There are some outdoor places we just shouldn’t be…

My experience of swimming with dolphins in Mauritius

Before I get on my high horse about intrusive, mass tourism, let me be a total hypocrite and tell you how much I loved swimming with dolphins in Mauritius. Flippering through that warm, blue world of theirs, marvelling at their grace and friskiness, was unforgettable. It was even more special because I was holding the hands of my children, guiding them through the water, leading them into an incredible new experience.

OK, done – and now let me describe to you how swimming with dolphins in Mauritius actually happens. It unfolds as follows: you get on a boat at 8am, they speed to you one of the three probable sites offshore where the dolphins usually congregate. Seeing the dolphins is not guaranteed. It’s likely, but how can you control nature? You can’t. That’s why it’s nature.

There’s just you, your family, and the coastline, the seemingly unending ocean…but then all of a sudden, there are 50 other versions of you, all bobbing, churning, splashing around in the same spot.

We see fins, diving, slinking, slipping through the waves. The dolphins are here, and immediately, there’s a flurry of people in snorkles and flippers, tipping themselves off vessels and swimming, kicking, splashing and thrashing in the direction of the big fish, or mammals rather. It’s frantic, it’s confusing. Are they there? Which direction did they go? Give me a wave if you see them. Found them! Over here! Oh no, they’ve gone, they went that way. Follow that dolphin!

Havoc.

I couldnt help but feel that these dolphins were being chased, trailed and pestered. Dolphins are generally happy, sociable mammals so surely it’s not so bad, they like humans after all…don’t they? We’re not doing any harm. They could swim away if they didn’t enjoy the activity and the attention…couldn’t they?

No, I don’t think the dolphins have that choice, because they don’t swim away, they come back, time and time again, day after day, week after week, because there is clearly something very important at that particular spot imperative to their survival, something to eat, somewhere to mate. I couldn’t help feeling that we were ruining it all for them. They couldn’t get a moment’s peace. I did feel uncomfortable about it, and I wouldn’t do it again.

I know, easy to say when you’ve done it already…