Dolphin Etiquette

Love me, but don’t hurt me with your love: How to behave in the presence of wild dolphins.

The movie Blackfish has instigated a quest for the liberation of all captive dolphins and people across the globe have joined for good. The movie makers have done such an amazing job informing and educating the general public about the truth behind Marine Parks, dolphinariums and the plight of the captive dolphin we could never say MAHALO enough times.

More and more countries are banning dolphinariums (Switzerland being the newest addition to the list) and with this change in consciousness, we are predicting an influx of people seeking direct interaction with dolphins.

This activity, when performed without proper education can really hurt our dolphin friends.

Today’s blog is about dolphin swimming etiquette.

Love them, but don’t hurt them by interfering with their natural behavior.

Let’s learn a little bit about them.    

Dolphins come near our shores to rest during the daytime after a hard night’s work.  They go out to sea, miles away, where the oceans are deep, to hunt for squid and fish until the first morning light. When the sun is up, they come to find a peaceful quiet place to sleep until time to go hunt again.


How does a dolphin sleep?

Dolphins sleep by shutting down one side of their brains, as the other side still remains active and for this specific reason, we have to be respectful of their resting time, the day time.

In a pod of spinner dolphins you will find the majority of the individuals to be asleep or resting, but there are a few who are completely awake. They protect the pod members from day time predators.  They take turns to perform this duty.


Dolphins have a blissful playful spirit by nature… I often like to compare their spirits with the blissful spirit of a happy child.  This is the reason why, I repeat this again, we have to be respectful of their resting time.

As with any child, they will prefer playing instead of resting.

There is no harm done by some extra play time in the case of the child. At the end, the child will get really tired, perhaps cranky, eventually go to bed and get the needed rest to continue a healthy life.

The case of the dolphin is completely different and with a list of serious negative consequences, for the dolphins!  When a dolphin choses to play with you he is choosing to “play” instead of to “rest”. Like a child, sometimes they can’t help themselves and they just wanna to play!. Unfortunately, there are no parents to make sure the dolphin gets some needed “rest” before going back to survival mode, back to work to get some food.  

We do not want to stop anyone from connecting with our cetacean friends.

We want them to make a strong connection with knowledge and with respect.

Here are a few simple rules we live by when we encounter dolphins and we decide to swim with them.

  1. Just FLOAT!

When you are near a pod of dolphins the best is to just float. They will come near you if they want to. Show some respect by just floating and sending them loving vibrations.

  1. Do not splash with your arms or legs excessively.

Try not to use your arms at all when you are swimming near them. Lifting your arms might indicate to them that you want to touch them and they don’t like that at all. Keep your arms down. Don’t kick too hard, if you need to kick hard do it underwater, right below the surface. Not only you will be saving energy but you will get further faster.


  1. Do not try to touch them

Dolphins are very loving and affectionate with each other but that doesn’t mean they want to be touched by a human, any human. No matter how much love you have for them, it is disrespectful to touch them.  

  1. Do not dive down towards a resting group.

When dolphins are resting they have one eye open and the other eye closed.

Just like their brains at that resting time, one side is shut down and the other side is fully awake. If you dive down towards them and they can’t see you because you approach them from their resting side, they will wake up and get startled. They need to sleep to function right, please don’t dive down towards them.

  1. Do not try to feed them

This is very dangerous. Not only your hand can get shred to pieces but wild dolphins don’t need help feeding. They are great hunters.

  1. Do not begin interaction or play games with dolphins.

Wild dolphins like to play games with each other. One of their favorite ones is “pass the leaf”. This game is played by simply passing a floating leaf from one individual to the other. I have never seen a dolphin initiate this game with a human, it is the humans who usually start the interaction. Let’s be observers and be content with it.  

  1. Stay away from pregnant females.

If there are any pregnant females there will also be a courageous alpha protector dolphin watching near by and believe me, they can get aggressive if they think that there is any threat to those pregnant moms. I am speaking from personal experience. I was never hurt by a dolphins but I was scolded and left the water very scared.

  1. Stay away from “wuzzles”

Do you even know what a wuzzle is?

A wuzzle is a dolphin orgy. Oh, you didn’t know dolphins did that?

Well they do, so when they are at it, keep your distance.

It feels creepy saying “just watch” but hey, it’s a very interesting event.

  1. If a dolphin charges at you (just like bull would) you better get out of the water immediately. You have done something that has made the individual very mad. Dolphins do get mad. They are sentient beings.  Don’t try to understand why they are mad at you right then and there, get out of the water and think about it later.
  1. Do not litter

This means that if you dropped anything (hair tie, snorkel, fins, etc ) you must retrieve it from the bottom and if you can’t reach the bottom you must find someone that can. Protecting the dolphins habitat is also protecting the dolphins.

If you ever see anyone doing anything that could hurt our dolphins, anything on this short list, please speak up and educate the offenders. Take the time to explain to them in a nice way, and why they should change their behavior.  

We all came to earth to teach and learn from each other.