If you're like me and get the biggest smile on your face just by the simple sight of dolphins out in the ocean, imagine the feeling of swimming with these wild beauties and you can do just that with Dolphin Swim Australia!
This bucket list experience is located in Nelson Bay, New South Wales, Australia and takes you around the beautiful waters of the Port Stephens region where these dolphins can be found and is the first of it's kind in the world!
Gathering at the meeting point outside Dock C at the d'Albora Marinas at 5am may seem like a very early start but when it comes to wild animals we need to go out and search for them which can take time and the sunrises make the early wake up so worth it!
Once everybody arrives we make our way to the vessel where we get our names signed off and get fitted into our wetsuits. A generous breakfast is also served including bread, spreads, tea and coffee and the inside of the boat almost feels like a house with it's quirky decor and plants.
Once we grabbed a bite to eat and got settled we made our way up on the deck to look out for the dolphins and listen to the safety brief and learn about dolphins from the very knowledgeable crew. As mentioned before, these dolphins are wild and could be anywhere in their ocean home, so the more eyes there are searching for them, the more time we get to spend with them!
We are put into small groups and take turns going into the water so everybody gets the opportunity to really take in the moment with the dolphins from both above the water and underneath. When a pod of dolphins were spotted you could see people's eyes lighting up and cheering going all around!
Dolphin Swim Australia never chase or harass these dolphins, the wonderful thing about these dolphins is that they absolutely love to swim along the waves and currents made by the vessel so they are happily coming towards us and choose to swim with us.
Geared up with our wetsuits, masks and snorkel we are ready for the experience of our life! We are given a quick refresher of how to enter the water safely and smoothly and the rest, well, is just to simply open your mind and really absorb the magical adventure you are about to have!
Your snorkel allows you to keep your head under the water and breathe normally but if you do struggle the crew are close by to give you a hand. What happens under the water is truly incredible, you have dolphins coming from below, from the sides and happily swimming in front of you, some are so close you could almost reach out and touch them! You also get the opportunity to see some of the dolphin's natural behaviours including their clicking noises which they use to communicate, mating displays and if you're really lucky, a cloud of poo right in your face! (It's good for the hair I hear, hehe)
You are moving quite fast under the water and both hands are highly recommended to stay on the rope so for this reason personal photography equipment is not allowed however, Dolphin Swim Australia video your underwater experience using their GoPro and underwater mounted camera and you have the opportunity to purchase your once in a lifetime experience to forever look back on. This footage below was taken by the Dolphin Swim Australia crew and the photos are screenshots taken from this footage.
You're in the water for about 5-10 minutes at a time with these dolphins, but you become so immersed in what's happening right in front of your eyes that you lose track of time and you feel like you are under the water swimming with these dolphins forever!
The excitement also continues above the water where these dolphins are literally just metres away from you, splashing and jumping out of the water and racing along side you by the vessel, I cannot describe the feeling of watching these incredibly beautiful animals where they are most happy and playful in their natural environment!
Our time with these dolphins soon came to an end and we waved a very happy and grateful goodbye to this pod who gave us the most beautiful and memorable experience I could ever ask for! Drying off and putting on our clothes there was a delicious fruit platter waiting for us for morning tea and it was great to go up on deck and soak up the warm sun while we went past a couple of islands and took in the gorgeous scenery.
As we made our way back to the dock at Nelson Bay we were all awarded with a certificate of achievement for choosing the right option of interacting with wild dolphins and not taking the easy way out by looking at dolphins through a glass wall. This experience really changed my life and to have the opportunity to coexist with these absolutely stunning animals in a peaceful and respectful way in the ocean where they belong is really rewarding!
I cannot thank the crew enough, especially Andrew, the CEO of Dolphin Swim Australia for putting in the hard and tireless work to make this dream a reality, to have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in an acceptable and humane way, it's very clear to see how passionate he is for what he does and the love he has for these marine mammals!