BEING DOLPHIN S.M.A.R.T.
It is easy to understand a person’s desire to get in the water with dolphins. There is a sense that they are like us, and there is evidence to prove it. In fact, scientists have shown that the emotional life of a dolphin is richer and deeper than our own. But the NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) supports Dolphin SMART practices, and we support the NOAA. Here’s a breakdown of how to be Dolphin SMART and what it means about swimming with these noble creatures.
The “S” stands for “Stay at least 50 yards from dolphins.” This means when observing a pod of dolphins it is best to do so from beyond that distance. This is a show of respect for the creatures and their habitat. Maintaining that space allows the dolphins the freedom to be themselves and to come over if they are curious, but it is their choice.
Move Cautiously Away
The “M” stands for “Move away cautiously from dolphins showing signs of disturbance.” Rick O’Barry, famous for his stand against the dolphin slaughter in “The Cove,” says that the dolphin smile is one of the nature’s greatest deceptions because it “makes them seem like they are always happy.” Splashing and jumping behaviors could be displays of either jubilee or distress. Raking behaviors—when a dolphin rakes its teeth against another dolphin in the same pod—are perfectly natural to dolphins but potentially very harmful to us. The safest bet is to move away from any dolphin displaying behavior that is difficult for us to understand.
Always Put Your Engine in Neutral
The “A” is for “Always put your engine in neutral when dolphins are near.” Yes, it is important to maintain a 50-yard perimeter wherever possible, but occasionally dolphins will rise to the surface within that area. It is during these instances when it is imperative to put engines into neutral to spare dolphins the risk of damaging themselves against propellers.
The “R” is for “Refrain.” It means refrain from swimming with, feeding, or touching dolphins. The reasons for this guideline are plentiful. Dolphins are not domesticated animals, and we’re in their habitat. When we’re viewing them in the wild, anything can happen. When we feed them, we create beggars with the potential to show hostility to any human being unwilling to feed them. When we touch dolphins, we risk injury to ourselves, and we risk acclimating dolphins to human touch, which could put them at risk in the future. When we swim with them, it is highly disruptive to their sleep cycles, and that affects their ability to hunt. It may be tempting to give dolphins a pat up close, but it’s best—for dolphins and for humans—to refrain.
The “T” stands for “Teach,” and that’s what we’re doing here, now. We want everyone to be Dolphin SMART so that we as human beings can develop a mutually beneficial relationship with these beautiful creatures for years to come.
We offer a guarantee to see dolphins on our Deluxe Morning Snorkel and our Whale Watch. We believe everyone deserves to get to see these creatures while respecting these guidelines. It is possible to enjoy the species without disrupting their natural lives!