5 Amazing Underwater Encounters

beluga whales

Every time I have an underwater encounter, it’s a magical experience. It’s essentially diving into a different world filled with incredible sights and animals. I’m scared; no that’s an understatement. I’m petrified. I know so little about the dangers and beauties of the ocean. Although it has always been a huge part of my life, I fear what could kill me, bite me, or I guess even swim near me. Not all fears are rational, but that doesn’t make them go away. It’s this feeling of uncertainty and discovery that draws me back time and time again to the ocean. Over the last two years, I’ve had five remarkable underwater encounters including swimming with schools of fish, dolphins, beluga whales, whale sharks, and manta rays. Each encounter was uniquely amazing and life-changing. Each encounter has given me a new perspective and encouragement to continue learning about the magical world underwater.

Encounter Number One: Snorkeling with large schools of fish in Hawaii

Hula Kai Adventures

Encounter Number Two: Swimming with dolphins in Hawaii 

Dolphin Quest, Waikoloa

Encounter Number Three: Swimming with beluga whales at Sea World

Beluga Whale Interaction San Diego Sea World

Encounter Number Four: Swimming with whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium

Whale Sharks Georgia Aquarium

Encounter Number Five: Night snorkeling with manta rays in Hawaii 

Manta-Ray-Night-Dive---Hula-Kai

I still haven’t gone open-water diving with sharks, cage diving with sharks, or snorkeling/diving at the Great Barrier Reef – all are on the list though. What other underwater encounters should top the list? Which ones top yours?

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70 thoughts on “5 Amazing Underwater Encounters

      • hi Leslie, great post above, and thanks so much for your visits too, and your support, it is very much appreciated 🙂

        Just a tiny word of caution about the above topic, about cage diving with sharks, I mean. I’m no expert, but I believe some of the experts say it can be disruptive to the animals behavior and so on. What i do know is that in some countries, (including near where i was diving in Mozambique a few years back) the activity is totally unregulated, so the boat operators are putting the “chump” (the fish and blood bait- to attract the sharks) not miles out to sea, like they should, but in waters just a few hundred yards from the little beaches and coves, . I’m sure you can appreciate how crazy and irresponsible that is, and what it could mean for locals, swimmers and artisan fishermen etc!

        Sorry, didn’t want to be a bore about it. but i know you always advocate ethical travel, so thought you’d prefer to know. It’s definitely worth doing a bit of research, and going on the discussion ‘boards” before booking activities like that, to choose a responsible operator.

        Great to see your blog thriving, very well deserved!
        Thanks again for your visits.
        very best regards and respects-
        -Arran.

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  1. In Nova Scotia, I was so excited to go whale watching. It has always been my dream to be as close as possible to a humpback. As with all of these tours, you can never predict what you will see and unfortunately we did not meet the humpback. My disappointment was soon forgotten when we were surrounded by pilot whales in our Zodiac. It was truly amazing to be so close you could (not recommended) reach out and touch them. Great post. 🙂

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    • A Zodiac is an amazing way to experience marine life, isn’t it? You’re so much closer than most boats. I read that you’re a Canadian, but which province are you from? I’m a Nova Scotian 🙂

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          • I have, but not in my adult life! I know that I would appreciate so much more of it now. My son is actually in northern Alberta working on an organic farm right now, so it’s interesting to hear about the scenery. My bucket list covers every province and I would love to visit Newfoundland too! 🙂

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      • Sure, I was a little nervous for the scuba diving, but my wife and I had a “guide” who prepared us well and never let us more than an arm’s reach away, so that was reassuring. Otherwise, diving 12m under the sea for the first time can be a bit scary! And YES, for sure we’ll do it again! Hopefully soon we’ll be certified (while on a trip to Thailand).

        Thank you! No, I am without Instagram right now, but soon I should hop on!

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  2. How exciting! I have to say I have not had the bravery to do something like this, but these images take me there. It’s as if your audience gets to experience the excitement with you. Thank you for sharing with us non-sea-risk-takers.

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      • I believe it will. I actually had a chance to explore marine life in Australia, but an unexpected event happened (pregnancy). Now I’m waiting for the right time. As for now, I’ll have to live vicariously through people like you :).

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  3. Great list but noticed that many of these are not in the wild – definitely go scuba-ing on the reef at some point, it’s beautiful there. I’ve gone diving with reef sharks, snorkelled with sea turtles with whales singing in the background, played with seals and dived a wreck filled with a giant ball of baitfish – there’s no comparison!

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    • Most of the time, she comes with me/us. We swam with the dolphins together in Curacao. During our Hawaii vacation, our daughter stayed with her grandmother. It was an excellent bonding experience for them and our first vacation alone together since she was born. We want her to grow up in a world where she sees that she can achieve anything and everything. We’ll do it together 🙂

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  4. Whale shark in Egypt, Manta rays in the Maldives, sharks in Borneo, I have been diving for 20 ish years now but the things that really get my imagination are all the little crabs,shrimps & other assorted critters. While i’m not a fan of keeping captive whale sharks, belugas,orcas etc they are certainly crowd favourites and if people come away interested then maybe they do some good and people will try to go and see them in their natural habitat

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  5. We loved our experience of swimming with Dolphins in the Florida Keys.. next month we’ll hopefully get to swim with them in the wild on our trip to Exuma. We’re also planning on swimming with sharks and pigs – of all things!

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  6. I think the Beluga Whale experience must have been amazing and a real treat for you. Your experiences with our oceans have been amazing. Keep dreaming up new things!
    Being in, on and and under the water is something I love. When my children were little (my daughter was about 8, we spent some time in Tenerife and popped along to the water park to watch the dolphin show. My daughter at this age was tiny in build and stature. Also very shy and didn’t really like to leave my side. The Dolphin Trainer in the pool with two of the dolphins asked her to come in the pool and she didn’t hesitate. It enabled her to swim and perform with the dolphins. Even being pushed up out of the water as they stood on their tail tips. I was a very proud mummy. She had a second opportunity in Singapore with pink dolphins but because it was her brothers birthday, she passed it over and gave it to him. Many Happy memories come from the undersea world in our family. Thanks for the memory jog 🙂

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  7. Wow! All of these are soooooooo cool. I would love to do all of them. BELUGAS? I am speechless. I have only been whale watching 🙂 And I have petted dolphins and rays and mini sharks. And once in my dreams I swam with ORCAS AND WHALES. 🙂 Which one was your favorite?

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    • The manta ray experience was by far my favorite. I prefer the “wild”, natural environment adventures. I don’t love the idea of captive animals. I wonder if they are happy, unhappy, “trapped”, or at home. It is a dilemma that I struggle with.

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  8. Hi Lesley. Your photos are so pretty! Lovely dolphins!

    My daughter just arrived from a trip to Coron in Palawan with a bunch of friends. Some of them went scuba diving in Coron and said that it was just amazing! The rest of them went snorkeling. I’m sure you’d have fun there. It’s not so exploited yet by tourism. Good time to go! It’s that elongated island in the Philippines.

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  9. My husband and I do quite a bit of adventure travel (80 countries), including scuba and snorkeling when ever and where ever we can. Your encounters and photos are really great, and we enjoy following your adventures! I would highly recommend great white shark cage diving in Gannsbaai, South Africa – truly awesome! We were surrounded by 18 footers only 2 feet from us! Adrenaline big time! Also, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. We were swimming with 3 females and one of them swam down to pick up a sand dollar with her mouth. She brought it to us and tossed it in front of us. As it slowly started to sink, my husband grabbed it and threw it (above water) about 20 feet away. Like a dog, she “fetched” it and brought it back for many repeat throws and retrievals! We then started doing some barrel rolls and somersaults, which the threesome copied! It was magical! I’ve wanted to blog about our adventures, but I’m recovering from a bone marrow transplant (that’s put a real damper on our travel), and I’m busy with my blog which puts a humorous spin on my health ordeal 🙂 http://www.joselynsbrawlwithshulmanssyndrome.wordpress.com Maybe once I’m fully recovered and we get back on the adventure travel train!

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  10. Pingback: 5 Amazing Underwater Encounters | Perfume Chowk

  11. Looks really fun! Definitely try to take a SCUBA or PADI lesson in the open water sometime. Other great locations are definitely New Zealand, Fiji, and Thailand. Thailand is really great because you can be in the water one day and then get to ride an elephant the next day. Totally different but very worth it if you get a chance.

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  12. Swimming with whale sharks must have been incredible – they’re such large and majestic creatures! As for me, it’s between diving with seals and cage diving for completely different reasons. Diving with seals was exciting but also relaxing, although it shouldn’t have been since seals are sharks preferred meal – the place even closed down the next month because of Great White sightings! Cage diving is exciting for a completely different reason. The power of the sharks is on full display and with one swipe of their tail they can go from casually drifting by the bait to attack mode in an instant. If I had to pick one as a must do though, I would say cage diving.

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  13. Those are some great pictures especially with the Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. Snorkeling is great fun and it is very relaxing. I find myself forgetting about the rest of the world and enjoying the beauty below me. I did some night snorkeling this year in Jamaica, it is quite a different experience.

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  14. Beautiful pictures! I’ve swum with dolphins in an aquarium, but something about wild animals NOT in the wild makes me sad. And while I’d love to be able to do some of this stuff, my (very rational) fear of open water is too great to override.
    Having said that, one of the greatest things I experienced was going on a whale shark swim off the coast of Mexico, except I stayed in the boat, and we had the privilege of two Manta Rays joining the swim! Such beautiful creatures 🙂

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  15. All of those experiences must have been truly wonderful.
    What gives me the biggest thrills are encounters with wild creatures on land or in the sea which are not part of an ‘organised’ experience, like snorkelling with sharks off Bazaruto Island near Mozambique..

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  16. Me and my husband went scuba diving in the red sea while on our honeymoon and it was just amazing, it literally is a whole other world down there! Ever since that we’ve both been dying to scuba dive again, so i’d be happy if that was the only activity from my bucket list that ever got checked!

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  17. You have had so many amazing adventures. I sincerely hope that in the future, you will consider keeping your sea mammal encounters limited to the wild. No matter how much an organization contributes to research, the fact of the matter is that it is extremely cruel to keep whales and dolphins confined to pools, or even penned off areas of the ocean. These animals are used to traveling thousands of miles in the open ocean, and consistently show signs of depression and poor health when kept captive. Those dolphins aren’t “smiling” at you because they are happy. They are forced to perform and obey their trainers because they bring a profit. There are a lot of articles out there about Sea World, most recently, and I encourage anyone thinking about going to this, or other marine parks, to research first and become knowledgeable about the sadness these animals are experiencing every day. Watch “The Cove” or “Blackfish.”. This is also a good article to start with: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4311042
    I know that I will never have a dolphin kiss me or push me into the air with its nose. That’s okay with me. However, I have seen a day old baby dolphin in the wild approach my boat and peek at me with curiosity before chasing after its mom. I’ve seen a humpback whale slap its tail so hard that it created a huge spray of water high into the air. And these experiences were extra special, because I knew they were not forcibly taken from their families for humans to be entertained on a vacation.

    I apologize for the length of my post and I don’t judge anyone who has frequented these types of places in the past. However, I do plead with you to not support these prisons in the future. There are so many magical experiences to be had in the wild. Let these animals live in peace.

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    • I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, grappling with my emotions regarding the entire situation. One the one hand, I wonder why it is any different for a person to keep a pet, say a dog or a cat. Why is this not seen as cruel when they were once wild animals too? Or what about people, me included, that eat meat? On the other hand, I watch the movies like you mentioned and I can see the cruelty. It makes me wonder the truth to it all and even more if the animals are truly happy or unhappy. I am 100% certain that many of the mammals in Sea World are saved from death in the wild but I’m not blind to the previous captures or the mistreatments. As you can read, my thoughts are all over the place with it. I honestly think I need more first-hand knowledge before I can say with more certainty. Until I know more, I will keep my encounters to the wild. I do value your point and opinion; I’m just not sure where I stand.

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  18. I just wanted to point out, you’re amazing, enthusiastic, outgoing, adventurous, and a role model for everyone! I think it is so cool, some of the things you get to do, and I just got so excited when I saw that you love the ocean too. I LOVE diving, cetaceans (dolphins and whales) and anything ‘marine’:) As a future marine biologist, I am thrilled to read/share experiences with you!

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  19. Also, which SeaWorld did you go to? When I did the dolphin and beluga encounters I went to San Diego, and I met a dolphin named buster (small common dolphin who would constantly break through the gates in his tank) and a beluga named Ferdinand who was so awesome, we melon bumped;)

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