Swim with Dolphins at Dolphin Quest
It’s easy to romanticize any encounter with dolphins. Inherently playful creatures, they are often seen skimming the surface of the ocean, spinning and leaping like Olympic gymnasts. Cheerful dolphin smiles spread across their faces, these graceful mammals go clicking and whistling through the water, beckoning the adventurous to come along. But swimming with dolphins in the wild is illegal. Though not considered endangered, dolphins are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which dictates that humans and vessels maintain a distance of at least 50 yards. It is not illegal for dolphins to approach you, but it is against the law to approach, chase, surround, touch or swim with them.
Getting Up Close and Personal with a Dolphin
There are ways to get close to a dolphin without breaking the law. One of the easiest is to find your way to Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Kohala Coast, and head for the resort’s four-acre saltwater lagoon. There you might find a trio of Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins engaged in what looks like a bottlenose version of volleyball. The dolphins are the stars of an organization called Dolphin Quest, a marine research and education program based at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island and the Kahala Resort on Oahu.
Meet the Dolphins
The Dolphin Quest staff works with a small pod of dolphins – training them, among other things, to interact with people. “They’re just like golden retrievers,” says one staffer. “They love meeting new people.”
Dolphin Quest conducts programs for children and adults designed to promote interaction between dolphins and people. While guests become acquainted with the dolphins in the shallow waters, the Dolphin Quest trainers share information about these animals and the environmental issues affecting them in the wild. Dolphin Quest donates a portion of its proceeds to the Pacific Marine Life Foundation.
Hawaii is home to eight different species of dolphin but the most famous and instantly recognizable are the bottlenose. Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins can reach up to 10 feet in length and are easily identified by their rounded forehead, or melon, and amicable expression. Usually seen in small groups or singly, they spend most of their time in the channels between the islands but will sometimes approach passing boats.
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