29 Dec Swimming with dolphins in Mauritius
First let’s start with where is Mauritius? You’ve probably never heard of it, but years ago I saw it on the Amazing Race and decided I wanted to visit there one day.Part of Africa, two hours past the east coast of Madagascar, there’s a tiny island called Mauritius. A multicultural land that was colonized by the Dutch, French, British, and made its mark with the sugar cane export.
Among several of the island activities, there is swimming with the dolphins – in the wild. No, this is not some contrived SeaWorld experience, this is the real deal. This was the one thing I wanted to do here.
Every hotel offers this activity, but most hotels mark the price way up for their own commissions. And, in the end you’re all dropped off at the same location and filled into the same speed boats. I opted to use Taxi Mauritius Tours to book my excursion. I can highly recommend them, and you can reach them either directly through their website or direct by phone on + 230 5 777 0256. Yasin was my driver from the airport and he told me that they, too, offer the same excursions. For 1200R, about 600R cheaper than my hotel, Yasin picked me up two days later at 6:30am and we headed for the dolphin shore!
Everyone gathers at one shore where the dolphins swim past every morning like clockwork. At around 9:00am, you board one of several waiting boats, and you speed out to the open waters. Not too far though, the beach and island are still clearly visible from where your boats start to catch up with the dolphins.
Then you see them, suddenly, out of nowhere almost, herds of them elegantly diving in the water. You’re given flippers and a snorkeling mask and when the guide says GO you jump in and swim right along with them. The whole process happens very quickly because dolphins are incredibly fast.
For some reason I froze, I was terrified, I couldn’t do it. When it was time to jump I just clung to the side of the boat and I couldn’t move. I had never swam in the open ocean, ever, and without a life vest. I didn’t know I would be so terrified but I nearly started crying. The second guide saw me and said ‘ok sit with me, hold my hand we will jump together on the next go.’
The next opportunity came and we did just that! We caught up to the dolphins again and when it was time to jump, we jumped right in. His strong arm led me and pointed below, there I was, swimming with the dolphins!! Omg there were countless numbers to my right and just below me. I didn’t realize they only surface periodically for air then swim very deep down. They swim so fast and they disappear quickly. Each dive gives you about 1 minute of time with them before the zip off, you board the boat to catch up and repeat.
No matter how fast or hard you swim, it is impossible to keep up with them, you just take every moment with them you can before they are gone. It’s so incredible, swimming in the wild with these animals that are said to be non-human people. Eventually after their daily morning jaunt near the shores they start to head way out to sea and your adventure comes to an end.
I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I was swimming in the warm, blue, vast Indian Ocean with some of the most majestic creatures ever created. I was already averse to the idea of animals in captivity, but after seeing them as they were meant to be, free in great waters, I will never support any captive organization.
Yasin dutifully waited for me back at shore. He became my driver for the rest of my trip and I also booked other activities with him. He also became my friend, I was excited to see him every day and I felt safe in his care. He told me about his life growing up in Mauritius, a third generation Hindi Muslim born and raised on this tiny island, he has never left Mauritius.
If you ever visit Mauritius and you only do one thing besides lounging on the beach, swim with dolphins.
With love, from Africa.
To see more photos of Mauritius, click here.