Swimming with Dolphins in Aruba
On Aruba, snorkelers might have the good fortune to encounter wild dolphins in the open ocean, but even Caribbean island destinations like Aruba do not always come equipped with dolphinariums. Thankfully in Aruba's case, swimming with dolphins in a structured program is just a day-trip away on a neighboring island.
Dolphins are native to the Caribbean Sea and often seen around Aruba, so the only trick to swimming with dolphins in the wild is to visit an area they are known to frequent. Boca Catalina, on the northwestern side of Aruba, is just such a place. The area is a beach, so hardy swimmers can venture out from shore, but others may prefer to join a snorkel boat trip to the area. Snorkeling with wild dolphins is a better idea than scuba diving with them, since dolphins find the bubbles from a scuba apparatus annoying and might respond by leaving the area.
The alternative to swimming with dolphins in the wild is on a day trip to Curacao's Dolphin Academy. Curacao is a neighboring island and one of the "ABC islands" in the Netherlands Antilles, and is connected to Aruba by commuter flights that take as little as 30 minutes. With a morning departure, a vacationer on Aruba could make the trip to Curacao, visit the Dolphin Academy and return to Aruba on an evening flight.
Dolphin Academy Bapor Kibra z/n at Curacao Sea Aquarium Willemstad Curacao Netherlands Antilles +599-9465-8900 dolphin-academy.com
Curacao's Dolphin Academy offers a handful of dolphin encounter programs. In the dolphinarium itself, there is a 15-minute Dolphin Encounter program which takes place in the shallows of the dolphin tank at standing depth. Participants are allowed to touch and interact with the dolphins under the supervision of dolphin trainers. A step up from that is the 30-minute Dolphin Swim, which takes place in deeper water and involves stunts such as being towed by the dolphins.
More adventurous than the Encounter or Swim is to venture into the dolphin's lagoon, where the Academy's trained dolphins spend most of their time. Two 30-minute programs, one for snorkelers and one for scuba divers. The most adventurous of the Dolphin Academy programs is the Open Water Dolphin Dive. The Academy's dolphins are trained to return to their lagoon, so they can be released from their lagoon to interact with divers near a coral reef outside the Academy.
The Dolphin Academy recommends bringing swimming gear gear, towels and suntan lotion, but provides all other necessary gear. Pregnant women cannot participate. The minimum age for the Dolphin Encounter program is eight, and most of the other programs have a limit of either 10. Participants must be at least 12 years of age to go on the Open Water Dolphin Dive, and all diving programs require prior scuba certification.