Swimming with wildlife can be a life-changing experience—spiritual even, some people say. Tiny seahorses delight travelers with their strange prehensile tails and bright camouflage, while whale sharks leave swimmers in awe of their size and their (luckily) vegetarian diet. Then there are dolphins, who mesmerize onlookers with their acrobatic tricks, intelligence and shiny coat.
Tourists should always adhere to locals rules when splashing around with these creatures, to make sure it's as safe for them as it is fun for us. Here are six incredible animals to commune with in the water—respectfully, of course:
Penguins at Boulder Beach, South Africa
We tend to think of penguins as snowbound birds, the flightless, tuxedoed creatures of the Antarctic. But, as one wildlife nonprofit writes, “Out of the 17 penguin species in the world there are only 6 species that live in Antarctica.” And one of species that doesn’t, the African penguin, swims at Boulder Beach, near Cape Town, South Africa. The sandy stretch is part of Table Mountain National Park, which boasts the world-renowned Boulders Penguin Colony. The birds may look cuddly, but it’s wise to be careful when swimming near them. As the South African national parks website warns, “their beaks are as sharp as razors and if they feel threatened they have no qualms about nipping the odd finger or nose.”