I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience swimming with the dolphins in Mauritius first-hand, and I’d like to share this amazing experience with you.
The day started early; at 5am to be exact when my alarm went off. We were in the car leaving from Grand Baie by 5:45am, with no time for breakfast or coffee. By 6:15am or so, about half an hour into our drive, the sun started to show itself as we headed South through Port Louis. We loved driving through the small villages and seeing how people were starting their day. We arrived at the meeting point about 15 minutes earlier than the 7:15am meeting time. It was actually surprisingly easy to find, just one right off of the main road in the little town of Rivière Noire (Black River). The organization was impeccable: as soon as we arrived we gave our names to the friendly lady, and were given a little ticket with our boat number, as there were several speed boats going out. We were happy to see that they had a coffee machine with some snacks for those like us who didn’t get a chance to have breakfast!
By 7:30am, we were on the boat with the other clients. While we had decided to do the full deal, swimming with the dolphins and lunch on Ile aux Benitiers, we met others who had signed up for the swimming with the dolphins excursion, and others who combined it with whale watching.
The skippers were two friendly guys who have been working in the tourism industry for many years. They explained to us what security measures were in place to ensure our safety and that of the dolphins and showed us photos of the types of dolphins that we would be seeing. Then we headed off to Tamarin Bay to see the dolphins.
When most people imagine swimming with dolphins, they probably imagine doing so in an aquarium with captive dolphins. This is not the case in Mauritius, where you will have the chance to swim with completely wild dolphins, making this one of the most popular Mauritius attractions! So, you may be thinking, won’t the dolphins just swim away? Actually, most of the time, the dolphins don’t really seem to care you’re even there. Sometimes they swim away from you, sometimes they swim around you, and sometimes they swim right under you.
We spotted out first pod just about five minutes up the coast. As soon as the skipper gave the go ahead, both of us grabbed our mask and flippers and jumped in. You will have to wear a lifejacket for this activity, unless you’re a good swimmer, in which case you can sign a disclaimer like I did and go in without one. My first two attempts to swim with a pod of spinner dolphins just off the coast from Tamarin were pretty futile. As soon as I jumped in the water, they seemed to swim in the opposite direction. Even though the spinner dolphins are quite small, they are good swimmers, and they had other plans which didn’t include some random boy swimming next to them. So, I jumped back on the boat and we traveled a few kilometres north, closer to the town of Medine where several pods had been spotted. Here, is where I got close. Really close.
As soon as we spotted a pod I put on my mask and flippers and got in the water again. However, this time, the dolphins did not swim away from me. Instead they decided to swim in circles, allowing me to get within a few feet of these magnificent creatures. At one point I was close enough to touch two dolphins, although I didn’t since these animals are wild, and this is not recommended. I spent the next 20 minutes repeating this experience 4 or 5 times. Just when I thought I lost a pod, I turned around and saw a new pod a few feet away. When I followed them it was as if I was not even there. For periods of up to 30 seconds, I was surrounded by dolphins to my right, left, front, back and under me.
We generally got in the water in groups of two with one of the skippers. After everyone who wanted to swim had had their chance, we headed towards a well known snorkelling spot – The Aquarium. We spent about 15 minutes snorkelling above amazing coral formations. While I saw plenty of fish I was told that in summer (November-April) there are more tropical fish. We then passed by a well known coral rock formation, known as Crystal Rock, and headed to Ile aux Benitiers for lunch, drinks and some sun tanning.
We grabbed a beer as soon as we got there and went for a walk along the beach, then relaxed in the sunshine for a few minutes while a young guy was playing some Mauritian music on his guitar. Once the lunch was ready, we all ate together, toes in the sand, feasing on barbecue shrimp, fish, chicken, and sausages, along with garlic bread, salad, and of course plenty of beer (or rum for some people)! The lunch finished with a banana flambée (grilled banana with coconut and sugar) and some sun tanning.
All in all I was really impressed how close I was able to get to the completely wild dolphins. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Mauritius!