Few things compare to the thrill of sighting a pod of wild dolphins during an open water dive, and the desire for this singular experience often leads to an interest in SCUBA diving in general. Beginner and experienced divers alike will be happy to learn of the many options in the US offering the opportunity to view or dive with wild dolphins.
Divers should always keep in mind that dolphins and other marine life should be treated with respect, and the US Marine Mammal Protection Act was established with this in mind. The NOAA provides guidelines that local and national organizations strictly adhere to. For example, a dive with wild dolphins may involve only viewing them from a specific distance to ensure that their natural behaviors are not disrupted. It is vital to know the local laws as well as the reputation of the company you will be working with before embarking on your trip.
Hawaii is the most common US destination for dolphin-seeking divers. Not only is the likelihood of sighting wild dolphins very high, but Hawaii is also a great destination for all kinds of ocean vacations. Bottlenose and spinner dolphins are the most common species in Hawaii, but divers may also see the spotted or rough-toothed species, and many companies offer guaranteed encounters through cruises or private dives.
Florida is next on the list for wild dolphin encounters in the US Most of these occur in the Keys with Key West being a primary destination. Divers and snorkelers will most likely see bottlenose and spotted dolphins, however, the common dolphins, with their colorful, criss-cross patterns are also frequent visitors to these waters. Cruises and solo dives are available in most venues with a quick half hour flight to Jamaica as an added bonus.
Alabama Gulf Coast
Finally, Orange Beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast is a frequent spot for divers to view wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Many established spotted dolphin pods call this beach home with local companies commonly leading viewing and snorkeling tours.