A Swim With Wild Dolphin On Oahu's West Side

A Swim With Wild Dolphin On Oahu's West Side

[This is an excerpt of an article that was previously published in a number of newspapers around the country. We thought you might enjoy sharing in the experience.]

We set sail for the waters just beyond those that create the famed surfing beach at Makaha. It was 7:15 a.m., and I was eating a yogurt and Hawaiian sweet bread. I sat on the soft vinyl of a catamaran that was whisking myself and 12 others across the blue West Oahu waters. The morning mist was evaporating, and the sun was just beginning to warm our skin.

I should step back a minute and alert readers that I am a fairly avid adventurer. I grew up skiing and road biking fairly aggressively. In college years, I learned to rock and mountain climb, spending the occasional evening sleeping in a snow cave carved out of a mountainside, or on a rock wall suspended a few hundred feet above a canyon. I have hiked the Appellation Trail, surfed all over 4 of Hawaii's islands, mountain biked and camped in the deserts of Arizona, the lush forests of Oregon throughout the mountains of the Swiss Alps and the beaches of Thailand.

However, what I was about to experience on a warm summer morning on the West side of Oahu was something unlike anything I had before.

Back at the catamaran, our guide was explaining the protocol for swimming alongside of a pod of wild dolphin in the open ocean. There would be no trainers with us, nor trained dolphin. In fact, the crew onboard never left the deck. "Swim along side them, with them, not at them, one guide said." If you stop, they will swim by. If you swim with them, they will swim with you.

Within a few moments of her speech, three dorsal fins emerged from the waves, in unison, not 20 feet from where I was sitting.

We rushed over to see about 20 wild bottlenose dolphin, swimming alongside the catamaran in pairs. The boat slowed down, and eventually stopped. We were told to get our snorkel gear and floatation vests on. We were encourage to jump in and swim.

With wild dolphins.

A ladder was lowered from the rear, and we began walking the plank, into the water. By this time, the pod had disappeared from the water's surface. With all 12 or so of us in the water, we swam in different directions. I saw the captain waving for us to swim inland, as he spotted the pod heading in that direction. My girlfriend and I, somehow separate from the rest of the group, headed inland. We were swimming in the open ocean, looking at the patterns the waves made in the soft sand 10 meters or so below. There were a few crabs crawling on the ocean floor. A school of clownfish wandered by. We were enjoying ourselves, almost forgetting what we were there to do. I popped up to the surface for a moment, to clear my goggles when I saw a pair of fins headed directly at me. I slid the mask back on my face, and slipped underwater. I grabbed my girlfriend's hand, spinning her around. A pair of dolphin were swimming right at us. We froze. And when the pair swam within 6 feet of us, they veered in unison off to the right, look directly in our eyes as they passed, as if to beckon us to follow. Still holding hands, we turned and kicked, free arms extended, and swam for what felt like days along side the pair of wild dolphin.

At one point, my girlfriend, and experienced swimmer and diver, let go of my hand and dove underneath me, swimming upside down so she could look up at me from a few feet underwater. In no less than 5 seconds, one of the two dolphin inverted itself, and swam below his partner, in the same manner as we. They were mimicking us.

As I said before, I have seen a lot of amazing spectacles in nature, but none to date compare with that sunny morning in West Oahu with the Wild Side Specialty Tours. It was a chance of a lifetime, something most people only experience in their dreams.

Wildside Specialty Tours depart from the Waianae Boat Harbor, slip A-11. Tours last approximately 4 hours; a light breakfast is served onboard. Snorkel masks and fins are provided. Costs $95 per person. Call (808) 306-7273 or email wildside@sailhawaii.com for more information.

"In no less than 5 seconds, one of the two dolphin inverted itself, and swam below his partner, in the same manner as we; They were mimicking us."