“ Address: Mz 23 Plano 1 Lote 11-Centro Comercial Marina / Puerto Aventuras-Solidaridad / Cancún / Quintana Roo. / México CP 77400 / Telephone: +52 (998) 193-33-60 „
BACKGROUND TO OUR SWIM
In 2006 my boyfriend and I went on our first Carribean holiday. On my list of things to do was a dolphin swim - I was really really excited about it as it was something I'd always wanted to do.
We booked our swim through Grey Line Tours in Playacar and they were faultless.
A DOLPHIN SWIM, ISN'T THAT CRUEL?
Now I know there is a lot of split opinions on Dolphin swims/encounters and if you disagree with them as a whole then you may aswell stop reading now as this review is based on the experience and not the morality. What I will say in Dolphin Discovery's defence is the Dolphins were not kept nor performed in pools, simlpy a huge (but obviously encolsed) area of natural water. It is a controlled area where the dolphins are safe from predators but in as natural an environment as possible. The dolphins have time to do as they please they are not playing with people all day and they have vets onsite to examine them when showing any signs of anything being wrong - they really are looked after well.
Now, I am no animal rights activist but I can tell when something is cruel or not. We held a shark in Isla Mujeres and it was a horrible experience that I wouldn't recommend to anyone. The shark hated every minute of it, was enclosed in a tiny pen, and was thrashing to get away from people and trying to swim under the peir to hide. It was awful. The dolphin swim is the polar opposite - they are kept in brilliant conditions and most importantly of all they seem to really enjoy the interaction with people.
Not all dolphin places are the same, I understand that some are kept in bad conditions etc, but this is just based on the one I have been too at Puerto Aventuras.
Also the staff, who treat the dolphins excellently, spend time raising awareness of things the public can do to help save the dolphins and I'm sure there was a mention of some of the proceeds going to help the dolphins - although my swim was in 2006 so my memory may be slightly hazy so do not take that for fact.
Well, we opted to do the Royal Swim, which is the best one.
We were in a group of 9 people ranging from a young boy (although you do have to be over 8 to do this particular swim), teenagers, parents, us (who were 21 at the time) right up to grandparents.
We had two adult dolphins and one 6 month old baby in with us, aswell as two members of staff in the water and further members on the dock taking photos and recording a video (more about that later).
We were stood on a little ledge in water up to about waist high. First the dolphins came along and as we all waved at them they waved back.
Next was the dolphin kiss, which was done with the little 6 month old baby dolphin. She was really so cute!! They kiss you on the cheek and then you give them a kiss back. The dolphin goes along the line and everyone has their kiss.
You then go out two at a time, although I think you can go out solo if you are on your own, and cradle the baby dolphin. You put your arms out and it comes and lies in your arms.
One person is sent out to the other side of the enclosure. It's quite a swim away, bear in mind these are huge enclosed areas. You are wearing a life jacket but some swimming skills would be needed. You put your hands out to either side of you and 'stand' (you are in deep water so you are not really standing but in that position) with your arms and hands stretched out to either side of you. With a blow of the whistle and a quick hand signal the dolphins amazingly know exactly what to do and they come from behind you to either side, you hold onto their fins and they pull you along through the water.
The other main experience is the dolphin foot push. This is possibly one of the most amazing things you will ever do. You swim out, it's quite a swim again. Then you lie flat, face down to the water - although obviously not in the water, drowning might slightly spoil your experience :) Again all it takes is a blow of the whistle and a hand signal and the dolphins know exactly what they are doing. It honestly is amazing to see them in action. They swim behind you and then push the sole of your feet with their nose (probably not the right word to describe it as their mouth is their too but you know what I mean!). They push you up and out of the water and believe me it really is fast!!
Finally the group forms a large circle and the dolphins come and swim in the middle of the circle so you can all stroke the as they go past. You are taught a hand signal to make them sing and they swim around singing. Then they do a few jumps and tricks and that is the end of the experience.
All in all it probably lasted about 45 minutes to an hour, but our actual experience (when edited down to just our parts) only lasted 2 minutes for the two of us but you do enjoy watching them do the things with the other people too it's all part of the experience.
Aswell as the Royal Dolphin swim there are various other experiences available at Dolphin Discovery.
There is the dolphin encounter which is ideal for non swimmers or younger guests. Any age can do it, including babies! Children under 2 can do it free so long as they are accomponied by a paying adult. You can kiss and cuddle the dolphins aswell as watching them sing and race.
There are some diving experiences with the dolphins for any scuba divers out there.
There is also another dolphin swim where you get to do the kiss etc and move off the platform and interact with the dolphins but you don't get to do the 'tricks'.
There is the option to combine your Royal Dolphin Swim with a sealion encounter and a swim with the manatees.
A full list of other activities is avaliable on the website.
Your whole experience is recorded and while you are there they make a dvd complete with soundtrack for you. It is of your whole group so if you are a couple, like we were, then there will be other people on your dvd. If you are going in a large group it would probably work in your advantage as you could buy one between the whole group and copy it when you get home. At the end of the DVD it says that copying it will ruin it, which technically I'm not quite sure how that could happen and when I captured mine onto my computer for uploading to youtube it didn't affect it whatsoever. There are lots of videos on youtube so I presume lots of people have done this with no damage. The DVD lasts about 10 minutes and is an amazing thing to bring home to re live your experience again and again and also to show all your friends and family.
Photos are also avaialble to purchase. Think Alton Towers style, in a little cardboard frame/wallet thing. There were lots taken to choose from.
We purchased the DVD and one photo.
We paid around £80 for our dolphin swim, £30 for our DVD and £6 for the photo. This may seem really expensive but it is a once in a lifetime experience and we belived that it was worth every penny.
The cost varies depending on what programme you do. I believe for a similar price we could have done a swim with the dolphins, a sea lion encounter and a swim with the manatees which would have been better value.
A full price listing can be found on the dolphin discovery website.
Dolphin Discovery was a well run organization that really seemed to care about the Dolphins and treat them well.
It is a beautiful setting and has a few reseteruants, bars and shops to keep you occupied while you are waiting for your swim.
We absolutely loved our experience at Dolphin Discovery. I wouldn't have wanted to do it anywhere else, especially not where the dolphins are in pools as I feel this is cruel.
It was expensive, especially if you look at it as over £100 (including dvd and photos) for essentially a 1 minute experience! However if you do it you will really not see it like that, you will just see it as one of the most amazing things you have ever done.
Would I reccomend it? Yes!!!! To absolutely anyone! I think this is really one of those things that you have to do before you die!
I don't know whether we would do it again, as I really think it's a once in a lifetime experience and couldn't possibly be as good the second time round. If we did do it it wouldn't be for many years yet. That's not a reflection on the expereince just that for the price it's one of those things that would be worth it the first time you experience it but not necessarily mutliple times.
One of the trips we went to on our recent holiday to Cancun. Before leaving, everyone who had been had said you must go and do the dolphin trip.
Dolphin Discovery is based at Puerto Aventuras, Riviera Maya, around 50 miles South of Cancun, which meant around an hours mini bus trip which is included in the price and you are picked up from your hotel. The trip is very expensive at US$180 per person, adults and children alike (although you can go in and watch but not participate for free). Straight away you are thinking this better be good because for two adults and two kids it could blow a huge hole in your spending budget. My first impression was that this was way overpriced. At this stage I had no idea what the trip was all about other than swimming with dolphins and just the day before you could do this at Cancun Aquarium for about $70 so I was very suspicious that we were either being ripped off or that it would be an experience of a lifetime.
First impressions are a little strange because you just arrive there and it is just like a small marina with shops & cafes, jettys and boats but then opens up into a large lake with an island in the middle. First though we had to check in and it was a good job the mini bus driver was with us as reception was no where near the entrance with no signs. Because we had pre paid and had a voucher, registration was easy and we were given a wrist band denoting the trip you were on and the time slot. We were then told to turn left and everything would be there. Again, this was very confusing as there were no signs and we had to repeatedly ask staff where to go and we got there eventually.
It turns out that not only had we booked for the dolphins but also to swim and interact with sea lions and manatees and that is why our trip was so much more expensive. There is basically a shopping list of experiences and we had opted (or been strong armed by the tour rep) into the most expensive one!! Just goes to show you need to do your research beforehand! Ours was named Sea Life Discovery Plus. This is mainly for 8 year olds and above but they did have some events going on that babies could experience. However, you cannot participate if your are pregnant effects the dolphins sonar or something!
It all seemed a little more organized from that point and we were met by a guide who then took us to meet our dolphins! This was based on the island looking back out to the side so everyone got a great view and we were itching to get involved. It is round about this point that a huge grin appears on your face and believe me it doesnt disappear until well after you have left! The dolphin encounter was absolutely superb and you are up close and personal and it is then you realize why it is so expensive. You are constantly photographed either kissing or being kissed by the dolphins (two of them), being pulled along by the dorsal fins or being pushed straight out of the water by them. At speed! You are in the water with them constantly and it is magical. And your grin grows bigger by the minute!! In total you are with the dolphins for around 75 minutes. It is clear that the trainers have a very special relationship with them and to get so close to them enables you to see how intelligent these beautiful creatures are. Just to be near them and stroke them and be looking at their permanent grins makes you totally relaxed and I would find it nigh on impossible for anyone not to enjoy this experience.
Before you can catch your breath we were then whisked to the manatee pool (although the staff did this mid way through the dolphin video as they had forgotten we were doing the manatees and sea lion also) where there are two adults and a baby manatee. Even the baby was huge but these are endangered creatures and whilst not the most beautiful thing to look at with their whiskers and huge frame they are gentle giants and clearly very intelligent. We then had a sea lion come in to perform some tricks and shake hands with everyone. We could then snorkel with the manatees and get up really close to them and you realize what a graceful beast it really is. You could also hand feed them lettuce which is their main diet. Despite their massive size at no time do you feel threatened or overwhelmed. It is a very serene experience.
Once it was all over you can go and view the videos of your day and look at photos that have been taken which are all laid out for you. If you are not careful, this is when it gets really expensive. The DVDs were US$59 each (one for dolphins and one for manatees/sea lion) why they cant put everything on one DVD I do not know but this is just an excuse to rip you off so be warned. At a slight prompting they agreed the DVDs at $59 for the two and then wanted between $12-$16 for some 8X10 photos. The photos were OK but amateurish and it was clear the price had been bumped up to play with your heart strings given you had experienced a fantastic day and wanted to take home a souvenir. What really annoyed me was that one of the staff members got very aggressive in his marketing techniques (If every single member of your group buys a photo you can have the second one half price etc etc). When he asked one of our group why they didnt want to buy any he took great exception to the response because theyre crap, which whilst not diplomatic was spot on. As a result of his attitude and the prices they sold significantly less than they would do if the prices were cheaper. My advice to anyone going is do not pay the asking price here. Haggle to a price you are happy to pay. There is also nothing stopping you buying a DVD as a group and chipping in. Whilst the DVD is a great reminder they actually run for about 15 minutes in total so they are terrible value for money but something you will go and watch for many years.
This is a very expensive, relatively short trip and you really need to decide if you are going to go on it before you get to Mexico and budget accordingly. Otherwise you will see adverts for it everywhere and everyone will be talking about it and the kids will make you feel guilty.
Is it worth the money? After the event I was delighted to have gone, loved every minute of it and didnt begrudge a penny but it is still very expensive for what is a half day trip. I suppose based on this then yes, it probably was worth the money and I did not hear one bit of negative feedback from our party all day. However, it is a unique experience and if I went again I would probably just do the dolphin bit which would cut the price down significantly.
The various areas you need to get to are not sign posted and is generally very disorganised which is surprising given the volume of visitors they must get so be prepared to ask where to go and when. After you have experienced the interactivity though you soon forget about this because it is an experience you will probably never forget. Even the El Bandito photo salesman wont be able to take the grin off your face.
Swimming with dolphins is everything you´ve imagined and more - and a chance to encounter these highly intelligent and friendly marine mammals which will fascinate and amaze you.