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Swimming with one of New Zealand's many dolphin species is considered one of the country's best experiences.

Auckland Harbour, Auckland

By Camilla Rutherford

Christchurch - Canterbury
Pod of dophins, Christchurch - Canterbury

By Dennis Buurman

Northland & Bay of Islands
Getting close to the locals, Northland & Bay of Islands

By Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands

Northland & Bay of Islands
Dolphin watching at Russell, Northland & Bay of Islands

By Matt Crawford

Dolphins are large, gentle, intelligent creatures who seem to seek out human company, playing, frolicking, even communicating. When you encounter them, swimming or diving, and you spend time with them, you leave entranced, enthralled and, yes, humbled that you had this incredible encounter. You feel privileged.

Of the species, there’s the common dolphin and the large bottle-nosed dolphin which can often be more than three metres in length (it’s all right, they are very gentle). There’s the smaller dusky dolphin is less than two metres long but very playful. And then there’s the Hector’s dolphin, one of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins found only in our waters. There are many dolphin watching and swimming tours.

They are all different but the encounters are never less than special. And, to reassure you, the cruise operators take extraordinary care to make sure that the dolphins are not harmed. In many operations part of the tour price goes towards dolphin conservation.

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