We just returned from a fantastic week-long trip to Puerto Vallarta. It was our first time there and I had done some research before going so I knew what activities I wanted to participate in. One of the most amazing trips was with Wildlife Connection. We signed up on-line from the States but were not required to pay until after the tour was over (more on this later). Wildlife Connection offers 3 different trips depending on the season you're there: a whale watching trip, a dolphin trip (the one we chose) and a sea turtle rescue (we did this with another company but should have done it with Wildlife Connection).
The dolphin trip started with a video giving you some background about dolphins with a light continental breakfast. We then went out on a boat. It is a small, covered boat (limit of 12 people). They do this so that we can all experience the dolphins first hand and because it has low-impact on the dolphins. They have a hydrophone on board so you have a chance to hear dolphin communication. During the tour they provide more info about the dolphins. At this time of the year (late August) there were new borns so you we had a chance to see baby ones too. Also depending on the dolphins you have good chances to swim with the adults (we didn't get too close because of the babies and because of the murky water due to the rain water coming in from the rivers).
The great thing about this program is that they are all about dolphin and sea life conservation and research. Unlike most dolphin swim programs, you may not be able to touch the dolphins but this is one of the few chances that you will be able to swim with these beautiful animals in the wild versus animals that are captive. You will also get to see them diving and flipping in the water. Also, if you don't see dolphins (we saw at least 75), you don't have to pay. Eduardo Lugo, our guide, took pictures of us swimming with the dolphins. He is a renown photographer. He offered to simply e-mail us the pictures at no cost, which was VERY refreshing. They have shirts, hats, posters, etc. but unlike all of the other places in Puerto Vallarta, there was no push to purchase anything here, which we genuinely appreciated. They even had refreshments/granola bars on board for us.
Wildlife Connection conducts research on the dolphins in terms of their habitats, reproductive patterns, families, etc. and you will get to see all of that while you are out. Your tour funds their work. To be quite honest, this tour is actually priced much less than the captive dolphin tours. For 2 adults, it was $97.
In addition to this tour, they have a sea turtle rescue program. There are 8 species of sea turtles of which 7 live in Mexico. The tour goes on to the area of Nuevo Vallarta where the turtle protection camps are. You will visit all the instalations of the turtle camp to understand all the protection program. Then you will patrol the beach for around 40 minutes to search for a female laying eggs, when you finish patroling you will go back to the turtle camp and release baby turtles to the ocean (there are babies every night). The tour includes an educational explanation, soft drinks and transportation from the meeting point to the turtle camp and from the turtle camp to your hotel. The tour is lead by a Biologist and costs $38pp