Do's and Don'ts When Swimming with Dolphins

December 15th 2022
Dan Woods
Do's and Don'ts When Swimming with Dolphins

If you’re looking to shake things up on your next trip to the beach, we have a great idea that is sure to get the whole family excited! We will give you a hint... it involves swimming with dolphins! You heard it here first, folks! Flipper and friends are coming to a beach near you! Seriously! And it’s one of the best things to do in Panama City Beach, FL.

Before you rush out to the wake to meet your new dolphin friends, however, there are a few things you ought to know. At the end of the day, dolphins are wild animals and you are guests on their turf. So, do yourself a favor and take a gander at our Do’s and Don’ts When Swimming with Dolphins to ensure a safe, and enjoyable occasion for yourself and those around you.

Table of Contents

  • What to Do when Swimming with Dolphins
    • Go Where the Dolphins are
    • Bring a Camera
    • Listen to the Expert Guides
    • Be Patient and Have Fun
  • What Not to Do when Swimming with Dolphins
    • Go Out Too Deep
    • Feed the Dolphins
    • Grab the Dolphins
    • Be Afraid
  • Best Dolphin Tours in Panama City Beach
    • Swimming With Dolphins at Shell Island
    • Small Group Dolphin and Snorkel Tour
    • Shell Island Eco Sea-fari Tour & Dolphin Encounter
    • Dolphin and Snorkel Excursion Aboard the Sea Screamer 2
    • Shell Island Dolphin Tour on Waverunners



What to Do when Swimming with Dolphins


When it comes to seeing and swimming with dolphins in destinations like Panama City Beach, it’s hard to resist the urge to just dive in when you see these majestic creatures swimming by your boat. While dolphins love the company, there are a few things to keep in mind that will make this experience fun and safe for both you and the dolphins. With that being said, below are a few do’s and don’ts when swimming with dolphins!

Go Where the Dolphins are


shell island panama city beach fl

Image of Shell Island by Jerry Bedwell via Flickr


Dolphins typically congregate in near-shore locations along the coastline. In Panama City Beach, Shell Island is a great spot to encounter wild dolphin pods.

Shell Island is 7 miles of incredible beach bliss located across the water from Saint Andrew’s Park. This natural wonder is one of your best bets for finding and swimming with dolphins in Panama City Beach. In addition to being a dolphin congregation hotspot, you can also:

  • Find sea shells (it’s right there in the name)
  • Take a hike
  • Have a family picnic in the sand (minus the buzz of the congested beaches on land)

Better yet, book a Shell Island tour or shuttle and easily get your family from point A to point B in no time!

{Read Reviews & Book Shell Island Tours Online}

Bring a Camera


waterproof camera for swimming with dolphins

Bring a waterproof camera and take the selfie of a lifetime with Flipper when swimming with dolphins


Swimming with the dolphins is a can’t-miss event, and no matter how many times you do it, it will still give you goosebumps (Do dolphins get goosebumps? Would they be called dolphin bumps?). As such, be sure that you, your friends, or family members bring a waterproof camera to capture the magic, and maybe even share some snaps with us on Facebook! We look forward to seeing your best shots!

Listen to the Expert Guides


Dolphins at Gulf World Marine Park Do's and Don'ts When Swimming with Dolphins

Listening to the guides can increase your safety and enhance your experience when swimming with dolphins. Image courtesy of Gulf World Marine Park Facebook page.


When it comes to do’s and don’ts when swimming with dolphins in an enclosed space, one of the best things to do is listen to the expert guide. They know all about these magnificent creatures and are ready to provide useful tips and advice while you’re in the water.

Be Patient and Have Fun


swimming with dolphins in panama city beach

Pictured above is a girl swimming with dolphins with Water Planet in Panama City Beach


As part of the do’s and don’ts when swimming with dolphins, savor your time out in the surf while you are waiting for the dolphins to show. Dolphins or not, a gathering of family and friends ought to be a good time. Enjoy some sand dollar exploration or throw the frisbee while you wait, because it probably won’t be too long! In fact, the success rate for professionally-led dolphin tours in Panama City is above 90 percent. So hang tight, relax, and definitely don’t forget the sunblock!


What Not to Do when Swimming with Dolphins


Before you jump in with the camera or GoPro in hand, there are still just a few more pieces of information to consider before swimming off into the sunset with Flipper. Equally as significant, keep reading for important things to NOT do when swimming with dolphins.

Go Out Too Deep


rip current panama city beach fl

Rip currents are just one of the dangers of swimming out too deep. Know what to do if you encounter a rip current and be prepared


Swimming in the surf and battling the tides can be a ton of fun, but it does not come without risk. If you plan on traveling out into the wake to swim with dolphins, be sure to bring a friend and a life vest, no matter what.

Also, be mindful of weather and tide conditions. Look to lifeguards and beach warning flags for guidance. For example, a red flag on the beach means that the surf is abnormally high, there are strong undercurrents, or both. For sure, a dangerous tide can turn your dream of swimming with dolphins into a nightmare.

Feed the Dolphins


feeding the dolphins in PCB

Feeding wild dolphins can be dangerous for dolphins and humans alike


There are plenty of fish in the sea, and that means dolphins don’t need any human food to make ends meet. In fact, your average adult dolphin can eat anywhere between 15 and 30 pounds of crustaceans, fish, and squid per day.

Using food to bait and interact with the dolphins can also lead to aggressive behavior, accidental biting, and other unwelcome guests like sharks, so do everyone a favor and keep your chum to yourself!

Grab the Dolphins


swimming with dolphins

Unless following instructions by a trainer with a trained dolphin, it’s always best to let the dolphins approach you


If you are lucky enough to be within arm’s reach of a dolphin, it is best not to make any sudden aggressive movements such as grabbing, prodding, or pulling. If you’ve ever been to a marine park or aquarium that is home to dolphins, the biologists there will tell you that dolphins will greet and meet with you on their own terms.

Give them plenty of space to swim and jump around you. Like when you meet a new dog or cat, hold out your hand and allow them to brush into it if they so choose. Aggressive behavior will cause the dolphins to flee and you will ruin the fun for everyone! Don’t be that guy or girl!

Be Afraid


dolphin swimming in panama city beach fl

Dolphins are sociable and should not be feared.


Dolphins are one of the friendliest marine species, and despite those warnings from our previous talking points, you really have nothing to fear! Swimming with dolphins is something that thousands of folks enjoy every year.

One of the smartest and most sociable species on the planet, dolphins are actually quite used to human interaction, and plenty of them really enjoy it! So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start swimming with the dolphins!


Best Dolphin Tours in Panama City Beach


Now that you’re ready to go swimming with dolphins, all that’s left to do is decide how you’d like to do so. Dozens of exciting tours and excursions have been created out of our love and fascination with these intelligent sea mammals. The most popular being activities even put participants face-to-face with the lovable aquatic creature! Read below to discover the best dolphin tours in Panama City Beach!

Swimming With Dolphins at Shell Island


swimming with dolphins at shell island

It’s easy to spot dolphins on Shell Island.


Panama City Beach is one of the best places to swim with dolphins and dolphin encounters are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let Water Planet watersports company connect you with Shell Island’s famous Bottlenose Dolphins! An experienced crew will instruct passengers on the best procedures during the Swimming with Dolphins Shell Island tour, and accompany them during several live swim-ins with wild dolphin pods! Shell Island Dolphin Swims with Water Planet are available all spring and summer long, and depart daily.

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Shell Island Dolphin Swim Tour With Water Planet USA Online}

Small Group Dolphin and Snorkel Tour


small group dolphin and snorkel tour

According to a recent Traveler Story, a small group dolphin and snorkel tour is an intimate and amazing experience


Looking to snorkel and search for dolphins, but don’t have the budget for a high-end dolphin encounter? Try a Small Group Dolphin and Snorkel Tour in Panama City Beach! Take up to 6 people aboard this 2-hour guided cruise around Shell Island, taking breaks to cool off and search for marine life in the shallow coastal waters.

Although this tour doesn’t offer specific swims with wild dolphins, the captain and crew make sure to cruise among dolphin pods around Shell Island. This tour departs 4 times a day and offers free snorkel gear.

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Small Group Dolphin & Snorkel Tours Online}

Shell Island Eco Sea-fari Tour & Dolphin Encounter


captain anderson III in panama city beach

Pictured above is a group heading to Shell Island for an Eco Sea-fari tour and dolphin encounter aboard the Captain Anderson III


A perfect kid-friendly wildlife experience, see the beautiful sights of Shell Island and search for wild dolphins in the emerald green Panama City Beach waters aboard the Captain Anderson III. After cruising the coast, depart at a secluded beach and wade in the water for sea shells and marine critters, or post-up in the sand for a private beach experience.

The friendly captain provides expert narration, and the comfortable Captain Anderson III vessel is perfect for lounging and relaxing! The tour lasts an impressive 3.5 hours, and with prices starting from around $10, this Panama City Beach dolphin cruise is do-able on any vacation budget.

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Shell Island Eco Sea-Fari Tour & Dolphin Encounter Online}

Dolphin and Snorkel Excursion Aboard the Sea Screamer 2


snorkeling on the sea screamer 2

Snorkeling the beautiful waters of Panama City Beach will not only reveal dolphins, but also sand dollars, hermit crabs, shells, and more


All aboard the Sea Screamer 2, home to one of the best dolphin and snorkel excursion tours you will find anywhere on the Gulf Coast! Big, beautiful boat? Check. Snorkel gear and instructions? Check. A must-do item while you’re visiting Panama City Beach, pop on by to meet the crew, and get ready to rock and roll with dolphins, sea birds, and other amazing marine wildlife!

Shell Island Dolphin Tour on Waverunners


Shell Island Dolphin Tour on Waverunners Do's and Don'ts When Swimming with Dolphins

Dolphin tours on waverunners are a great way to get the adrenaline pumping


Zip and whip through the waves on a waverunner on your way over to Shell Island to swim with the dolphins! Get off and enjoy the sands and water of St. Andrews Bay while you wait for Flipper and his mates. This 2-hour tour is a great idea for couples or adventure seekers looking to spice up your relaxing trip to Panama City Beach, FL!

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Shell Island Dolphin Tours on Waverunners Online}



It’s important to know when to take a dolphin cruise for the best chances of spotting dolphins. Check out our latest article detailing when you should go on a Dolphin Cruise.

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