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Swim With the Fish (And Pigs!) at these Beach Destinations

These tropical locales will let you get up close and personal with an array of friendly water-loving animals

Underwater scene with fish

From swimming with pigs in the Bahamas to dunking with penguins in the Galapagos, there’s a bevy of places to breaststroke with beasts. Dive in at these hot spots, where the friendly denizens will show you how it’s done.

The Place: Cancun, Mexico
The Creature: The Whale Shark
The Scoop: The whale shark reigns as the biggest fish on Earth; the longest ever measured was more than 12 metres long. Thronging to the waters of Cancun in the summer months, these Goliath-sized bottom feeders come for the abundance of plankton. Join a reputable tour company, such as Solo Buceo, which takes you out onto the ocean by small boat. With your guide and snorkel, glide alongside these peaceful giants.

The Place: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Creature: Penguins and Sea Lions
The Scoop: Here’s your chance to bellyflop with petite penguins and cavort with sea lions. Whether deep-sea snorkelling or doing the crawl along the many islands, you’ll discover a coterie of Galapagos marine life, happy to dog paddle at your side.

The Place: Montego Bay, Jamaica
The Creature: Horses
The Scoop: Lead a horse to water—then head into the waves astride him. Exclusive to the equestrian centre at Half Moon, A Rock Resort, this equine water play takes the sport of horseback riding to new depths. Morning outings take riders first to the beach, then straight into the water.

The Place: Exuma Archipelago, Bahamas
The Creature: Pigs
The Scoop: Nobody knows how they found their remote island home or learned to swim, but a hoard of tiny, adorable pigs live among the palm trees along Pig Beach, set on Big Major Cay. When they see your boat, they’ll run with glee to the water, then freestyle toward you invitingly. Cannonball in to join them, giggling as you go.

The Place: The Maldives
The Creature: Manta Ray
The Scoop: Growing up to 25 feet (7.6 metres), the flattened, toothless, ever-graceful manta ray seems to fly through the water. These magical creatures seek the plethora of plankton found from June to October in the warm Maldivian depths. Hotels such as the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru guide underwater tours that showcase the docile leviathans, and give you a chance to swim at their side.