One of the best feelings in the whole world is swimming alongside our ocean's beautiful and breathtaking creatures. These beautiful beings capture our imagination and inspire mermaids and humans alike. Able to navigate and move throughout the Earth’s wide ocean is no small act. And they’re everywhere we look! Sea turtles in Maui, golden jellyfish in Palau, Manatees in the Keys! There’s always an adventure waiting with our friends.
In this post, we’re going to be highlighting some animals and the places they swim! Wanna swim with Manatees, Turtles, Dolphins, Manta and Sting Rays, Fish, Whales, and Sharks? We’ve got you covered in this list below! We’ll leave some tips and tricks for swimming with animals in tanks or in the wild, and how best to keep yourself and the animals safe! Let’s roll down the list!
3 Golden Rules to swim with animals
1. Keep yourself calm and slow - be a gentle presence. This should apply to you always, as you always want to come off as serene, graceful, and at home. The animals around you will appreciate it. Most of our friends are prey species -meaning they’re ready to dart away and flee at the slightest ripple of trouble. Stay relaxed, don’t thrash - gentle movements with your fin and body.
2. Let them approach you, don’t approach them. If you’ve worked with the same animal hundreds of times, perhaps the animal would be more receptive to your advances. However, most animals will always remain on the side of caution - and you will always remain a threat when moving towards them. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and an animal will want to swim with you! Keep a calm energy and mind. Don’t forget - in cases like the endangered Green Sea Turtle, it’s actually illegal to approach within ten feet!
3. You’ve got to know who you’re swimming with! Be wary of any stingers, venom, or barbs the animal may have. Your safety comes first! If a stingray gets scared by a kid slamming on the aquarium glass or another creature or even just seeing your shadow, it can graze you with its tail. The venom inside a stingray doesn’t even have an anti-venom! Victims are usually treated by placing the point of impact in very hot water to help relieve the pain. So, always keep an eye on your friends and their surroundings. Stay alert - much like your friends are looking out for their safety, so should you! It’s hugely important to know who you’re swimming with. Is that a manta ray or a stingray? Is it a Moray Eel or a Sea Snake? The differences are important and can help you in case of a worst case scenario - or just knowing if your friend would mind if you glided by. In the case of any aquariums, ask the caretakers and upkeep staff of the tank before you dive in! Here’s a website that you can look through to meet the animals of our oceans!
Can You Keep Up?
One of the biggest challenges as a mermaid swimming with our fellow ocean creatures is how fast they can be! Dolphins can reach speeds of up to 35 mph. Whales are large enough that their tail flicks send out huge swaths of water - it can feel like being swept away by riptides! But, thankfully we do have technology on our side, with a water scooter! Water scooters are small but powerful little jet engines that help propel divers and snorkelers through the water. Using small water jets, water scooters can go up to 5 mph - which may not feel like a lot, but it is super useful for keeping up with these animals! If you get tired, a water scooter can help keep you moving and keep up with all of our friends!
Water scooters have been used by mermaids many times over. They’re small enough to not interfere with your beautiful gliding motions and spins. In regards to the animals, most water scooters are silent or at a low volume - like the Sublue Whiteshark Model. The most important thing is to keep it at a safe distance from our friends - turn it off if any fish come near the fans or jets. Thankfully, most water scooters are easily powered down by simply removing your fingers from the buttons on the sides! They move at cruising speeds and the most common complaint tends to be how long the battery lasts. Don’t be afraid to test out a few models!
In the Wild Vs. In the Tanks!
There’s a difference between an aquarium and the wide open seas. Control is harder in the wild than in a tank - but nonetheless, you should always have a spotter. Whether they’re watching for any nervous animals, or watching to see if a too-curious bull wants to nuzzle at your scales. The creatures you meet in the wild usually have never seen humans before - never mind mermaids! Always remember - stay calm, gentle, and relaxed in the water. This way if you do find a small (or large!) friend, you won’t stand out to them.
What Kind of Animals Can You Swim With?
There are so many places around the world where you can swim with all kinds of aquatic creatures and mammals! Did you know we’re not the only land-lubbers who love to swim? Check it out: In the Bahamas, there are the aptly named Water Pigs who love to jump in the shallow ocean waters! Right on the island of Big Major Cay, in the Exuma Islands, these little buddies are just the cutest paddling around in the crystal clear waters. They’re super docile and the locals know all about how to care for them! There’s even the Portuguese Water Dog - dogs that were bred to herd fish and to this day love to swim! The five star hotel of the Conrad Alarve has the unforgettable swimming class of paddling alongside these webbed footed canines!
Here’s a few other mostly aquatic friends you could encounter depending on where you swim!
- Shallows of the ocean, near the coasts; Eels, lemon or nurse sharks, stingrays, fish, sea turtles, coral, urchins, crabs!
- Deep salt water, open and clear; Manta rays, great whites, dolphins, flying fish, diving birds, whale sharks!
- Deep fresh water; Fish, crawfish, frogs, tortoises, frogs, potentially alligators, ducks, freshwater dolphins even!
- Rivers and creeks; Fish, crawfish, frogs, turtles, salamanders, ducks!
What is the Safest Animal to Swim With?
There is never a guarantee of safety with any of our wild or captive-born aquatic friends. We don’t think like them, and we’re not as aware of their triggers. We know so much about them by studying them and researching them, but we can’t possibly account for each and every animals’ separate life experiences and personalities. Some stingrays would love to wiggle under fingertips and get scratches, others would rather never be touched and will attack if something comes to try and give them a rub.
However, that isn’t too say all animals are off limits. There has never been any records of a manatee attacking a human, nor a sea turtle actively pursuing to harm a human. Manatees and Turtles are generally agreed on to be the safest thanks to their docile nature, lack of venom or sharp teeth, and personalities.
What are the Kindest Sea Creatures?
We can’t really ever humanize the animals in the way we’re thinking of. It’s hard to know if a dolphin who drags a drowning fellow to shore believes itself to be kind - but we can appreciate the gesture nonetheless! We have countless stories and videos of dolphins being kind, from returning a dropped iPhone to actually saving children!
We can only best guess that it has to do with the dolphin social structure and pod-family dynamics. Dolphins often work together to hunt, play, and keep sharks away. They’re a species we as humans can understand pretty well. There is a village in Brazil that actively works with dolphins to catch fish! Dolphins will herd the fish into the nets, and the villagers will repay the dolphins with their fair share. Still though, there are tons of reports of dolphin attacks on humans in both captivity and in the wild. So, while we can’t give a definitive answer - it really depends on what you think “kindness” is under the sea.
Who is the Cutest Sea Animal?
A tough question, but one that only you yourself can answer. Popular answers are turtles, dolphins, manatees, pufferfish, seahorses, and more! But hey, you’re talking to a mermaid who thinks sharks have the cutest little dorsal fins and patterns!
Okay, so we know the basics; let’s dive down deep into some specifics for the most common and sought out aquatic creatures!
Did you know that these are the original mermaids? Their tails and movements are attributed for a lot of historic mermaid sightings - including Christopher Columbus’s. Called the cows of the sea, these giants are usually a lot larger than they seem in pictures. On average, a manatee can weigh up to 1,000 pounds! Don’t fret though, remind yourself that these are gentle giants. The top speed they’ve been recorded reaching is about 19 knots. They spend their vegetarian days munching grass and floating in shallow, calm waters. They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes, and unlike turtles will spend lots of time floating and breathing at the surface. Manatees also have very strong maternal bonds, with the baby manatee (called a calf) staying close to mom for up to two years - don’t go anywhere near the calf! There has been no recorded attacks of manatees - they’re lovers, not fighters! However, you don’t want to be the first to break that record, right?
How to swim with one:
Manatees are so gentle and calm, they actually have no natural predators! Because of that, they are super curious - don’t be too surprised if you are approached by one! Remember our golden rule though - let them come to you first! Mermaid Melissa, a popular mermaider, has a video of her swimming with the sea cows; in it you can see that once they get comfortable they just float right next to her. Most of everyone who swims with these gentle giants talk about how kind they are. You can see in Mermaid Melissa’s video how they nudge at her tail, even accept kisses on their little noses! Also note how she doesn’t actively reach for the manatees with her hands or move in front of them. There are many moments where she moves away from the beasts as they turn. Remember, almost 25% of manatee deaths are caused by these slow guys bumping into boats! They could very well accidentally slam into you - and while the shock should be absorbed by the water, these guys weigh a ton and could accidentally injure you!
Last note for our sea cows - every manatee is different. Just because one might nudge all over you and want snuggles, another may be very fearful of you and want to keep distance. Never expect the animal to go out of their comfort zone or way for you! Let them keep their distance, there are great ways to take photos and videos even with them just resting in the background.
Where to swim with Manatees:
In Crystal River, Florida, Manatees flock to avoid the cold winter seas! Manatees stick to warmer waters, Florida is where they’re most common! It’s also legal to approach them here!
The most popular by far, dolphins are great to swim with thanks to their curiosity, attitude, and beauty! They’re super active, and some of the faster swimmers in the seas. There are currently 42 species of dolphins all over the world, and they are the most intelligent species in the water! Dolphins use something called echo-location to find their prey or friends. It’s hard to see in the murk, so they will send out these little clicks and listen to see if it bounces off anything. It’s a little like sonar!
Swimming with Dolphins:
Now, just because dolphins are relatively friendly does not mean you can let your guard down. Wild dolphins shouldn’t be interacted with at all if possible - even if the interaction is a good one! As only half fish, we don’t want to teach our air breathing friends that humans are always to be trusted. A lot of dolphins end up getting hurt by coming too close to a boat or thinking that they can get their food source from us instead of their natural hunting ways. Which reminds me - it’s actually illegal to feed wild dolphins, don’t do it! While most dolphins are friendly, there have been dozens of reports of bites from wild dolphins. Remember, they’re wild animals, not pets. If you’re out in the open ocean, don’t approach. Smile for a photo with them in the background, and if they come to you stay calm and gentle. Don’t actively try to pet them unless they swim right up against you. If you feel like they are getting aggressive - mouths remaining open for extended periods of time, tail slapping, chasing, or display behaviors (known as the S - shape) - get out of the water. The wild dolphins haven’t seen humans before, and they may not know how to react to a human with a tail!
In aquariums, with trained dolphins - it’s a little different. These dolphins have been raised in captivity or are more accustomed to landfolk. There are tons of places you can safely swim with dolphins, such as Dolphin Plus in Key Largo, Florida! But do keep in mind, even trained dolphins can be provoked to attack or get scared. While they might be used to humans, you’re something entirely new! So, the same general rules apply - be gentle and calm, and move slowly. Some dolphins are trained to allow you to hold their fins, or pet them! But always be aware and listen to their nearby trainers or handlers. If you see aggressive behavior, or the handles warn you to move away - you have to listen!
Is Swimming With Dolphins Cruel?
It really depends on where you swim and how you swim with them. Generally, swimming with captive dolphins has been frowned upon by animal rights groups. In the same wavelength as Orcas being unfit for aquarium life, dolphins are seen in much the same way. There are lots of facilities that treat their dolphins poorly - feeding them too little fish, overworking dolphins with too many human interactions, and training the dolphins to push humans out of the water all for tricks and to attract visitors without any thought for the dolphins well being. So, if possible, avoid places like SeaWorld or MarineLand. Do your research and do not be afraid to demand change!
Where to swim with Dolphins:
Dolphins practically own the seas, they’re known to travel everywhere! A great spot is in Hawaii, where Spinner dolphins are super common! Off the island of Honolulu, there are awesome scuba and snorkeling adventures - like Roberta Goodman’s company! The Bahamas are also an amazing place for some cool dolphin encounters! You can encounter bottlenose dolphins, the most common and usually most sought after there!
Turtles are some of the most mythical creatures in the swim - there are hundreds of legends and myths of turtles carrying the entire world on their back! There are currently seven kinds of sea turtles swimming in our oceans. Unfortunately, all of them are endangered due to pollution and habitat destruction. That being said, there’s hope! We as mermaids can play our part to dance with these beautiful creatures while promoting their safety and conservation! It’s important to know that in most parts of the world, including Hawaii, it’s illegal to even get within ten feet of a turtle! Turtles aren’t really known to particularly care or mind other divers or scuba divers. Keep in mind the distance rule, and who knows? Maybe you’ll have a turtle that’ll be more than happy to swim with you!
Swimming with Sea Turtles;
In the wild, turtles are pretty shy. They’re not very likely to swim up to you and play around like our stingrays or dolphins. But we wouldn’t have them any other way! Turtles have a beautiful serenity through their every movement, and we want to be able to mimic that same grace! There aren’t any records of wild sea turtle attacks; however in freshwater, snapping turtles have been known to take off fingers and toes - so always be aware! If you see a turtle while diving through the reefs, try and watch from afar - pose and smile wide for your friend! Sometimes, in the wild a turtle might approach past you to take a breath - just let it be. Our biggest rule with turtles is to not approach them unless they come to you. We don’t want to break any human laws!
In aquariums, you’re more likely to be swimming with tortoises than actual sea turtles. Out of the seven species, only loggerheads really thrive in tanks. No worries though, tortoises possess just as much grace as our migratory friends. The big difference between a tortoise and a turtle is their legs - sea turtles have paddle shaped fins, while Tortoises actually have claws and toes to climb out of the water! Like wild sea turtles, tortoises are quiet and shy. However, if you’re swimming in an aquarium that houses mermaids often, they probably won’t go out of their way to avoid you. Tortoises can bite, and can accidentally scratch your skin while swimming, so keep your eyes open as always!
Where to Swim with Turtles:
Turtles are migratory, and they can be found in all parts of our huge oceans! Some of the best spots to dive and adventure with the turtles are Maui, Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, and even the Great Barrier Reef in Australia!
5. Manta and Sting Rays:
Some of the most gorgeous creatures in the sea, the rays are known for how they look as if they’re flying through the water. There’s a big difference between manta and sting rays - though most people don’t know! The biggest is that a manta ray does not have a venomous barb on the end of their tail like stingrays. Another difference is size - manta rays can easily stretch over 20 feet from wing to wing! Stingrays are much smaller, and are bottom feeders! They use their lighter color to blend into the sand. Meanwhile Manta Rays spend their days flying through the open oceans. A Manta Ray also has a mouth positioned to the front of their head, while stingrays have there's at the bottom of their heads.
Swimming with rays:
In the wild, you may encounter a giant manta ray gliding by. Always remembering our golden rules - don’t approach, let it come to you if it wants to. Manta Rays are not known to be violent, and they are in general just carefree filter feeders. You may see a manta ray open it’s huge gaping maw - but don’t panic! It’s not going to come near you. They are actually known to be pretty curious! The most danger that a manta ray will pose for you is it’s size - you may get smacked with one of those giant wings! But it wouldn’t try to harm you unless truly cornered - and in the open ocean, there’s no such thing! Be as gentle as you can with these beautiful beasts, and enjoy the experience!
Wild Stingrays pose the most danger for those with feet, as stepping on their camouflage selves in the water happens often. We don’t have feet as mermaids, however, so that won’t be a problem. What you want to watch out for is if the stingray is feeling threatened. So if it is pushed into the ground, or shoved, or just hit. Their venomous tails are very flexible and can whip up over their heads! Always watch their stingers when swimming with them. However, their natures are very calm and curious! They have been known to even play with scuba divers! Never force a ray into a position it doesn’t want to be, but enjoy the experience if it does choose to hang out with you!
In tanks, you’re only likely to be swimming with stingrays. As in the wild, they are not violent or aggressive, and spend most of their days swimming alongside the bottoms and sides of the walls. A stingray may shimmy up the wall while you’re pressed against it, just let it pass! We’ve all seen how these bottom feeders love to smile for the camera - don’t fight for the spotlight!
Where to swim with Manta & Sting Rays:
Manta Rays are best found just off the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia! The coast is beautiful, and the manta rays spend their days visiting the 150 mile long ecosystem.
In any body of water, there are fish. Whether you’re flipping your fins in the wild sea, or simply sitting in a small creek! If it is any sort of open water way or tank, you will have some other scaly friends with you! It can be pretty hard to have some fish work with you - as you probably know, fish will flee at the first sign of any kind of “new”. Everything is scary to them!
Swimming with fish:
In the wild, you can encounter all kinds of different species. Sometimes, when around reefs or other highly populated ecosystems, you can blend in by following the golden rules - be slow and gentle! Some fish are toxic, like the Lionfish, or Stonefish! It’s important to know where you are and what kind of fish you can expect. In the open ocean, you’re more likely to see flying fish or pods of fish! Most venomous fish rest towards the bottom of the sea, or near the shallows. If near any reefs or shallows and you see a fish you don’t recognize, stay away from it! Better safe than sorry.
Most venomous fish have certain traits you can look out for. They can have barbs, bright spots, or are barely visible in the sand. In sand, look for any abnormalities - a sandy floor with little tiny waves of mountains across it, see any flat or big wide spaces where it's been disturbed? Know where you’re swimming! Even pufferfish can be venomous to touch. Stay clear and away anytime you’re unsure of the species of any animal, fish especially!
Where to swim with Fish:
In every body of water, there will be fish! If you’re looking for the bright and colorful, try swimming at some coral reefs! If you want a subtle, gentle design, take a plunge into a fresh water lake. If there’s a body of water, there’s a fish not too far from it.
Whales are the biggest animals in the world. They’re relics from the time of the dinosaurs, when the oceans’ creatures were all humongous! You can hear a whale coming from miles away - their beautiful songs pierce through the ocean better than our own voices could ever! Usually, wild whales are shy or curious. Human relationships with whales have been tumultuous. Due to whaling practices nearly driving them to extinction, some of our whales still don’t trust the sight of boats or humans - which we as mermaids must respect. You’d be hard pressed to find a whale in an aquarium or any sort of controlled environment - which is exactly how we like it! These are creatures happy to roam free and away from humans for their long lives!
Swimming with whales:
The biggest danger with whales is their size. It’s almost their size alone that makes them nearly impossible to keep up with, and their tail strokes can send huge waves at you! Not to mention, whales during mating season can be violent towards each other, and you do not want to be caught in the crossfire!
As with all sea life, our golden rule stands. Don’t approach, let them come to you if they so choose. Whales are so much larger than life, that it can be intimidating to be near one. If you truly feel unsafe, don’t risk anything for the photo - go back on the boat! It takes a tremendous amount of strength to just keep up being near these wonders, respect their space and be mindful! This is the prime time to utilize a water scooter - as they’ll help you keep up with these gorgeous animals!
Where to swim with whales:
Whales can be found all across our ocean, but a great experience has been reported off the island of Tonga, in the islands of Fiji! Sperm whales specifically have a colony living off the island of the Dominica, in the Caribbean! There’s plenty of scuba diving companies that can take you out to watch the beautiful and huge whales emerge from their deep drop offs!
Ah, the great misunderstood predator of the sea. Sharks have been around for millions of years! The most infamous shark is the Great White. It’s massive jaws and nasty bites make it the perfect horror movie star. But in the mermaid realm? Sharks are our friends, often seen swimming alongside us in our tanks and bottom feeding while we frolic just above. Now, this isn’t to say they aren’t dangerous animals - in fact, sharks can and will give us a “test bite” - where a shark will use the only tool they have available to sense what or who we are - their mouths! This is how most shark attacks happen - they’re test bites! A quick, sharp bite to investigate can easily take off a limb or leave some real serious damage.
Swimming with Sharks:
So, in the wild we see certain sharks we wouldn’t normally see in aquariums. Great Whites can’t survive in captivity! It’s important to know your shark - a lemon shark isn’t likely to attack you without just cause, while a tiger shark can be more violent. Unlike aquariums, it’s impossible to know when a shark has just eaten - which can have a big impact on if that bull shark wants to take a bite of your scales! It’s also important to note the kind of tail you’re wearing. A flashy, more fish-like tail is unfortunately more likely to attract a hungry predator. That being said, Hannah Mermaid, a professional mermaid, has gone out of her way to perform with wild sharks to prove that they aren’t the horror movie villains they’re portrayed to be! Great White, bulls, you name it! A huge helping reminder is to keep your heartbeat as slow as you can. Sharks are incredible, and can pick up the sound of a rapid heartbeat to help identify an easy prey animal through the water. If you remain calm, they’re more likely to leave you alone as you aren’t signaling “I’m a prey species!” In the worst case scenario - if a hammerhead, bull, tiger, or even great white is lunging for you, grab it by the nose. Shark noses are super receptive, and they’ll jerk away fast if you give them a hard tap! Also be aware of any feeding frenzy, or sharks getting frustrated. If you start to feel nervous, calmly remove yourself from the water. When swimming in the open ocean, never swim alone! Have a team with you - someone to spot for sharks, someone to swim down with you, and a radio or phone on standby, always!
In aquariums, it’s slightly different. You will have plenty of people watching you, and most aquariums will not let you into a shark tank until the sharks have been fed. A hungry shark has no reason to go after any fish or mermaid! That being said, never provoke or scare a shark into attacking. Most sharks in tanks have been fed and watched, but you are still potentially swimming with bulls or tigers. And even in a world where they don’t compete, instinct may instruct the sharks. Listen to the handlers, and keep your eyes on your friends!
Where to Swim with Sharks:
Sharks own the sea, just as our friends the dolphins do! A great place is off the island of Fiji, with the Beqa Adventure Divers! Scuba diving legend Ron Taylor highly endorses the place!
Fraser, Hannah. Hannah Mermaid Swims with Sharks at Shipwreck,
In the water, we can’t always control our animal friends. In aquariums, accidents can happen! Always remember our golden rules, and enjoy the experiences! Always call ahead with any diving spots or tours to make sure they’re okay to let you swim in your tails! Have fun, and be safe, mermaids!
Manatee Factsheet - Dolphins.org, the Dolphin Research Center. https://dolphins.org/manatee_factsheet
Mermaid Melissa and the Loving Manatees, posted January 8th, 2016. Mermaid Melissa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoDJkljTuFw
Facts About Dolphins, https://us.whales.org/whales-dolphins/facts-about-dolphins/ U.S. Whales Org
Noaa Fisheries, Protect Wild Dolphins; Admire them From A Distance, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-viewing-guidelines/protect-wild-dolphins-admire-them-distance#:~:text=Dolphins%20have%20a%20reputation%20for,for%20vandalism%20and%20shark%20attack.
All About Mantas, Manta Pacific Research Foundation, https://www.mantapacific.org/all-about-mantas
Britannica, Stingray, https://www.britannica.com/animal/stingray
Xplore Our Planet, Is it Safe to Swim With Manta Rays? https://xploreourplanet.com/sea/is-it-safe-to-swim-with-manta-ray#:~:text=Manta%20rays%20pose%20no%20danger,the%20surface%20of%20the%20water.
Britannica, 10 of the WOrld's Most Dangerous Fish, https://www.britannica.com/list/10-of-the-worlds-most-dangerous-fish
SEE turtles, five facts about sea turtles: https://www.seeturtles.org/sea-turtle-facts
Are Whales Friendly to Humans? https://www.whalefacts.org/are-whales-friendly/
Essapian, F. (1962). Notes on the Behavior of Sharks in Captivity. Copeia, https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.914.4281&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Rogers, Mike. SharkSider. Lemon Sharks, https://www.sharksider.com/lemon-shark/