Swimming with the Dolphins | Roatan, Honduras

Swimming with the Dolphins | Roatan, HondurasThe water was rough from Hurricane Ida, which had passed by just a couple days prior to us arriving on Roatan, a small Caribbean island off the coast of Honduras. A heavy, dark cloud pressed in from above. Our motor boat zipped out the two miles to the tiny island that Anthony’s Key Resort had fashioned into the presentation area for those interested in learning about and snorkeling with the dolphins.

Just as we stepped into the water, the sky opened up and a light drizzle began to fall. Apparently Roatan usually has ideal, Caribbean weather, but the passing storm left a heavy current and no crowds in its wake. The dolphins were all ours to enjoy.

The rain was chilly, and after peeling off my capris and t-shirt, I waded out into the water and dipped down to my shoulders to suck up some of the natural heat from the sea. The water was clear, and I could see pieces of sea grass and small fish swimming around my legs.

One of the key differences with Anthony’s Key Resort in comparison to other standard dolphin encounters is that, at Anthony’s, the dolphins swim in the sea; they are not confined to a concrete enclosure. Instead, the natural enclosure is more than half an acre in surface area and is surrounded by a fencing structure that allows the water to freely flow in and out with the current. Occasionally the enclosure is opened and the dolphins join the instructors and trainers when they travel farther into the ocean for scuba diving courses. The dolphins almost always come back, though, as they definitely know where their nightly meals come from.

We began our experience with a 30-minute dolphin encounter, a structured lesson where a trainer told us about the dolphin who was educating our group. He explained the dolphin culture — how they communicate, what their lives are like — and taught us about the anatomy of dolphins. There are currently 24 bottlenose dolphins at Anthony’s Key Resort. There have been four births at the facility this year (two boys and two girls), the youngest of which was born November 10. We had the opportunity to run our hands along our dolphin’s skin, and she performed a number of nifty tricks for us.

Swimming with the Dolphins | Roatan, HondurasWhile it was interesting to learn about the facility and the dolphins, the dolphin encounter felt a bit staged to me, especially when the photographer came out to join us in the water for a series of snapshots, available on shore for purchase once the excursion was complete. And I wasn’t a big fan of our trainer. He was obviously very passionate about working with the dolphins, but that’s where his passion was — not in trying to teach a handful of shivering girls about the animal. I would pass on the dolphin encounter if I returned.

But I was able to put all of that aside when the encounter ended and I slid on my flippers and snorkeling mask.

Beyond the shoreline, the dolphin enclosure sits above a huge reef, one of the largest in the world. I pushed off and was soon floating above a myriad of colorful fish, dancing sea grass and delicate coral formations. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but the whole scene was so graceful and serene, especially since it was now pouring rain.

And then it happened … I heard a couple audible clicks and a dolphin swam into and out of my range of sight before I even had time to truly compute what had happened.

I was actually swimming with dolphins.

Time became non-existent as I floated next to the giant mammals. They didn’t mind in the least that I was swimming in their space. Nope, they just floated by — sometimes one, sometimes a few of them and twice I had the chance to see a larger dolphin with two small babies swimming by its side. Rain or sun, I was completely transported to a place I’d never been before.

One large dolphin swam up to me, nose first, and tossed a ball of kelp in my direction. I caught it in the water and tossed it back. The dolphin caught it in his mouth and threw it again in my direction. I laughed through my snorkel gear. Here I was … in Honduras in the middle of a rainstorm playing catch with a dolphin in the Caribbean Sea. It was a moment I will never forget.

Anthony’s Key Resort | Roatan, Honduras

My experience with the dolphins was paid for by the Honduras Institute of Tourism, but all opinions are my own. Photos courtesy of Anthony’s Key Resort.

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Swimming with the Dolphins | Roatan, Honduras
JoAnna is a globe-trotting, idea-inventing, culture-collecting creativity connoisseur with big dreams and a desire to touch all seven continents. You can also find JoAnna at joannahaugen.com and at The 52 Letters Project.

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19 Responses

  1. Cory says:

    I am still very jealous of your dolphin experience.

  2. Lisa says:

    Great story! We were planning on vacationing at Anthony’s Key several years ago, but a hurricane had other plans ;-), it’s still high on the list of “must visits” though. Love hearing about the dolphins at play!

  3. Zorianna Kit says:

    So nice to read your experience on this, Joanna!

  4. Gray says:

    That just rocks. I’m so jealous. I can only imagine how cool that must have been to be swimming and playing with them – and not because some trainer was telling them what to do, but at their own initiative. Sweet.

  5. Shannon OD says:

    Wow, as much as you say that you wouldn’t do the “organized encounter” again — you have me sold. That just sounds so amazing at the end when you got to swim with them! And the pic of him kissing you is too cute :-)

  6. Lola says:

    What an experience! You can definitely check this off the list :)
    The kissing picture is a classic. Can imagine it in sepia tones.

  7. Candice says:

    I did this while in Mexico, except in not such a large area, and with only two dolphins! I love that you played catch. So cool.

  8. Nancy says:

    Even with it being an organized encounter, what an incredible experience! That picture with the dolphin may be my favorite one of you I´ve seen. :) Very cool.

  9. Chris says:

    Amazing experience! In Australia (Tin Can Bay )every day at 8am there are two wild dolphins that came ashore to get some food from the rangers; unfortunately you can not swim with them.

  10. Amiee says:

    That photo of you and the dolphin is so cute — I love it. I have heard Roatan is amazing — another place I would like to see!

  11. I swam with dolphins in a rehabilitation center in the Florida Keys about 10 years ago. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. Such sweet and amazing creatures :) I’m so glad you had the opportunity to do it as well!

  12. Abby says:

    You look SO happy in that top photo!!

  13. Sophie says:

    My 10-year-old daughter did this in Mexico earlier this year. She adored it, of course.

  14. JoAnna says:

    So fun, wasn’t it??

  15. JoAnna says:

    I am! Cold, but happy. :)

  16. So cool! I would love to do this. And, that photo of you is so adorable!

  17. Swimming with dolphins is such an amazing experience. Sounds like you had a great time despite the rainy weather.

    http://www.GreenGlobalTravel.com

  18. JoAnna says:

    It was a good experience. I know swimming with dolphins is very controversial, but I felt good about this facility in comparison to others I’ve encountered in the past.

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