When you are dealing with Mother Nature, you cannot always predict how things will turn out. I had read all the glowing reviews, so perhaps I had unrealistically high expectations when I booked this tour for my family of four for about $750 including taxes. Since it was Sunday morning, we had a substitute team, Captain Carl and Jessica, a new swimmer with Coral Reef. Both were very friendly and helpful. To avoid motion sickness, we showed up well-dosed on Bonine - somewhat stuporous as a result, especially our two daughters who did not say 10 words apiece in 4 hours - despite Captain Carl's valiant efforts to stir up some conversation.
We headed North towards the Four Seasons, but about 30-40 minutes out we had to turn around because the winds and chop were restricting our forward motion. So we turned around and headed south for another 40 minutes before getting into dolphin territory. Now, you read about 200-500 dolphins, but they live over several miles of coastline and the trick is to find some. Perhaps because we were late in arriving, we found a few very small pods of 3-5 dolphins. When we jumped in the water, they typically dove down about 2-30 feet and swam away faster than we could keep up. So, we'd jump back in the boat and try again. We did this 6 or 7 times.
To his credit, Captain Carl stayed out about an hour longer than the other boats to make up for our lost time, but I think the dolphins were entering their sleep mode as the morning wore on. The one group we saw was pretty motionless about 30 feet below us. Jessica sat out the last couple of swims, leading me to think she was off the clock at noon.
Bear in mind these bottlenose dolphins are not the big fish you see at Disneyland's exhibit. The biggest ones here are about 4 feet long and weigh 150 pounds. Still, they are beautiful to watch, and we saw several babies swimming close to their mothers.
We did get fairly close to one pod of 3, and another single one swam almost close enough to touch. We saw several jumping and spinning right in front of our boat and a pod of five or six swimming in formation alongside the boat. For the most part, however, we spent our time in fruitless chases and water jumps.
Now, my wife had not read any reviews, so she had no expectations. She though it was a terrific day out on the water with a nice crew and some fun in the water near the dolphins. I have to agree with all that, but the between the money and the memory of the experience, I think I'd prefer the $840, including tips. This is nothing against the crew or the firm, just luck of the draw. I wrote this review so you'll have the chance to moderate your expectations as I should have.