I find amazing that dolphins have become humans’ best friends in the ocean. These clever mammals are in the ocean what dogs are to us on land, and a natural attraction has raised between both species making the opportunity for us to interact with them a very sought experience.
I’m one of those people who prefer to see animals in their environment. I like to see them free, observe how they approach us and how curious they are about what I do. A few weeks ago I had swum with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta and it turned out to be a magical moment I will not forget. The animals were naturally interested about who we were and swam to and around us. Unfortunately the water was murky and visibility not the best, so when I was given the chance to swim with wild dolphins in the clear blue waters of Oahu’s west coast I did not hesitate.
Oahu’s West coast has a permanent pod of about 200 dolphins that makes observing them very easy. We joined the Best of the West tour with Sail Hawaii, an experienced operator that not only caters to tourists but studies these fantastic creatures too.
The tour leaves Waianae harbor at around 8 am, so make sure you begin your 2 hour bus commute early or perhaps even better rent a car for a day with Cheap Rent a Car- these guys will get you on four wheels for around 21USD, well worth it in my opinion. Luckily for us we were taken there by Mario and Jose, two friends from Spain we had made a few days before making the trip that much easier, and eventually they decided to join the tour as well.
It was a beautiful morning, with a neon blue sly and dark blue ocean, split by lush green mountains when looking at the shore. Only 20 minutes after leaving the harbor did the first dolphins appear, leading the boat at times and playing in the wake at others. Most were spinner dolphins which would leap and complete three or four spins when airborne.
And then the real fun began. We were offered some healthy snacks (included in the tour price) and were instructed to sit at the back of the boat and get ready to jump into the ocean. Unfortunately it is mandatory to wear a personal flotation device, which although makes the swim safer and lets the staff spot the swimmers easily they do limit your swimming abilities more than I would like. In any case with a little effort you can dive a few meters.
In order to increase the interaction with the dolphins the captains dropped us about 100 meters ahead of where the dolphins were and in the direction they were swimming, the idea being that when the find you they will become interested and swim around you. But alas, not this time, as they swam right under us and continued their way. We repeated the process two more times with the same results, and then learned that a nomad pod of about 300 dolphins was swimming along the coast and all the locals were heading their way to check them out, not surprising as dolphins are very social.
We then made our way to the second part of the tour: a snorkeling session where we were guaranteed we’d see wild turtles swimming freely- and we did. The reef itself is not exuberant in life, but there is a particular spot where huge turtles show up to have parasites eaten a by a particular fish species. This symbiotic relationship creates a magnificent opportunity to take pictured and video of these majestic animals. After about 40 minutes of snorkeling (which seemed more like 10!) we then swam back to the boat and made our way back to the shore munching a bit more along the way.
Best of the West Tour Conclusion
Best of the West is a fantastic tour to join if you want to swim with wild dolphins in Oahu. The boat is big enough to fit comfortably eight passengers and the crew, the snacks are healthy and abundant and the staff is knowledgeable and exciting. It was a pity that this time the dolphins did not interact as much as they usually do when in the water, but you can’t control nature. I have to say that I found that having to use the PFDs even if you’re and experienced swimmer somewhat annoying, although I can understand the safety concerns of the crew (you don’t have to use it during the snorkeling session). All things considered Best of the West is a superb tour I highly recommend- simply check the pictures I took that day!
I was invited to join the tour at no cost, but as usual this has not biased the opinions reflected in this review in any way. Best of the West is one of several tours offered by SailHawaii.com . Check them out when visiting Oahu!
And now I had the chance to swim with dolphins in Hawaii…there is just so much to do! Have you joined this or a similar tour in Oahu? Which other would you recommend? Share your thoughts below, and this post too if you like it!