Essential Information to Swim with the Dolphins

  • A basic level of fitness is required. You will be floating in the water and will be required to swim to and from the boat - distances up to 50 metres (150 feet) at a time.
  • Swimming with dolphins is not available for children under 8 years old.  (See FAQ below). Children between 8 - 12 must be accompanied by an adult swimmer.
  • Customers should have some knowledge of English, so you can understand safety instructions and emergency procedures. If you do not speak English, you should be able to read and understand the foreign language safety instructions and be confident that you can communicate with crew using the pre-agreed hand signals in the event of an emergency.
  • Customers must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Most Commonly Asked Questions - Swimming with Dolphins

Q:  How often do you see the dolphins?

A:  This is the number one question that we are asked. Akaroa harbour is the only harbour in the world that dolphins inhabit and you have a chance to see them daily. We track every single swim and we know that on 98% of our swims and cruises you will see the Hector's dolphins. We also know that 83% of our swims are succesful swims. We ask people to remember that you are joining us for an experience in the wild. The beauty of our swims is that the dolphins are in their natural habitat. As an eco-tourism operator we do not track, entice or manipulate the dolphins. When we find them, you swim with them on their terms. It's part of the magic of the encounter. We have created a chart that has tracked every single swim encounter over the last 5 years which you can view here. Many swim operators do not offer refunds however we pride ourselves on our customer service and have a two tier refund policy should you not see or swim with the dolphins. 

Q:  What happens if no dolphins are sighted, or we see them but can't swim with them?

A:  We see dolphins on 97% of our cruises, however if you fall into the very unfortunate 3% we have a very generous 50% refund policy. This means you get half of your money back if no dolphins are seen. We have a successfull swim rate of 83%, however if you fall into the unlucky 17% of people who get to see the dolphins but not swim with them then you will receive a 25% refund. 

Q:  What do I need to bring with me?

A:  Just bring your swimming costumes and a towel, your camera and sunblock are not essential but advisable. Everything else is provided for you including wetsuit, mask, snorkel, booties, gloves and a hood if necessary. You can hire or purchase a towel from us if you forget to bring one.

Q:  Do I need to be able to swim?

A:  YES.  You need to be confident in the water and capable to swim at least 50 metres. If you cannot swim you can still join us on the boat as a watcher. Obviously the water is over your head and a degree of confidence in swimming is required.
Customers must declare any pre-existing medical conditions which may limit your participation.

Q: What if i suffer from sea sickness or asthma?

A: If you are prone to suffer from sea-sickness we advise taking an anti-sea-sickness tablet before checking in for your swim. Different varieties take different amounts of time to start working so make sure you give yourself this time before heading out on the water. We also offer pressure point wrist bands, however it is best to attempt to stop the potential sea-sickness before it starts. If you suffer from asthma it is essential to bring your inhaler with you to take out on the boat for your own safety. 

Further Questions.... 

Q:  Can I touch the dolphins?

A:  No.  These dolphins have extremely sensitive skin and a slight touch may bruise or hurt the dolphin.  A nail may scratch the surface of their skin causing infections.

Q:  Are the dolphins wild?

A:  Yes these dolphins are completely wild.

Q:  Do we feed them?

A:  No. We must not disturb their natural diet and feeding habits.

Q:  Are there age restrictions?

A:  Yes. If you are swimming you must be atleast 8 years old. Children between 8 and 12 inclusive must also be accompanied by an adult swimmer. If you are booking with us as a watcher only there is no age restriction.

Q:  Are there sharks?

A:  We have been operating dolphin swimming for 20 years now and have never had a problem with sharks.  Generally if there are sharks around then the dolphins will be nowhere to be seen.

Q:  How cold is the water?

A:  In the summer the water temperature is around 17 degrees Celsius, in winter this usually decreases to around 11 degrees.  We have very good quality thick wetsuits which keep you warm in the water.  We also have booties, gloves and hoodies.

Q:  Can children swim with the dolphins?

A:  Yes - Children can swim, but there are some rules:

  • Children must be aged 8years or older.
  • Children aged 8-12yeasr old must be accompanied by an Adult swimmer in the water.
  • All Children (16 years or younger) must be accompanied (on the vessel) by an Adult or guardian 18years or older.
  • Children must be fit and confident swimmers - our swim experience takes place in the ocean.

Q: What if I have a Disability

The following provides a guideline to those of our customers who have a physical disability. We can cater for customers who are blind or have a loss of a limb. For those with a mental illness we have never had any issues in the past provided there is good support from friends and family.

Information for Dolphin swimming customers with a disability; We don’t recommend swimming with dolphins for those with a disability however if you have a strong support swimmer and have experience swimming in the ocean than it can be done. We also have life jackets on hand as well as the wet suits which provide flotation. At the end of the day the skipper and crew will make a decision based on sea conditions. If we feel safety is compromised then a swim will not be possible. For those in wheelchairs some mobility is required to board the vessel. Please call the wharf to enquire.

Environment & Safety First

Black Cat was the first cruise boat company in the world to get the coveted Green Globe 21, an international programme to ensure best environmental practices. We are also DOC approved and are the only cruise operator in Akaroa to have an Enviro-gold certification from Qualmark.

Fun Fact

There are 32 species of dolphins found throughout the world, yet you will only find the Hector's Dolphins in the waters around New Zealand. Akaroa is the ony place (in the world) that you can swim with them! Check out the video below for a little taster....