Swimming with dolphins in the wild is one of the most bonkers experiences one can have on Earth.
During a snorkeling trip on the west side of Oahu, some buddies and I got a bit more than what we bargained for. The reef was gorgeous and the fish were numerous. We were fascinated by the seemingly enumerable species, shapes and color patterns of fish that whirled around us. We found butterfly, puffer, goby, damsel fish, eels and even octopuses that day. If you come to Oahu and want to snorkel, do not stay in Waikiki (it’s disappointing down there).
As we swam out into deeper water (around 25-30ft deep), the reef gradually tapered off into sand. Suddenly, I heard my buddy squealing into his snorkel. I did not think much of it at first because he’s always being a clown, but when I turned around he was pointing at a huge pod of wild dolphins. Their family was of an unprecedented size in my diving experience (over 60 individuals).
We all began to squeal through our snorkels. We could hardly believe what were were seeing.
At first they kept their distance. Perhaps due to the splashing of our fins as we franticly tried to catch up to them. It’s amazing how they would just glide through the water. Watching a dolphin swim is the weirdest thing, they barely move their bodies and tails. They just seem to glide through the water.
After getting super tired of following them we had to slow down and catch our breaths. At this point we had probably swam the length of 2 football fields straight to sea, and we could not risk someone pulling a hammy (getting a cramp). The pod slowly faded into the blue. However, as we rested a few dolphins came back to check us out.
The pod compartmentalized itself and small groups would come by and swim all around us. I’m not sure if it was out of curiosity or if they thought we might make fun play things.
A part of me thinks that some of the dolphins wanted to hangout with us, but perhaps some of the more prudent members of the pod wanted to distance themselves to protect their young. We did notice a few baby dolphins in the group when they first swooped through.
We were so overwhelmed. We wanted to bask in the awesomeness of the moment, but at the same time we wanted to make sure our camera was capturing as many pictures as possible.
The more adventurous dolphins would get within an arms reach of us and just swim as fast as they could around us, so much so that you would get dizzy at times from spinning with them.
It was amazing to see that they were definitely not avoiding us. They were a thousand times faster than us in the water and could have chosen a billion other places to be along the shores of Oahu, but for that hour and half they wanted to be with us.
After a while they began to come and go, as if their parents were calling them to leave. They swim away, and so we began our long swim back to shore. But after a few minutes another group would come back to us and check us out and swim around us in a seemingly playful manner, and then they would leave again.
After a bit, it was like the entire pod reassembled to wish us farewell. And then they disappeared.
Despite the language barrier, for a few brief moments two sentient beings interacted and played together. It was truly amazing to watch them circle us. We did not chase them, they simply wanted to be around us. For a bit it even seemed as though they were escorting us back towards the shore. I could have stayed out there with them all day, but we had a long swim back. We had not idea how cold and tired we were until the dolphins finally left and the adrenaline wore off. Many tourist come to Oahu and pay tons for dolphin boat charters, but having swam out there from shore made us feel like we had earned it (and was quite fulfilling).