Why are dolphin swims memorable?

Dolphins are fun, smart, social, and super intelligent. From the moment a dolphin swims up to you, you’ll experience an immediate connection. They’re playful, intelligent, and oh-so-friendly. A dolphin swim is an experience you’ll never forget. 

However not all dolphin swim tours care about these magnificent creatures, and this can cause harm to them. You don’t want to harm the dolphins you love do you? If not, read on to learn how to pick a dolphin swim experience with an ethical tour operator.

Why pick an ethical dolphin swims tour?

When it comes to the ocean, nothing beats the thrill of swimming alongside wild and free dolphins.

But did you know that when you choose ethical dolphin swims, you’re doing more than just having a good time? You’re also making a powerful statement about animal welfare and conservation.

Here’s why it’s awesome to pick a responsible dolphin swim operator:

1️⃣ You’re supporting the freedom and wellbeing of dolphins, rather than confining them to small tanks, where they often suffer from stress and health problems.

2️⃣ You’ll have a memorable experience in the dolphins’ natural habitat – the endless blue ocean!

3️⃣ You’re promoting sustainable tourism and boosting the local economy.

4️⃣ You’ll learn loads about these amazing creatures and their natural behaviours from experts who really know their stuff.

Ethical dolphin tourism operators we love

There are some fantastic dolphin swim operators out there who are doing things right. Here are our favourites in Australia. Check them out, and see which one is the best fit for your dream dolphin swim adventure.

Polperro Dolphin Swims is a family owned operation that has three decades of experience in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. Polperro operates a vessel that generations of dolphins have come to know and cruise at only 5 knots, with minimal disturbance to the marine environment.

Polperro offers both dolphin and seal swims. Or if you’d prefer to stay dry, you can sightsee from on board and learn about marine conservation.

If you head out with Polperro, you can expect to come across Burrunan Dolphins (unique to Port Phillip Bay) and Bottlenose dolphins.

Two dolphins are swimming together underwater. They appear to be in close proximity to each other, suggesting social interaction or companionship. The surrounding water is clear, highlighting the graceful forms and smooth skin of the dolphins.

📷 Polperro Dolphin Swims


Polperro is dedicated to sustainability, conservation, and education. By limiting the amount of people on their trips, Polperro seeks to minimise environmental impact and impinge on the daily lives of the dolphins as little as possible. Polperro was the first swim tour operator in Port Phillip Bay and has developed practices that have contributed to the safety and protection of both passengers and dolphins. Polperro is also a vocal opponent of cetacean captivity.

Polperro seeks to ensure their trips are both environmentally informative and environmentally supportive. The team show their customers how human activities have ramifications for the Port Phillip Bay’s ecosystem and the wider marine environment and suggest alternative behaviours that mitigate these impacts. The team has participated in interventions with sick, stranded or injured wildlife in the area. 

Two bottlenose dolphins are seen gliding side by side in murky green waters, their sleek bodies and distinctive facial features visible. They appear calm and in sync with each other's movements, displaying the social and intelligent nature of dolphins

📷Polperro Dolphin Swims


Polperro has achieved Advanced Ecotourism accreditation and won many awards in sustainability and tourism, including the Environment and Sustainability Award for the South-East Region in 2012. The team is committed to ensuring the health and stability of dolphins in the area by assisting with research and data collection.

Polperro is committed to the highest standards of environmental and customer care, as well as passenger safety. It is a wonderfully authentic wildlife tour that is both educational and enjoyable to swimmers and sightseers.

Sharing the water with dolphins is an unforgettable experience – and at Dolphin Swim Australia you can swim with them knowing that you are with a sustainable and ethical operator. Dolphin Swim Australia never entice the dolphins with food or other means, so you know they are approaching you on their own terms.

Swimmers wear a mask and snorkel and hold onto a rope stretched between the two bows of a large catamaran as it moves through the water. The dolphins freely choose to bow-ride and swimmers can find themselves surrounded by dolphins, viewing them at a close range underwater.

If you are lucky enough to go on a dolphin swim with Dolphin Swim Australia, you will likely meet common bottlenose dolphins and short beaked common dolphins who call the Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park home. 

"Two short-beaked common dolphins are leaping above the ocean's surface, with a splash of water trailing behind them. The dynamic image captures their streamlined bodies and the contrast of their grey, white, and yellowish-tan markings against the deep blue of the sea

📷 Neil Bowman Getty Images


After stringent examination of the swim protocols and safety management, the Marine Parks Authority NSW and NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service granted Dolphin Swim Australia’s permit to swim with dolphins. Dolphin Swim Australia has a strict adherence to guidelines and ensures the safety of all the dolphins during their swims. With expert local and species knowledge and a history of good practices, Dolphin Swim Australia is a prime choice to witness dolphins in their natural habitat.

Dolphin Swim Australia is eco-certified and certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. They openly oppose cetacean captivity.

A pod of dolphins is swimming gracefully just below the water's surface, captured from the side of a boat. The sunlight penetrates the blue waters, illuminating the dolphins and casting their shadows on the ocean floor. The perspective from the boat adds a sense of being in the moment with the marine mammals

📷 Action for Dolphins

Share an incredible moment with a dolphin in the water – or watch from the boat. Either way, we guarantee you will have a fantastic time!

Dolphin Watch Cruises has been operating in Jervis Bay for 28 years. When you join a cruise, you can marvel from the boat while knowledgeable tour operators share information about environmental concerns and protection in the Jervis Bay area. 

Passengers are likely to see a local pod of bottlenose dolphins made up of individuals ranging from newborn calves to at least 40 years old. They swim in pristine waters amongst seagrass meadows. You may also be lucky enough to see a range of sea birds and other local wildlife while on board.

A dolphin is captured just below the surface of the blue ocean, with the sunlight creating a soft glow around its silhouette. The water is smooth with gentle ripples, and the dolphin's movement creates a serene, flowing effect in the water

📷Dolphin Watch Cruises Jervis Bay


Since the late 1990s Dolphin Watch Cruises has been involved in a number of leading marine mammal research projects, including an influential study conducted by Macquarie University examining wild dolphin behaviours. Their important contributions have helped develop a broader understanding of dolphin behaviour in Australia.

Dolphin Watch Cruises helps rescue injured and sick dolphins in the area, and has a strong rapport with local rescue groups such as the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans Australia (ORRCA). They are leaders in the industry, with Advanced Eco-Tourism accreditation and numerous regional, state and national awards – including a Gold Winner award in the South Coast Tourism Awards.

An aerial view of a white sailing catamaran with its sails unfurled, cruising through the shallow turquoise waters near a sandy beach. The boat is branded with 'Dolphin Watch Cruises Jervis Bay', and there are a few passengers visible on deck, enjoying the calm sea and sunny weather

📷Dolphin Watch Cruises Jervis Bay


This is a wild dolphin encounter not to be missed when visiting Jervis Bay!

Temptation Sailing has been running dolphin swims from Glenelg in South Australia since 2002. Sustainability is at the core of the Temptation Sailing experience following all appropriate government guidelines to ensure their operations have minimal impact on local marine life. The tours are hosted by experienced onboard marine biologists who allow the swim experience to be  conducted on the dolphins’ terms. They are against any form of dolphin captivity, for research or entertainment.

If you have the pleasure of going on a  Temptation Sailing tour, you will likely see Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and short-beaked common dolphins.

Two common dolphins are captured mid-swim near the surface of the clear blue ocean, with one trailing closely behind the other. Water beads and small ripples surround them as they cut through the water, their sleek bodies and distinctive dorsal fins highlighted by the sunlight

📷Temptation Sailing

Temptation Sailing is the only vessel permitted to operate along the Adelaide metropolitan coastline, and limits swims to once per day in the morning. Swimmers hold onto a line behind a slow moving boat or are laying in a net attached to the front of the boat. No free swimming is allowed so the dolphins are able to approach on their own terms and come and go as they please. Over the course of many cruises, Temptation Sailing has built a relationship with local pods and have a great understanding of the behaviour of the local dolphins.

Part of the organisation’s profits go towards dolphin research, contributing to sustainability and environmental awareness in the area. They are a carbon neutral business and have started up a research program to monitor the local dolphin populations within the area in which they operate.

Passengers on a sailboat are observing and photographing dolphins swimming nearby in the ocean. One person stands elevated on the bow, looking through binoculars, while others at the side of the boat use smartphones to capture the moment. The calm sea and clear skies create a peaceful backdrop for this wildlife encounter.

📷Temptation Sailing

With interactions always on the dolphins’ terms, you can be sure you’re receiving an ethical and non-invasive experience.

Temptation Sailing has an Advanced Eco-tourism certification and won executive South Australian Tourism Awards from 2004-2006. They have even been inducted into the South Australia Tourism Hall of Fame!

How do you pick an ethical dolphin swims operator?

Not all tour operators are created equal. Some truly respect dolphins and their habitats, while others, well… not so much.

What are the things to look out for?

✅ The operator lets dolphins decide how and when to interact with humans

✅ They’ve got the green light from relevant authorities and respect local regulations

✅ They have an eco-certification

✅ They minimise their impact on nature (like using eco-friendly boats)

✅ They’re all about sustainable practices (like recycling and energy efficiency)

✅ They teach visitors about local species, habitats, and conservation issues


What are the red flags?

On the flip side, here are some red flags to avoid:

❌ Letting people feed dolphins

❌ Letting people touch or ‘kiss’ dolphins

❌ Chasing dolphins

❌ Using jet skis or parasailing equipment

Know the facts: red flags for dolphin swim tours

Let's dive a bit deeper into why some things are big no-nos when it comes to dolphin swim tours.

Source Ashleigh Gibson Getty Images

Feeding dolphins: bad news

Dolphins who are fed by humans can become lazy hunters and don’t teach their young how to hunt. It also encourages dolphins to come closer to shore and can lead to injuries from vessels and fishing equipment.[1]

A person is wearing a red and white top and is touching a dolphin in captivity. The dolphin is partially out of the water and is in a green pool.
Source Avid Creative Getty Images

Touching dolphins: hands off

Touching dolphins might seem harmless, but it can actually stress them out and disrupt their behaviour. 🙅‍♀️ Plus, it can spread diseases between humans and dolphins.[2]

A person's legs seen standing on the edge of a boat, with a dolphin swimming in the clear blue water below. The dolphin's dorsal fin is visible, and water ripples away from the boat, indicating movement through the serene ocean.
Source Aristotoo Getty Images

Chasing dolphins: wrong race

Boats can really disturb dolphins if they get too close. This can disrupt important behaviours like feeding and caring for young ones. This is why boats should stick to the regulated distance, stop the boat and let dolphins come to them. Dolphins are curious creatures, they’ll be sure to swim by and say hello. 🚤

A white and green Yamaha jet ski is floating on crystal-clear turquoise water. The jet ski is stationary, and no rider is visible in the image, giving the impression of peacefulness and the potential for leisure activities in a serene aquatic environment.
Source Marc Babin Unsplash

Jet skis: too noisy

Underwater noise pollution from jetskis and parasails can mess with dolphins’ communication, hunting, and navigation skills. So, we’re all about low-noise impact vessels – quieter, greener, and dolphin-approved 💚

What's an ethical dolphin swim like?

Okay, so you’re all fired up for your dolphin swim. What can you expect?

First off, you’ll head out on a boat or kayak into the wide-open ocean. That’s right, we’re talking real sea adventures here.

Once you’re in the right spot, it’s time to jump in and wait a safe distance until the dolphins approach you. It’s a magical experience swimming alongside these intelligent creatures. With an ethical dolphin swims operator, it’s all done in a safe, respectful, and responsible way.

Source Pascal Van De Vendel Unsplash

What's the deal with eco certifications?

Eco certifications are like gold stars for tour operators who are committed to sustainable, nature-based tourism. If you’re not sure whether an operator has one, just ask them!

At Action for Dolphins, we also love operators who educate visitors about conservation, follow sustainable practices, and do their own research or help out research groups.

You have the power to make a difference with your choices. Make your dolphin swim an enjoyable experience for you and for these amazing creatures!