This wildlife travel guide is meant to be like a trailer for the new Attenborough series. Because we also have individual travel guides for more specific wildlife holidays, such as our safaris, bear watching and whale watching.
Dolphin watching travel guide
Humans have long attributed divine qualities to these mysterious, marine mammals, who have been documented saving humans from drowning and sharks; as far back as ancient Greece, harming a dolphin was punishable by death. Anyone who has seen or swum with them in the wild will testify to their phenomenal intelligence, their curiosity and their ability to inspire happiness.
Dolphins are considered mystical healers, spiritual creatures; the subject of paintings, tattoos and jewellery.
Yet the majority of people who see these creatures today will watch them in dolphinariums – tiny swimming pools in which they are expected to perform circus tricks, day after day, in exchange for fish scraps. In the wild, these animals swim up to 65km each day, use highly developed fishing techniques and have strong social bonds. No matter how much they appear to “smile”, in our opinion a life in captivity does not make these creatures happy, and for a truly transcendental experience you need to get on a boat, head out into the open ocean and find out what really does cause a dolphin to beam.
Our Dolphin watching Holidays
Is a dolphin watching holiday for you?
Go on a wild dolphin watching holiday if…
Don’t go on a wild dolphin watching holiday if…
If you'd like to chat about Dolphin watching or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
What does it entail?
Wild dolphins are sociable, speedy sea-dwellers, so the experience you get on your dolphin watching tour is really dependent on them – and on the weather. While dolphins tend to be visible in the same areas year-round, many tours only operate during certain months in order to avoid cyclones, hurricanes and choppy seas – but with ever-less predictable climates, you’ll have to rely on your skipper or guide to determine departure times and trip durations.
Each dolphin species has its own unique behaviour – with bottlenose dolphins being some of the most friendly, dusky dolphins of the southern hemisphere being more outgoing and acrobatic, and spinner dolphins being some of the most exciting, as they twist their bodies through the air. Your approach, speed and distance will depend on the species – qualified, responsible skippers should know their dolphins and drive accordingly. Getting as close as possible or approaching from the front will scare the pod away, and ultimately deter dolphins from visiting certain areas – which disrupts their behaviour patterns as well as spoiling the experience for future tourists.
While experienced and knowledgeable crews will have solid success rates in tracking dolphin pods, knowing when and where to find them at different times of year, sightings can never be 100% guaranteed. These are wild, elusive animals after all. But where dolphins are found, there are also likely to be many other forms of marine wildlife in the same area: porpoises, turtles, seabirds and often whales. In Greece for instance, dolphin watching trips will often encounter colonies of monk seals as well.
Is it okay to swim with dolphins?
Some dolphin watching trips will also offer you the opportunity to swim alongside them. Responsible dolphin swimming trips should have a strictly enforced duration and number of swimmers – and no-one should be allowed to enter the water until the guide can tell the dolphins are at ease. This may be frustrating – but stressed dolphins will disappear immediately, rather ruining your experience. Never approach a dolphin, and do not touch them. If you are lucky they will come up to you – but this is their territory, nothing is guaranteed, and ultimately you are privileged to be here – so just relax, enjoy and learn.
More about Dolphin watching
Dolphins can be found around the world - from the warm waters of the Ionian Sea off Greece to the chillier climes of the Azores and Scotland.
The best place to go on a dolphin watching holiday depends as much on the other activities you want to enjoy as on the dolphins themselves.
Most dolphin watching holidays will also include plenty of time in between boat trips, so here are some of our top activities you can enjoy when not looking out for these marine mammals.
Dolphin watching holidays in the Azores, as scores of these beautiful and intelligent creatures swim around you, is not an experience to be quickly forgotten.
Dolphin watching holidays in Greece tend to focus closely on conservation research when you travel with responsible providers – there are several species in these waters and they face a wide range of threats.
If you’re dying to swim with dolphins in Scotland then this page isn’t for you. Dolphin watching in Scotland takes time, patience, and an awful lot of luck and local knowhow.
Some destinations are far more suited than others for family dolphin watching holidays.
Our dolphin watching holiday companies have shared their top dolphin watching advice to help you plan your trip.
Experts agree that the more responsible dolphin watching is, the more enjoyable it Is.