Would you love to swim with dolphins? What about whale sharks? Or do you prefer floating around sea turtles in the cristal clear waters of the Caribbean?
If you are thinking of doing an activity to interact with these animals, there is something you should know: if you really want to contribute to their conservation and well-being, we recommend you to always do a little research on the tourism company you are thinking of using. Let us give you some examples.
Swimming with dolphins in captivity
Captive dolphins are confined to a tank where they can barely move and only swim in circles, whereas in freedom they are used to travel more than 40 miles a day and dive more than 1600 feet. Moreover, captive dolphins have a life expectancy of 20 years instead of the 50 - 60 years they can live in freedom. This is due chlorine and other chemicals of the tank (which makes them blind and get unusual skin diseases), the ingestion of foreign bodies or even suffocation.
At Totonal, we do not support tourist attractions that involved wild animals in captivity, such as swimming with dolphins in a tank.
Swimming with dolphins in freedom
The accumulation of boats jam-packed with tourists around dolphins swimming in the ocean, causes the animal's stress level to rise. The dolphins then become more disoriented, even causing accidents with the boat. Watch this video to find out more:
We have to remember that we are talking about wild animals in their natural habitat. They are not used to humans and contrary to what many marketing campaigns promise, very rarely will a tourist have a sea-swimming experience with a dolphin. Nevertheless, we believe it is always more exciting to watch dolphins freely playing and dancing from the boat at a safe distance, than to try to approach them incessantly without achieving the desired interaction.
This is the reason why, we recommend you to always choose a company with sustainability values, that cares about animal welfare and that guarantees a standard minimum distance with the animals.
Swimming with whale sharks
Mexico is one of the only countries in the world where it is still allowed to swim with whale sharks. This activity attracts over 14,000 tourists from around the world to beaches in the Riviera Maya, and it is estimated to grow 7% per year. The massification of this uncontrolled activity, and the ignorance of the impacts of the human interaction with this emblematic animal, is generating a very sharp decrease of whale shark to the Mexican coasts. In 2015 for example, we did not get to see them well into the season.
Due to the impacts on conservation and whale sharks' welfare, if you decide to do this activity, we recommend you to again, do a little research on the different companies that offer them in Riviera Maya. At Totonal, for the moment we do not offer this activity, although we might be able to do so in the near future!
Swimming with sea turtles in Akumal
Up to three times has closed Akumal in recent years to stop tourists swimming with sea turtles. This is a drastic measure that also took place in February 2017.
It has been estimated that up to 14,000 people swim in the ecosystems where sea turtles live each month in Riviera Maya. As in the previous activity with whale sharks, swimming with sea turtles is suffering from uncontrolled turist massification. This not only has a direct impact on the animal's welfare, but also on its immediate ecosystem: swimmers generate waste, alter the coral communities and trample the seagrass.
The idea of being able to interact with these incredible animals during our holidays is very exciting. But if we do not take measures to regulate such activities in a responsible manner, these magnificent animals may move away from our coasts forever.
As consumers we have the power to demand responsibility from suppliers, so we dearly encourage you to make any questions to the different companies that offer them. Always look out for their commitment towards conservation and sustainability!
If you have identified a company that performs this type of activities in a responsible way and in favor of conservation, do not hesitate to leave us the link in the comment box. This way we will be able to help other travelers who wish to leave a positive impact during their trip in México.