For many people, the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins is at the very top of their bucket list.

However, in our modern tech heavy world, an augmented reality of what swimming with wild dolphins is like seems to have taken hold. At Carino Sailing and Dolphin Adventures we believe that it is important to manage expectations and educate all of our guests about the true reality of encountering wild dolphins in their natural habitat and on their terms, not ours!

Dolphin encounters and interactions in the beautiful Bay of Islands are strictly regulated and controlled by a comprehensive set of rules and guidelines laid down by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The amount of time and the number of boats that may view or swim with dolphins is limited, as is the number of swimmers that may be in the water with them.

Whether or not our guests actually get the opportunity to swim with dolphins is very much down to the dolphins themselves and the criteria set out by the DOC. If the dolphins are resting, feeding or with their babies we are not permitted to swim and nor would we wish to.

Baby dolphins are a precious gift!

Female dolphins give birth to one live calf every 5 to 6 years and sadly the mortality rate for baby dolphins is over 40%. Dolphin pregnancies last for around 12 months. Once the live calf is born it will feed exclusively on its mother’s milk for up to 18 months, suckling milk every 5 to 10 minutes. The baby dolphin will remain with its mother for a further 3 to 4 years, learning vital social and feeding skills.

It is essential that we do not interfere with this process in any way and therefore we will never swim with dolphins if there are babies in the pod.

If we do encounter a pod of dolphins without babies and who aren’t resting or feeding, we will also consider the general behavior of the dolphins as well as the sea conditions before offering our guests the opportunity to swim.

To ensure that our swimmers have a safe, respectful and enjoyable experience we will only offer the chance to swim if the dolphins are displaying a willingness to interact with us. We will never chase, pursue or harass the dolphins in order to satisfy a guest’s desire to swim.

If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins, it is also worth considering exactly what this intense experience might be like.

Too often we find that swimmers are unprepared, overly confident, anxious to get what they came for, or preoccupied with capturing the perfect social media shot.

It is important to remember that open ocean swimming is very different to swimming in a pool or just off the beach. The water is likely to be much colder than you are used to, there are no “sides” to hold on to if you get tired, you wont be able to see the bottom, it will be hectic and if you are unfamiliar with using the mask, snorkel and fins, everything will probably feel very alien to you.


For these reasons we urge all of our guests to be honest and realistic about their in-water abilities. The very best recipe for a positive experience is a strong, confident swimming ability, coupled with a mature and respectful attitude towards the dolphins.

Everything that we do at Carino Sailing and Dolphin Adventures is at the dolphins’ invitation. The welfare and conservation of these unique and beautiful animals is absolutely paramount and we must accept that although we might “want” to swim with dolphins, they may not “want” to swim with us!