Many people have “swimming with dolphins” on their bucket-list. Young girls, in particular, seem to long for this coveted photo-op, but it appeals to all ages. Close encounters with dolphins is a dream that can be fulfilled at many resort attractions around the world. However, there is increasing concern and controversy that these tourist experiences are not so good for the cetaceans. Most are caught from the wild or born in captivity to live in confining pens and perform tricks. They miss out on complex pod socialization, and often show signs of stress. While it may be a thrill to the human participants, it’s of little benefit to the dolphin. These SWTD programs often claim their research, breeding and educational components outweigh the negatives, but anyone with concern for animal welfare might want to think twice. If you really want to take the plunge with our ocean cousins, here are 10 places where you can swim with dolphins. Consider this a list of attractions to avoid if you truly care about the species.
1. Discovery Cove, Orlando
This SeaWorld theme park’s highlight attraction is their one-on-one dolphin swim experience. Participants ages 6 and up can head to the dolphin lagoon, accompanied by a trainer, and come nose-to-nose with a bottlenose. After 30 minutes of hugging, kissing and playing with the animal, you are encouraged to grab the dorsal fin for an aquatic joy ride back to shore. Memories of a lifetime? Absolutely. Incredible photos and some hands-on learning about the species? Sure. But those concerned about the ethics of dolphin swims should give this a miss.