Top 10 bottlenose dolphin facts

Get the lowdown on these graceful and inquisitive creatures...

Here in the Bay of Islands we are lucky enough to see wild dolphins at play in our waters virtually every day. The dolphins we see are either common or bottlenose dolphins, and with a resident population of around 400 bottlenose dolphins, they’re the ones you’re most likely to see.

Our skippers and crew are great at spotting dolphins while out cruising the Bay, but it’s always great when our passengers spy them first! Here are some facts about our bottle-nosed friends – take a look so you recognise them when you cruise with us.

1. Bottlenose dolphins are larger than common dolphins. They reach anywhere from 1.9m to 3.9m in length and can weigh from 250–650kg.

2. They have dark or light grey backs, with paler underbellies.

3. Bottlenose dolphins have a relatively short beak (hence its scientific name, Tursiops truncatus, which means “a dolphin like animal with a shortened snout”) and a hooked, prominent dorsal fin.

4. They live in pods of up to 60 – not quite as fond of crowds as common dolphins, which sometimes form pods that number in the thousands, but still very sociable animals.

5. Bottlenose dolphins feed mainly on bottom-dwelling fish and invertebrates, unless they’re spending time further offshore.

6. They can stay underwater for up to 3-4 minutes when hunting. So if you see one dive during your dolphin-watching cruise, just stay patient and keep your camera ready!

7. Male bottlenose dolphins can live for 40-45 years, while females can live past 50.

8. New Zealand’s most famous dolphin, Opo, was a bottlenose dolphin. Opo was a celebrity figure in the small Hokianga town of Opononi in the mid 1950s and liked to follow fishing boats and swim close to shore with local holidaymakers.

9. The bond between mother and child is very strong. Bottlenose dolphins continue to suckle their calves until they reach 2 or 3 years.

10. If you’re hoping to swim with dolphins during your time in the Bay of Islands, there are a few ways to make sure it’s a success. Check out our tips on swimming with dolphins to make it an unforgettable experience!

Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands is proud to be licensed by DOC to interact with dolphins and other marine mammals. Find out more about their cruises, or view their wildlife guide.

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