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Dolphins are one of nature’s most exciting and interesting animals and seeing them in the wild is a breathtaking experience.
There’s something truly inspiring about seeing these wild, smart, beautiful creatures swimming, frolicking, and playing in their natural habitat, and it is something that can put the finishing touches on any vacation.
Dolphins are relatively common in quite a few parts of the world, but there are some spots where dolphin sightseeing is unique. If you have already checked out the ultimate list for cruise tips and have your heart set on an ocean voyage next year.
Here are 9 destinations to consider that almost guarantee you to see dolphins in the wild.
1. Southern California, United States
According to the Dolphin Project, the stretch of coastline that runs from San Diego to Santa Barbara boasts the densest population of dolphins in the world.
There are plenty of species that hang out just off the SoCal shoreline, with bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and short-beaked dolphins all regularly forming ‘megapods’ within easy reach of the beach.
As a result, this is an exceptional spot to see dolphins in the wild. You can also head out a little further to the Channel Islands, the USA’s answer to the Galapagos, to get even closer.
2. The Azores Islands, Portugal
If you don’t want to leave to chances you might want to take a trip to the Azores in Portugal that offer you the best way to see dolphins in action.
The delightfully warm waters around this small Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean aren’t just great for swimming. They are also incredibly comfortable for dolphin populations.
Currently, the Azores are home to 11 different species of dolphins. With pods that can grow up to 1,000 strong, this is a top spot for dolphin watching, particularly as these friendly critters often come close to the coastline to eat, so you can see them from the comfort of your beach chair!
You can also find some expert boat drivers that can help you reach the spots where you can see dolphins in action.
3. Hawaii, United States
When you are thinking of taking a trip to Hawaii you can focus on dolphin-watching experiences. The coastal waters of Hawaii offer a unique dolphin-watching experience.
Home to the Hawaiian spinner dolphin, this is the place to go if you want to see these beautiful beasts jumping, twirling, and yes, spinning out of the water in front of your eyes.
Watching these small dolphins play around the shallow bays of Lanai is a truly amazing vacation experience. Apart from the spinner dolphins, Hawaii also has to offer at least 18 different species of marine mammals which also includes other dolphins like spotted dolphins and whales.
This would ensure that you can make the most of the dolphin-watching experience in Hawaii.
4. Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand
Described by many as one of the best places to see wild dolphins in the wild, Kaikoura on the South Island of New Zealand is a great choice for dolphin-lovers.
Four distinct dolphin species call this part of the world home, including Hector’s dolphin, one of the rarest and most endangered dolphins in the world. Seeing one of these in the wild ocean is a real treat.
You can enjoy watching these social and acrobatic dolphins from a distance and make the most of your New Zealand trip. Similarly, on the North Island, you can visit the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park where you can have the opportunity to see bottlenose and common dolphins.
The dolphins here travel in large pods offering you a clear chance to view them in action along with orcas, Bryde’s whales and humpbacks.
5. Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
If you are into marine wildlife, South Africa is the place to be. Here, you can find some of the best spectacles that occur in the marine world. One of the reasons why South Africa is one of the best spots for watching dolphins is because of the sardine run that occurs here.
This is the time when many top predators flock to this place and you can witness hundreds of dolphins, sharks and whales that come here.
You can also visit Plettenberg Bay and Hermanus from June to September that can offer you a chance to view humpback dolphins that travel in large pods across the area.
On the other hand, if you are interested in bottlenose dolphins you can visit a marine resort town called Knysna that offer you a chance to spot dolphins off the coastline.
6. Florida, USA
If you are passionate about sighting dolphins in wild Florida is among the best places that you can visit. Here you can view dolphins in action in the wild and even in dolphinariums. You can head to the Florida Key West and that should offer you a perfect place to see them leaping in unison in the local waters.
On the south side, you can head to Marco Island and Naples where you have the best chances of seeing them live in action. The abundance of mullets in the local rivers of Marco Island attracts many bottlenose dolphins making it one of the hotspots for dolphins in Florida.
7. East and West Costs, Australia
Australia is a paradise for nature and marine life lovers. Hence, you can find plenty of spots here where you can dolphin spotting in the wild. You can find many places here where you can sight dolphins in the wild ocean waters like Byron Bay, Ningaloo Coast and Hervey Bay.
On the other hand, you can head to Moreton Bay Marine Park that is home to resident dolphin species like Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and Australian humpback dolphins.
You can sight them here any time of the year. The bottlenose dolphins here can be sighted surfing close to the shore so they provide an easy option for you to witness these dolphins in action. On the western front, Koombana Bay is one of the locations where you can spot dolphins in the wild. You can find bottlenose dolphins surfing close to the sandy beaches here.
8. Scotland, United Kingdom
Scotland is also one of the best locations in the world where you can sight dolphins playing around openly. Here you can explore the Inner and Outer Hebrides that offer a perfect spot for various sea birds and otters and whales to come together which also includes bottlenose dolphins.
When you are in Scotland you can find more dolphins in the wild around the Isle of Mull offering you a perfect opportunity to view them in action.
Similarly, you can also find them in a place known locally as Eilean Dhubh a.k.a. Black Isle where you can find more dolphins in nature around the summer months. The cold waters of the Moray Firth and the East Coast of Scotland provides a perfect chance for you to see dolphins in large pods speeding through fast currents.
9. Amakusa, Japan
Dolphins are in abundance around Japan and therefore you can have plenty of opportunities to see them in wild here. The city of Amakusa in Japan offers one of the best locations in southern Japan to sight dolphins in the wild.
Here you can see the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins that swim and surf the Ariake Sea. You can take up local tours from the local ports here that offer you a boat ride to be as close as possible to the dolphin action.
To sum up…
The 9 best places to see dolphins around the world are:
- Southern California, United States
- Azores Islands, Portugal
- Hawaii, United States
- Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand
- Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
- Florida, USA
- East and West costs, Australia
- Scotland, United Kingdom
- Amakusa, Japan
I’m sure you’ll have an amazing experience in any of these places, but it’s worth remembering that nothing guarantees you’ll be able to spot these beautiful animals in the wild.
So, research the best time for your trip, take all the necessary precautions to avoid hurting or scaring the animals and, if possible, hire a guide or excursion to guide you in this adventure.
All the precautions are sure to pay off when you see the incredible dolphins jumping above the waves! Good trip!
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