Swimming with captive or wild dolphins – which to choose?

by Joe Noonan on October 26, 2011

Helix (a wild friend of mine) saying ‘Hello! Let’s play!’

I get asked this question a lot! When people find out I lead trips swimming with dolphins, most think I work at Sea World or some other marine park.

I understand their confusion, for most people associate swimming with dolphins with whistles, leaping dolphins and concrete pools. I see many dolphin lovers who have profile photos of themselves hugging a captive dolphin. Its completely understandable.

“From an anthropological view; all behavior makes sense” 

It is really understandable why we have dolphins in captivity; as a species we love to capture, contain and study anything that interests us. I can look to my own childhood for proof of that; I don’t know how many bugs finished their days inside a glass jar I’d put them in. Its part of our ‘look and touch’ curiosity that has us instinctively reach out to contain the wild.

To our intuitive right brain, we are all One; fingers of the same hand. To our rational left brain, there is an ‘in here’ and an ‘out there’, and everything ‘out there’ is separate from me and therefore something to be controlled or feared. From this egoic viewpoint, we see ‘other’ as either ‘better’ (above) or ‘less’ (lower) than ourselves.

Just as we thought that the Earth is the center of the Universe and that the sun and other planets revolved around us, so we think that Mankind is the center/most important of the planetary species. So of course we’d capture dolphins and whales and make them entertain us, its part of our logical nature.

We are Awakening!

And as the growing awareness of our intimate connection with all life reminds us, our assumption that we are ‘the pinnacle’ of intelligence and importance is rapidly waning, and our righteousness along with it.

Many of us (possibly all of us?) have hopefully had a loving connection to another creature (animal, bird, fish, insect) and seen the light of love and intelligence look back… (how ironic! I just mis-spelt the word ‘intelligence’ 😉

Quantum physics reminds us that we are all one; and what we do to another, we do to ourselves.

Left and Right brain split creates a culture of denial

Investors love the billions that captive dolphin programs generate; to them the idea that dolphins are sentient and have rights is ridiculous. Just as cigarette manufacturers tell themselves that smoking isn’t addictive or harmful, we lie to ourselves every day that nuclear energy is ok or we don’t need to do anything about inequity. We all tell ourselves whatever lie is required to stay comfortable, have fun, or protect our status quo. (I just ate a second bowl of ice cream – but they were small bowls! 😉

When I remember the big picture (that we are spiritual beings having a human experience), my judgment of captive programs softens (hey, my judgment of everything softens! :). The current state of affairs is that we have a brain that has two halves, and until we get them working in harmony, we will continue to deceive ourselves to our own (and the planet’s) detriment.

Once I did swim with captive dolphins. I had to find out for myself. It was in Ixcaret, a big eco resort in the Yucatan of Mexico. The dolphins lived in a fenced off bay, so they had plenty of fresh seawater. I got to rub them, got to be pushed across the pool by my feet, got to feed them. Yes it was cool, and yes I was well aware of how rigidly controlling and artificial the environment was. The dolphins are genuinely loving, but the environment was contrived. The analogy that came to mind was that being with wild dolphisn is being on a date; you’re both there out of mutual curiosity and respect. The captive encounter was analogous of having a date with a hooker whose pimp works her hard, every hour on the hour, for frozen fish.

And that was a ‘good’ program, the exception to the norm (as judged by the quality of the water and pool).

I once arrived in Bimini and hitched a ride with a family, hopped in the back of the truck with the mom and her 8 year old daughter. They asked me what I was doing in Bimini, and when the girl found out I brought people to Bimini to swim with wild dolphins, she told me that she had swum with dolphins, and her eyes lit up as she described how she “made the dolphins do tricks at my command”. I felt sorry for her, sorry that her encounter with a dolphin was framed in the context of her being the ‘boss’.

I am repeatedly humbled by the wisdom, the love, the joy and the generosity that the wild dolphins show us. I regard them as peers, spiritual beings having a dolphin experience. As they so lovingly and graciously remind us, there is much we have yet to learn/remember from them.

I see a near future where we no longer keep dolphins in captivity. Inspiration (intuition?) shows me a variety of locations around the world, natural bays, where humans and dolphins interact in a very free-flowing and somewhat controlled environment (the humans being controlled, not the dolphins!).

If you really want to see or swim with a dolphin, I invite you to do it in the open ocean, on their terms. Whether you watch from a boat or are in the water with them, it will be one of the sweetest dates of your life!

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The ocean is a beautiful, healing and inspiring place to bring your family!




{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Yogi Vedd February 20, 2012 at 2:09 am

Interesting article about your feelings for the Dolphins.

Good stuff and good luck with the Dolphins. Yes, we forget how lovely other creatures are and they respect their environment in which they survive.

We all need to learn as we have the brains to absorb and do more positive things to this planet Earth. We have been to the moon and outerspace yet we fail to learn more about our rivers, oceans and sea that gives us the water to live(water that falls as rain, sleet or snow come from these), food that survive in these waters, and other creatures who live and survive as part of the food chain.

Wish you best to spread the word, Use Facebook to spread the word, a gift here http://www.meetcheap.com/?Id=Yogi2u

If you love Dolphins, here is where you can get and distribute the Sea Aquarium for free at http://www.inbox.com and check out Screensavers topic.

Best Wishes AND Lots of Success
Yogi Vedd
My Facebook page Laki.shah7@facebook.com


ARNE DANSK May 31, 2012 at 4:35 am

recently we found tv report that the US NAVY is concealing the SONAR caused deaths of whales, dolphins AND sea dwelling HOMINIDS that communicate with dolphins etc.


Joe Noonan June 30, 2012 at 12:28 am

Hi Arne,
There have been autopsies of dead dolphins and whales washed ashore after the Navy has done LFAS (Low Frequency Active Sonar) in the area, and the autopsies revealed death from internal bleeding. The Navy is petitioning to use this sonar in a wider scale and needs to be stopped. See http://rense.com/general28/groupssuetostop.htm for more info.


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