Xel-Há is a celebrated eco resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, with a sustainable tourism certification, that has all sorts of exciting adventures in nature. Tubing down the river, ziplining through the jungle. All cool. All fun. But they also offer the chance to swim with dolphins. Dolphins that are trained to jump and perform, and are enclosed so that you can swim with them. The irony is that so many people believe that interacting with animals in this way IS eco. That it is kind to animals, that it helps teaches you about conservation and animal welfare. When really, in our opinion, this is hugely harmful to cetaceans. They are naturally sociable creatures, but out in the ocean, in the wild, and not through being cuddled, kissed and canoodled by a human.
If you do want to see dolphins and whales in the wild, then Mexico is a wonderful place to do so, especially on the Baja California Peninsula, where whales come in their droves between the months of February and April. Most whale and dolphin watching companies
act responsibly, but don’t book with one that doesn’t show signs of stringent conservation and animal welfare practices. The focus of the trip should be on education rather than sensation and a responsible company will have details of expert guides on their website, their experience and qualifications. A good nature and environmentally aware guide will give a detailed talk before and during the trip, for example. Operators that replace guides with pre-recorded talks are only interested in cutting costs rather than caring for cetaceans. They might charge less for their service but, for a once in a lifetime experience, do you really want the no frills-no fairness experience?
Read more about issues regarding Dolphin
watching in our travel guides for more details. And support the work of organisations like Born Free Foundation
, and the World Cetacean Alliance
. The latter is a global partnership which was formed to protect the world's cetaceans from all sorts of threats, and an organisation that really gets whales, rather than just wanting to get money out of whales. And in general, unless very well supervised, don’t swim with dolphins.