Bahamas: Diving With Dolphins

If you have a limited amount of vacation time and were looking for a truly unique underwater experience, head straight for the Bahamas. There, in the waters off Grand Bahama Island, divers can experience the special thrill of open-ocean diving with dolphins.
The Bahamas' leading dive-with-dolphins program is offered by the Underwater Explorer's Society (UNEXSO) based in Freeport. Since 1979, UNEXSO has offered a two-part program utilizing dolphins captured from nearby waters. In the trainer assistant program both divers and non-divers can interact with dolphins in saltwater pens maintained at the UNEXSO Freeport dive center.
Much more exciting, than this training program however, are the open-ocean dives. After being released into the ocean, UNEXSO's dolphins rendezvous with the dive boats a mile offshore. Under the supervision of the dolphin handlers, a maximum of 12 divers interact with the animals—feeding them, and swimming alongside them for short distances. It is all fairly businesslike (the dolphins perform their duties in response to hand signals), but it is still the experience of a lifetime for most divers. UNEXSO has been criticized for keeping dolphins in captivity, but it is to be remembered that once the dolphins are released into the sea, nothing compels them to return.
If UNEXSO's program seems too artificial, it is also possible to dive with wild dolphins off Grand Bahama, although contact with the creatures is not such a sure thing. Most of the live-aboard programs out of the Bahamas schedule regular five- to 10-day trips to the shallow turquoise banks north of Grand Bahama—the favored playground of schools of wild spotted dolphins. On a good day, dolphins surround the boat by the time the anchor is secure. Familiar with the operation, the wild mammals circle around the dive ladders, and often swim close to the divers during the entire session.
Practically Speaking
UNEXSO's program costs roughly $150 for the ocean dive including all equipment. The service operates year-round, on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday. They are based out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Published: 8 Jul 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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