Start writing a post

I went swimming with dolphins on vacation—and why I’ll never do it again

While I thought dolphins were social creatures who always smiled and wanted to swim with us, I have since learned that this isn't the case.

I went swimming with dolphins on vacation—and why I’ll never do it again
dolphin with head sticking out of water during daytime
https://twitter.com/MoveTheWorldUS
World Animal Protection has moved the world to protect animals for more than 50 years. World Animal Protection works to give animals a better life. The organization's activities include working with companies to ensure high standards of welfare for the animals in their care; working with governments and other stakeholders to prevent wild animals being cruelly traded, trapped or killed; and saving the lives of animals and the livelihoods of the people who depend on them in disaster situations. World Animal Protection influences decision-makers to put animal welfare on the global agenda and inspires people to change animals' lives for the better. More information on World Animal Protection can be found at: http://www.worldanimalprotection.us/
https://www.facebook.com/WorldAnimalProtectionUS
https://www.linkedin.com/company/world-animal-protection-us/
https://www.instagram.com/worldanimalprotectionus/

Written by: Joe Loria, Meat Reduction Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection, US

I was 11 when my family decided to go on a cruise through the Mexican Riveria. It was beautiful, stopping in ports along the Baja Peninsula and the western coast of Mexico. The day before we were expected to dock at Puerto Vallarta, my dad approached my sister and me about an excursion he had booked after seeing it in a brochure in the ship's lobby.

Knowing how much I've always loved animals, he was excited to share that he had signed us up to swim with dolphins.


My parents were avid scuba divers, and I grew up watching homemade tapes of their adventures in the sea. One of my favorites is of them with wild dolphins in the Caribbean. I also was obsessed with Animal Planet, watching shows like The Jeff Corwin Experience.

Needless to say, I was pretty much a wildlife expert at the age of eight. However, I wasn't scuba trained and knew this was the closest I would get to swimming with these beautiful and intelligent animals. It was also just two years after we had gone on a family trip to the Bahamas, and I missed the opportunity to swim with dolphins there, so I didn't want to pass on the chance to do it finally.

That night all I could think about was dolphins. What did their skin feel like? If I went underwater with them, would I hear their high-pitched clicks, communicating with one another? How big are they in real life? I pondered for hours about the animals I would meet the next day, just filled with pure excitement.

The following day, I woke up, and we boarded a tiny bus to the dolphin park. We signed some forms and put on wetsuits. I felt like my dad in those homemade scuba videos, ready to swim with marine life.

As I approached the water, I suddenly realized that these tiny pools were where these animals, larger than most men I know, spend their entire lives.

However, I tried not to focus too much on this and enjoy myself. That was at least until things took a turn. I got in the pool and touched one of the dolphins – their skin felt like smooth vinyl flooring, but they had visible scarring on the tips of their noses from rubbing along the concrete edges of the pool. I then noticed a few even had open wounds that appeared to be recent.

Making matters worse, one of the dolphins bumped a woman, and the trainers immediately called the dolphin to the edge of the pool and demanded that we all vacate the water. This was when I witnessed a trainer take their foot and step on the dolphin's nose, forcibly closing the animal's mouth. That was it for me. I never got back in the pool, let alone ever went swimming with dolphins again.

Now I cannot say that all dolphin swimming experiences treat their animals like this, but I can say that the cruelty in swimming with these intelligent beings is inherent. While I thought dolphins were social creatures who always smiled and wanted to swim with us, I have since learned that this isn't the case. Dolphins are wild animals who deserve much more than a tiny swimming pool. They deserve an entire ocean.

You see, I'm an animal lover, and often we're the ones who don't even realize that our passion for these beautiful beings is what causes so much of their pain and suffering. I never considered the cruelty of keeping dolphins in captivity. The thought of them being taken from their families, spending their lives in an unnatural setting, being forced to entertain for some frozen fish, and living a life of misery never crossed my mind.

It's funny how we look back on things. I've recently asked my parents about this experience, especially since their love and appreciation for marine life has only grown deeper. My dad says he knew even back then that it didn't feel right bringing us to swim with dolphins but did so because he thought my sister and I would love it. He just wanted us to share his love of the ocean and all who call it home. Fortunately, now my family takes trips where we observe wildlife safely and respectfully. We've gone on seal walks in the winter and whale and dolphin watching trips in the summer.

For my birthday last May, my partner and I took a trip to Cape May, New Jersey, where we saw a pod of wild dolphins. They were jumping in the waves and swimming together in a pod as a family. It made me think about the dolphins trapped in that pool who were forced to entertain animal-loving tourists like I used to be. I wondered if those dolphins were still alive.

I've since taken my love for animals to the next level and now advocate for their wellbeing.

I share resources on why people should not support this cruel industry and encourage them to watch powerful documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish. Education is important because when we know better, we do better – and I believe the animals we love deserve better.

Have you got something to say? Want to share your thoughts and experiences with the world? Submit a post to Conversations today.

Why as a mum and a psychologist I want us to talk more about dads

I am psychologist at the University of Sussex whose work is focused on supporting and researching parents - it has become clear to me that we need to worker harder to support the mental health of fathers. Here's why.

Why as a mum and a psychologist I want us to talk more about dads

Fatherhood

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I am stood in the kitchen experiencing a jangling combination of exhilaration, because my infant daughter has gone to sleep, and dread, because in just four hours she will wake up again.


Keep reading... Show less

Children have a place on the frontlines of the culture wars

What Should We Do When the Culture Wars Invade Our Children’s Lives?

Children have a place on the frontlines of the culture wars

You know when there’s a controversy whether to include both sides to the Holocaust in a Texas school district, the culture wars have once again invaded the children’s lives. Similarly, in Southern Pennsylvania, books by people of color were banned (or per the official Central York School statement: “frozen” for an entire year.)

These discussions by the school boards are impacted by the bills passed in government, as in the case of House Bill 3979 requiring public school teachers to present various points of view when teaching about current events and social issues. Often, the impulse to clutch pearls and to “think of the children” is a rhetorical device to further political causes. As the larger climate in a racialized society such as the United States grapple with a history of slavery and the fight for racial justice--with the most current iteration being the black lives matter protests in the summer of 2020--what the children learn in schools have become a new battleground for those who land on opposing sides of this culture war.

Keep reading... Show less
#StartTheConversation by joining us on
x

Join our new platform for free and your post can reach a huge audience on Indy100 and The Independent join