4 Best Places to See Dolphins in the Wild

Dolphins are extremely intelligent, graceful, and fun. It is not a surprise that most people have "swim with dolphins" high up on their bucket list.

If it is on yours, you are probably wondering where best to go to tick off this incredible experience.

Although it can be tempting to go to dolphin shows and aquariums that offer these kinds of experiences, it can actually be very problematic to support such businesses. Most dolphins in captivity have been taken from the wild and from their family as babies and forced to live in a small tank for the rest of their days; Trained to do tricks and pose with tourists when they would much rather be swimming in the open ocean. Wild dolphins will swim around 40 miles each day, and have family groups very similar to us humans. When you start to realize the reality of the situation, it becomes much less tempting to see a dolphin in captivity.

Sure, it is less convenient to swim with dolphins in the wild… but it is so much more special. You may not always be able to get into the water with the dolphins, depending on the location, but to see dolphins, free and happy, with their family, and knowing that they are choosing to spend time with you is such a privilege, and an experience that you will remember forever. 

If you would like to try and see dolphins in the wild, we have put together a list of places you can go to do just that.

1.Marsa AlamEgypt

A small, bedouin town on the western coast of the Red Sea, and a haven for scuba divers, Marsa Alam offers the chance to see wild dolphins up close in the water. You might also spot sharks, turtles, and if you are lucky, a dugong!

Sataya Reef is where to head to swim with dolphins, with spinner dolphins using the area to rest and swim slowly around the shallow waters. Many tourists also visit Samadai Reef which is nearby but this area can get very busy. It is important to give the dolphins space and not to overwhelm them. They are trying to rest, afterall.

The dolphins can be seen year-round in Marsa Alam, but the best time to go for warm waters and comfortable surface temperatures is between September and November.

2. Akaroa, New Zealand

The nutrient-rich waters of Akaroa, off the Kaikoura coast of New Zealand attract dusky and Hector’s dolphins in large pods. It is said to be very unlikely to go out to sea and not spot dolphins. It is quite possible that you might see whales while you are there, too!

There are many boat tours that offer the chance to see the dolphins, and even swim with them in the harbor. In the summer months the Hector’s dolphins tend to stay inside the harbor, and in the winter they gather just outside. Tour operators in Akaroa will keep a safe distance and encourage the ethical treatment of the dolphins.

Dolphins can be seen and swam with year-round in Akaroa, but the summer months will bring a more pleasant experience if you plan to jump in the water.

3. Bahamas, Caribbean

The Bahamas is made up of over 700 islands, islets, and cays. It is a family-friendly destination that offers gorgeous beaches, warm weather, and exquisite diving and snorkeling… and the chance to swim with dolphins!

Bimini, on Grand Bahama is the best place to go to spot Atlantic spotted dolphins. Many tour operators in the area know where the dolphins are most likely to be and so your chances of an encounter are pretty high.

Dolphins can be seen in the Bahamas year-round and the water stays a comfortable temperature all year, too.

4. Canary Islands, Spain

The southernmost community of Spain, the Canary Islands archipelago are made up of Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, La Palma, Tenerife, La Gomera, and El Hierro, and offer a high chance of spotting dolphins.

There are four resident species of whales and dolphins living around the Canary Islands, and they can be seen around 80% of the year. Plus, many other species that pass through often. You are likely to spot rough-toothed and bottlenose dolphins, and short finned pilot whales on a boat trip around the Canary Islands.

The winter and spring months bring the best chance of spotting dolphins, but you are likely to see them year-round.

Canary Islands declared Hope Spot (divessi.com)

Responsible Tourism

Many species of dolphins are considered endangered species. This is mostly due to human threats such as bycatch, destructive commercial fishing practices, overfishing of their food, pollution… just to name a few. 

It is so important to protect dolphins and interact with them in a respectful manner when we see them in the wild.

Here are a few ways that you can help to protect dolphins:

  • Boycott operations that exploit dolphins and other cetaceans by training them and keeping them in small tanks.
  • Eat less fish or choose more ethical fishing practices for your seafood.
  • Adopt a dolphin or support a dolphin charity that will put your money towards protecting dolphins and their habitat.
  • Use less single-use plastics and make sure to recycle what you do use. Always check labels to see if the plastic you are buying is recyclable. Many plastic items make their way to the ocean where they can be swallowed or can trap marine life.
  • If you enjoy fishing, make sure to take all your fishing line and nets home with you and never leave any at the beach where it can damage habitats and cause dolphins and other marine life to become tangled up.
  • Join the SSI Blue Oceans community where you can support the protection of marine life and habitats.
  • Spread the word and share these tips with other dolphin lovers.