When we were planning our trip to Africa we were excited to see many different kinds of animals. I would have never thought we would be able to see dolphins, let alone swim alongside them in the ocean.
In our last days in Zanzibar we planned to go on a dolphin tour. The morning of our adventure it was pouring rain. But we went for it anyway and had the most amazing experience!
A driver came and picked us up from our hotel in Pongwe at 5am. About ten minutes down the road he stopped and picked up our guide for the morning. I was taken by surprise that he was in a dress shirt and pants and taking us to swim with dolphins.
We must have been one of only a few tours as he was very enthusiastic to tell us about where we were going and what to see along the way. I unfortunately was still half asleep and dozed off, so I missed out on some of the information he was sharing with us.
The car ride was about an hour to the Southern part of the island. Luckily when we got there it wasn’t raining as hard, and the water was warm enough to swim. Our guide gave us a briefing about what kinds of dolphins we may see. The three he said to look out for were bottlenose, humpback, and spinner dolphins.
After changing into our swimsuits we grabbed a couple lifejackets, snorkels and flippers. Our guide hailed down one of the boat captains and we were off. It was only about 15 minutes before we saw the dolphins and jumped into the water.
The boat captain told us to get ready and have on our goggles, snorkel and flippers. Then he drove us a few meters away from the dolphins and said “Jump! Jump!” so I jumped in with all the gear. The first couple of times my goggles came off and filled with water, and I swallowed some salt water that got into the snorkel. I could hear the boat captain saying “Look down! Look down!” But I was just trying to swim and stay afloat.
It didn’t help I was also trying to take pictures and videos with one hand, and trying to paddle with the other. Let’s just say the first photos weren’t the best. Plus I was getting super exhausted as I had to pull myself up into the boat over and over.
Finally I got the hang of just jumping in the water. It was totally worth the first few failures as I got to see so many dolphins swimming by in their natural habitat.
There must have been two or three groups of them. One pod must have had five or six swimming together. Our guide said they were bottlenose dolphins. They were super playful and very elegant in the water.
Unlike fish, they would swim upside down, or to the top of the surface and then back down to the bottom. They didn’t seem to care about the people or boats around them. They made lots of noises as if they were singing to each other.
Luckily I was able to take a few pictures and a couple videos before I was completely exhausted from this hard workout.
After we said we were good (but really I couldn’t pull myself into the boat anymore) they took us back to shore. The locals had cut us some fruit and poured us some instant coffee. Our guide was very eager to take us to see more sights but we just wanted to get back and relax. It was quite an eventful morning getting to swim with dolphins in the wild.
I highly recommend this once in a lifetime chance to swim with the dolphins in Zanzibar. Just make sure you can wake up early enough to catch them at sunrise! And remember, don’t try to chase or touch the dolphins, just enjoy observing them swim all around you.
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