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:
Spinner Dolphins at Various Beaches, Hawaii
Spinner dolphins are a popular co-swimming species known for their gymnastic “tricks.” Researchers believe the dolphins' leaps and spins may be meant to shoo away nearby parasites, attract a mate or reset organs, among other reasons—and they bring loads of tourists to Hawaii each year, hoping to spot some of the action.
In fact, so many tourists swim with these dolphins that studies show it’s interrupting their sleep cycles. Exhaustion may harm a dolphin’s ability to find food and communicate—and, ultimately, to survive. As NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, writes, “Even when spinner dolphins are swimming, they actually may still be resting and sleeping. When dolphins sleep they must be partially awake to keep breathing, so they swim slowly, occasionally surfacing for air, allowing half their brain to sleep at a time.” That means, NOAA says, when visitors come to bask in the presence of these great creatures, they must remain at least 50 yards, or half a football field, away from the dolphins, and also limit their observation time to half an hour. Enjoy these marvels of the ocean carefully and respectfully, and we can all ensure that the spinning continues.