7 Best Destinations to Swim With Exotic Animals
Jumping into the waters with a furry dog, colorful turtles, or lovable pigs can be done around the world. Instead of lounging by the pool sipping a frilly drink, here are seven places to get up close and personal with water-loving animals.
Dolphins — Turks and Caicos
Dolphins come to Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos, and guests of the Club Med Turkoise resort can sign up for a complimentary swim with them through the onsite dive shop, Seafari Turks and Caicos. The shop offers educational background on the snorkeling sites while swimming with the dolphins, as well as the opportunity to encounter other marine life like turtles, stingrays, sharks, eels, and barracudas by catamaran.
Portuguese Water Dogs — Algarve, Portugal
You may remember the Obamas' furry black Bo from the White House lawn photos. The beautiful black canine is a Portuguese Water Dog, and the Conrad Algarve hotel in Portugal offers a chance to swim with them. The Portuguese Water Dogs were taught by the Romans to be companions and also workers: they herded fish, retrieved nets, and passed messages between boats using their powerful webbed feet to swim through the water. Although they're not carrying messages these days, Carla Peralta — a local who breeds these dogs — arranges private tours to interact with her dogs in the ocean.
Endangered Manatees — Crystal River, FL
Crystal River is the only place in the US where you can snorkel with West Indian manatees — known as "sea cows" — in the wild. Prime manatee viewing season is typically Oct. 1-March 31 depending on temperatures, as manatees thrive in year-round 72 degree Fahrenheit waters of Florida's second largest spring system. The Plantation on Crystal River has Winter packages where guests can swim with the West Indian manatee.
Orcas — Northern Norway
Sizable schools of Norwegian herring flock to the Northern part of Norway during Winter, attracted to the ice-less fjords. Lofoten Adventure offers a chance to snorkel with the orcas in the mild Winter climate from the Gulf Stream. Norway is said to be home to the largest stock of orcas in the world — around 2,000 — and the two-hour-long excursion gives you a chance to jump in the water from the large rib boats.
Sea Lions — South Australia
South Australia, known for kangaroos, wallabies, and great white sharks, is also home to wild sea lions on the Eyre Peninsula. These Aussie sea lions have been called the "puppy dogs of the sea." For those who are playful in the water, the sea lions will imitate your enthusiasm: the more somersaults and splashes you make, the more they get into it — swirling all around you like kids on sugar.
Pigs — Spot Cay, Bahamas
The Exumas — yes, the destination where the disastrous Fyre Festival took place — are a group of tropical exclusive islands within the islands of the Bahamas. Leave the BBQ sauce at home, because the porcine interaction you have on Major's Spot Cay island is with swimming, domesticated pigs. At the area, known as Pig Beach, visitors get into the water with dozens of large domestic farm pigs ready for food handouts. You are able to snorkel with a few pigs in the clear waters of the beach over white Bahamian sand.
Turtles — Barbados
At the Barbados-based resort Colony Club, there is a dual swimming and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with once-endangered populations of hawksbill and leatherback turtles. The experience begins on the white sands of the Colony Club beach, and swimmers are led by paddling out to The Lone Star Restaurant, which is one of the places that the turtles congregate. Some of the other animals that you can encounter on the swim include barbier fish, sergeant majors, angelfish, and parrotfish.