Swim with dolphins at a watery farm in western Japan
Stars and Stripes September 29, 2022
Dolphin encounters may not be everyone’s first choice for a wildlife experience, but at Dolphin Farm Shimanami in Ehime prefecture, Japan, you may see for yourself how they interact with humans.
Guests may choose from three options, priced accordingly, to watch, touch or swim with these marine mammals. Each package also comes with a minimum age requirement.
The price for the swim package, which puts you in the water with dolphins, varies by season and by weekends and weekdays.
Weekends and holidays from March 15 to Oct. 31 cost 9,900 yen or about $70.55 per person; weekdays cost 9,350 yen. From Nov. 1 to March 14 weekends and holidays cost 5,500 yen and weekdays cost 4,950 yen. This experience is for elementary school age and older.
All you need to bring is a swimsuit and a towel. Free cubby holes are available to stow your clothing in the changing rooms or lockers for 500 yen. The farm provides a wet suit, goggles, snorkel and a life vest for each person.
The farm houses their six dolphins in four enclosures a short distance from the shore. Each enclosure are 328 feet long and 131 feet wide, the depth varies from 13 feet during low tide and 32 feet during high tide.
A guide provides a 20-minute safety brief in Japanese before guests enter the water but a pamphlet is available in English with the same information. The instructor will go over where and how to safely touch the dolphin and how to properly grip the dorsal fin during the swim.
During the summer, visitors in groups of five are allowed 40 minutes in the water with an instructor and a dolphin. Visitors may touch and feed the dolphin according to the instructor’s guidance.
Eventually, visitors may gently hold the dolphin’s dorsal fin while it tows them from one end of the enclosure and back.
Once everyone has finished their rides, the remaining time is an open swim. With my head underwater I could hear the sounds the dolphin uses for echolocation, which was a really cool experience.
To just watch from the pier is 500 yen per adult and 400 yen for children over 4 years old to junior high school. If you stay at the onsite campground, admission is free. You can watch the dolphins swim and being fed up close.
When just looking isn’t enough, but you don’t want to get into the water, you can pick the touch package, which permits visitors to shake the dolphin’s fin and kiss it from the platform. On weekends this option costs 5,500 yen and weekdays are 4,950 yen per person.
Driving to the farm is easy and parking is free in a large lot. A bus from the Fukuyama Station will get you there in one hour.
On the QT
Directions: 1673 Hakatacho Kanoura, Imabari, Ehime 794-2302, Japan
Times: 9:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. March 15-Oct. 31; 10:40 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. Nov. 1-March 14.
Costs: Varies depending on the experience.
Food: Yasai Market serves coffee, cold drinks, fried chicken, ramen and other food items.
Information: Online: df-shimanami.com