What To Expect When Swimming With Wild Dolphins

April 7, 2019

As a traveler, I have a pretty extensive bucket list. One of the items on that list is swimming with wild dolphins. Ever since I was a kid, dolphins have been one of my favorite animals. I remember watching TV shows like Flipper and Seaquest, and being so excited to see dolphins on the screen.

Now as an adult, I realize there’s a difference between the dolphins we see on screen (and in dolphin shows), and the dolphins that live in the ocean. The former are, for all intents and purposes, domesticated and living in captivity. The latter, on the other hand, are free, though sometimes living a perilous life. Despite all this, my fascination with dolphins still remains.

We saw wild dolphins when we were in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It was such an amazing experience to see these creatures up close and personal. So when I found out there are wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, I knew I had to see them too. I wanted to have that quintessential swimming with dolphins Mexico experience.

This post was updated on May 22, 2020.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase something. But don't worry, this will not result in any extra costs to you.

Swimming with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
A dolphin swimming in the bay (April 2019)

Things to know about the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is located in Banderas Bay, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The dolphins in Puerto Vallarta are primarily bottlenose dolphins. However, you can also find spotted dolphins, rough toothed dolphins, and occasionally, spinner dolphins. Orcas are rare, but some still do come to Banderas Bay.

Although the bottlenose dolphins are not endangered, the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta still face a few threats. Human activities can impact dolphins in several ways. Pollutants in the water, or dense human development along coastal areas, can greatly impact the habitats of dolphins.

Additionally, dolphin shows and dolphin encounters, which are popular tourist attractions, can pose potential dangers to the animals’ mental well-being. Watch the movie, Blackfish, to gain insight on the dangerous effects of cetaceas in captivity.

In August 2017, Mexico City passed a law banning the use of dolphins and whales in shows, therapy sessions, and scientific experiments. But outside the city limits, dolphin shows and dolphin interactions are still common. Cities like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are popular cities for these attractions.

Swimming with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
A dolphin playing near our boat (April 2019)

Experiencing swimming with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta

Some companies in Puerto Vallarta offer a swimming with dolphins Mexico experience where you can touch and interact with dolphins. But it's important to know that these are captive dolphins.

Although the companies claim to treat the animals humanely, dolphins are not meant to live in captivity. There are much more ethical ways to experience dolphins in Puerto Vallarta.

In my opinion, the best way to see dolphins in Puerto Vallarta is by taking a dolphin ocean excursion. This way, you can experience swimming with wild dolphins and you can have an educational experience while you're traveling too.

One of the companies that offers these types of experiences is Ecotours de Mexico. They recently invited us to do one of their wild dolphin encounters.

Read more about how you can travel more responsibly here.

Dolphin lecture from Ecotours de Mexico (April 2019)

Dolphin excursions with Ecotours de Mexico

Ecotours de Mexico was founded in 1991 and offers nature excursions, adventure-based activities, and expeditions throughout Banderas Bay. A founding member of the Mexican Association of Adventure Travel and Eco-tourism (AMTAVE), Ecotours de Mexico continues to play a role in animal conservation through its support of a local non-profit organization called Ecobac (Ecología y Conservación de Ballenas, Ecology and Conservation of Whales). Ecobac conducts whale research, and also promotes whale conservation in Banderas Bay.   

The Wild Dolphins and Snorkeling Combo excursion offered by Ecotours de Mexico is a great way to stay active during travel and have a swimming with dolphins Mexico experience in a more ethical way. Rather than swimming with dolphins in a tank, you’re swimming with wild dolphins, in their natural environment!

Book the excursion here: Wild dolphins encounter & snorkeling at Los Arcos

During the excursion, not only can you see the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, but you’ll also have a chance to see other marine life. We did an excursion with Ecotours de Mexico recently, and in addition to seeing bottlenose dolphins, we also saw various kinds of tropical fish, rays, and puffer fish!

Swimming with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Dolphins playing near our boat (April 2019)

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Other activities offered by Ecotours de Mexico

If swimming with wild dolphins isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities that Ecotours de Mexico offers. You can take your pick between bird watching, a sea turtle encounter, snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching, and more.

Take a look at the selection of tours you can do with Ecotours de Mexico:

Encounter with nature at the sea turtle camp

Marietas Islands snorkeling & hidden beach

Whale research adventure

Fish in Banderas Bay (April 2019)

What to expect when you’re swimming with wild dolphins

Before you go and book your wild dolphins excursion, there are a few things that you need to know. Unlike a dolphin show, this experience is not going to be non-stop entertainment and excitement. In actuality, it’s much like any nature excursion where you never really know what you’re going to get. 

With that said, our kids still had a lot of fun! And for me, I enjoyed the chance to teach my kids about nature, while being out in the wild. If you’re planning to see do some swimming with wild dolphins, here are a few things you can expect.

Waiting to swim with dolphins (April 2019)

1. Expect to swim a lot

Dolphins are FAST! Especially wild dolphins. Most of our dolphin excursion time was spent driving out to where the dolphins were and trying to spot the dolphins. Once we spotted them, we had to jump in the water quickly and try to swim over to where they were. Ecotours de Mexico offers flippers and life vests to help you stay afloat, but you’ll still need to be able to swim if you want to have a chance to see the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta.

2. Expect not to touch the dolphins

Wild dolphins have a protective layer on their skin that helps prevent them from getting sick from any of the bacteria in the water. Before our swimming with wild dolphins excursion, our guide at Ecotours de Mexico advised us to avoid touching the dolphins. Doing so could potentially rub off some of that protective layer on their skin. Additionally, we could run the risk of passing our germs on to the dolphins.

Waiting for dolphins (April 2019)

3. Be prepared to wait

Waiting is a normal part of any nature excursion. I think we get too spoiled by animal shows, thinking that we need to be entertained every single minute in order to get our money’s worth. In actuality, most of the animal encounters you experience during nature excursion are simply by chance. Unlike the dolphins you see in dolphin shows, wild dolphins are shy. So unless they feel like it, they won’t automatically come up to the boat and swim with you. Expect to wait around a lot for the dolphins to show up. We certainly did.

4. Know that they might not want to swim with you

Our swimming with wild dolphins experience was a lot of fun, but to be honest, we didn’t actually get to swim with the dolphins. Since dolphins are naturally shy, none of the dolphins wanted to swim with us that day. We did, however, get to see many dolphins from our boat. Don’t be disappointed if this happens to you as well. Just seeing the wild dolphins in their natural habitat is amazing enough!

Curious about what else to do in Jalisco state? Read more posts here.

Swimming with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
A dolphin in Banderas Bay (April 2019)

A memorable swimming with dolphins Mexico experience

All in all, we had a memorable experience with Ecotours de Mexico. Even though we didn’t get to actually experience swimming with wild dolphins, we still had a chance to see them. And we also were able to see other amazing sea animals during our snorkeling experience.

Our kids were very excited after our excursion, and couldn't stop talking about all the animals we saw. I think that, alone, makes the trip a success in my book!

Have you had a chance to experience dolphins in Puerto Vallarta? Share your swimming with dolphins Mexico experience in the comments.

Is Mexico part of a bigger family travel adventure for you? Use my ebook, Hey Kids, Let’s Go Travel! as a resource for tools, advice, and action steps for planning your trip.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. We received a complimentary Wild Dolphins and Snorkeling Combo experience for our family from Ecotours de Mexico in exchange for this blog post. However, the views and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

What To Expect When Swimming With Wild Dolphins | The Wandering Daughter

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