and wait for them to approach you. Dolphins are curious by nature, and nine out of ten times they will come to check you out.
When a dolphin approaches you, remain calm and avoid making any sudden movements. Jerking your hands, arms and feet wildly will only spook the dolphin, increasing the chance of them lashing out in aggression. Keep your hands either out in front or by your side to allow the dolphin to see what you are all about. After the dolphin has warmed up to you, you can then reach out to gently pet it.
Watch Their Behavior
As a diver, it’s your responsibility to watch the dolphin’s behavior. If they are feeling agitated or nervous, they will likely exhibit signs that you need to watch out for. One of the most common signs of agitation is flapping their tail against the water. If you see a dolphin doing this, take yourself out of the environment immediately.