Swimming With Wild Dolphins


Imagine swimming in the ocean with a pod of more than thirty dolphins all around you, light shining through the water as if it were coming up from the ocean floor and the dolphins are so close you could reach out and touch them. This was just one of the moments from our adventure that I will cherish forever. When we booked our trip to Hawaii the hotel we were staying at had a dolphin experience. My family and I love dolphins and think they are such beautiful, peaceful creatures so we were excited about the possibility of getting to swim and interact with them.

I’m not a fan of animals being held in captivity so I started searching for wild dolphin experiences and to my surprise there was one in Kona called Dolphin Discoveries, which was close to where we were staying.

The owners are Kevin & Claudia Merrill a husband and wife team who are passionate about the ocean and the animals who call it home. Their mission is to help people understand and fall in love with dolphins and whales with the hope that they will do what they can to protect them.

They respect the dolphins and take the utmost care not to disrupt their rest, nursing and breeding behaviors. Dolphins feed offshore during the night and return close to shore each morning to rest and nurture their young. This is a time when they tend to be playful.

We checked in at 7:30 a.m. for our excursion. The weather was perfect and it was a beautiful day for swimming with wild dolphins. We boarded our boat and headed out. We had our snorkel gear on and ready to go. Once the crew spotted a pod they stopped the boat and we all got in the water.


If you know me, you know that I’m a little nervous about being in the ocean normally. I have this fear of sharks, stingrays and that kind of stuff. But for some reason, this was different. I didn’t feel afraid. I think it’s because I was so enthralled and excited to see the dolphins. I jumped right in, put my face in the water and started swimming toward them.

At one point I had two dolphins next to me on the right and two on the left. We were swimming in a row together. I felt like part of their pod. You can hear them communicating and talking underwater. It was so beautiful and surreal. It felt like such an honor to swim amongst them.

I saw mothers with their babies so close to them it looked as if they were hitching a ride. They move through the water together with such grace and beauty.  Since they were spinner dolphins, several of them were jumping out of the water and spinning. They seemed so happy and joyful. They are such magnificent and beautiful beings.


The dolphins choose whether we swim with them or not. So once they were done interacting with us they swam off. So we got back in the boat and drove for a few minutes until they spotted another pod. We got back in and swam with them until they left.

Once the dolphins left, they took us to go snorkeling and had a light lunch, fruit and drinks for us. Our crew was incredible, very knowledgeable and a lot of fun.

We decided not to bring our underwater camera with us because we wanted to enjoy the moment instead of being distracted by peering through a small lens. Of course there were moments I thought to myself “I wish I could take a picture to capture the magnificence and beauty of this moment” but I will forever have the memory with me. Since we decided not to take pictures, all photos are courtesy of Claudia Merrill of Dolphin Discoveries.

Our family along with some friends that went on this excursion with us all said it was by far the highlight of our trip. If you ever go to the Big Island of Hawaii, I highly recommend you swim with wild dolphins. Having the chance to observe spinner dolphins in their natural environment, wild and free was an amazing and magical experience of a lifetime.

Dolphin discoveries offer an online discount of $20 per person if you mention it at the time you book your excursion.  If you go, please tell them aloha from me.

I would love to hear from you.  Have you ever swam with wild dolphins?  What encounter have you had with a wild animal that you will always remember?  Please share your comments and thoughts below.