One of the all time favorite marine animals for many is the dolphin. Previously, the closest one can ever get to a dolphin is at the various marine theme parks like Sea World. Then a few dolphin research centers started petting dolphins and swim with dolphins programs which allowed more direct interactions with these wonderful creatures. For certified scuba divers, direct interaction with dolphins under the water is possible. This is an even better experience than the swim with dolphins programs which keep guests only on the surface of the water. This unique under the water opportunity is available through UNEXSOs dolphin dive at Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.
The UNEXSO dolphin dive is a single tank trip only available on certain days and fills up quickly so it is highly recommended to make reservations well in advance. The divemasters suggest that all divers add on an additional two pounds to what they normally use on their weight belt. This is because the majority of time spent during the dolphin dive will be kneeling on an open sandy surface at the bottom of a chosen dive site. Once divers are onboard, the dive boat goes to the dolphin facility minutes away where the dolphins stay. Once there, a dolphin trainer at the facility gives a briefing about the specifics of the dolphin dive as well as dolphins in general. Two dolphins are pre-selected for each dolphin dive. After the briefing, both the dive boat and a second boat carrying two dolphin trainers head out to the dive site with two dolphins following. During the trip out to the dive site, the two dolphins ride the wakes of the boats and make numerous leaps out of the water along the way giving lots of photo opportunities.
Once at the dive site, the divers are instructed to get in the water quickly and head to the bottom which is about 50 feet. The request for the rush is to get the interactions going before the dolphins lose interest. It is emphasized that the dolphins are never forced to interact with the divers and are free to swim off anytime they want. Therefore, interactions with the dolphins are never guaranteed by UNEXSO. Luckily for the divers, the dolphins seem to enjoy interactions with humans as well as the free food. Once at the bottom, the dolphin trainers now in scuba diving gear, direct the divers to space out in a wide circle. The trainers, equipped with a bucket full of food, are in the center of this circle. This is where they direct the various types of interactions that the divers will get to experience with the dolphins.
PADI has put together a list of the best places to swim with dolphins.
The first interaction is usually having a dolphin rest in front of each diver. This is when the divers are allowed to touch and stroke the dolphins while avoiding their fins, eyes and blow hole. The second interaction involves a dolphin kiss. Divers are instructed to take their regulators out of their mouths upon a signal given by the trainers. The trainers then point towards each diver. The dolphins would approach each diver and kiss each one in the mouth with their snout. A third type of interaction is like a human spinning top. One at a time, the divers are asked to adjust their buoyancy and stay up about five feet off the bottom with arms fully outstretched. The dolphins then push each diver by the hand with their snouts spinning them around in circles. All of these interactions are captured on camera by a UNEXSO staff divemaster. Of course, the photos are available for sale back at the UNEXSO dive shop. At the end of the final interaction, both dolphins make one more pass while waving one of their fins to bid each diver goodbye. Of course, the divers wave back with smiles through their regulators.
What is really unique with the dolphin dive is that scuba divers get to see the dolphins at depth rather than just at the surface of the water. This is in the natural environment of the dolphins. It is really magical to watch from the bottom as the dolphins swim up to the surface for air sometimes leaping right out of the water followed by a dramatic diving re-entry. They move like torpedoes with grace, agility and speed. The divers cant help but marvel at the abilities of the dolphins. Dolphins do not require gradual ascents and safety stops like us scuba divers do. For any scuba diver who loves dolphins, the UNEXSO dolphin dive is a wonderful diving experience and well recommended.