Swimming With the Dolphins in Maui

Herb Smith is a guest blogger, as well as a proud citizen of Maui. Every year, Herb takes his three daughters on a snorkeling trip across Maui's southern coast. Read on to find some top tips about getting the most from a dolphin diving experience.

Every year, millions of tourists flock to Hawaii's second largest island,Maui, for two great reasons: snorkeling and an opportunity to commune with the dolphins. Two species of dolphins – the bottlenose and spinner –can be found frolicking and relaxing near the shore, providing lucky tourists with the unique opportunity to view and maybe even swim with these beautiful creatures. The volume of dolphin and scuba excursion companies in Maui might be overwhelming, but before finalizing your itinerary, follow a few tips and suggestions to find the best tour group and make the most of your next dolphin encounter or snorkeling adventure.

Picking the Best Tour Group

Don't worry if you feel overwhelmed by the sheer variety of tour groups available for your dolphin or snorkeling excursion. If you're new to this experience, or a seasoned pro looking to save money, here are a few points to remember before booking the tour:
  • Reputation – Far and away, a company's reputation should be your first consideration. If this is your first trip to Maui, don't hesitate to inquire about a group's professionalism and track record.
  • Price – When it comes to booking either excursion, be aware that when it comes to the fees, you definitely get what you pay for. Conversely, a higher price tag doesn't always equal a satisfied customer. When it comes to fees, set a budget and spend within your comfort zone.
  • Amenities – Read the proverbial fine print before signing up for either excursion. Some tour companies offer little perks – including lunch or trips to multiple destinations – that make spending extra cash worth it.
  • Forget the Guarantee – When it comes to a dolphin watching excursion or encounter, never rely on any type of guarantee. Dolphins are commonly found playing around the coast of Maui, but even the best tour companies have off-days. Instead of being disappointed, focus on the exotic fish, warm water and chance to reconnect with your friends or family.

Swimming with Dolphins

The opportunity to actually touch and interact with dolphins is amazing, but the experience can be intimidating for young children or first-timers. If you're concerned about honoring the integrity of these beautiful animals, here are a few tips to make the experience both safe and enjoyable:

Be Respectful – It should go without stating, but never try to handle the dolphins aggressively or stick your finger into their blow holes. If you're swimming with children, emphasize this point or run the risk of injuring the dolphin.

Listen to the Instructor – You might consider yourself something of a dolphin expert, but never assume you know more than the instructor. Follow his or her instructions to the letter and you'll have an amazing experience.

Handle the Dorsal Fin Gently – The majority of dolphin encounters involve hitching a ride on the animal's dorsal fin. If this is the case, never grip the fin hard and instead gently place your hand around it and let the dolphin do the work.

Tips for the First Time Snorkeler

Your dolphin encounter was unforgettable, but now you want to try your hand at snorkeling. You're in luck because the waters surrounding Maui are some of the cleanest in the world.

Before you close your eyes and plunge into the deep, here's how to get through the first of many future Maui snorkel trips:
  • Practice Breathing – Acclimate yourself to the snorkel before diving in. Follow your instructor's guidelines and take a few minutes to practice.
  • Prepare for the Initial Shock – Despite what you might think, ocean water is cold. Adjust your body to the water with a short swim before diving in.
  • Keep Your Hands to Yourself – Never under any circumstances is it okay to touch the fish or coral reef. You might be tempted, but the best way to preserve the fauna for future generations is to look with your eyes, not your hands.
If you're planning on bringing your kids along on the dolphin encounter, be aware that many companies place strict age limits on their experiences. If your child is underage, consider viewing the dolphins instead as a family. You can always try again on your next Maui vacation!


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