Swimming with Northland's dolphins

Rich in natural beauty and teeming with marine life, the Bay of Islands is home to pods of friendly dolphins that love the region’s sheltered coastline.

Viewing and swimming with wild dolphins in their natural habitat is a rare and magical New Zealand experience. Gentle, intelligent and always playful, many pods in the Bay of Islands seem to enjoy the attention of humans; often jumping out of the water and swimming on their backs in what looks like an attempt to interact and show off.  The Bay of Islands is home to two different species of dolphin. You’ll be able to identify them by their size – the bottlenose dolphin grows up to a large 3.8 metres; while common dolphins are smaller and sightings are rarer.

A Boat Cruising Paradise

The southern hemisphere summer brings clear, calm days to this part of the world, heating the ocean and making a boat cruise the perfect way to explore. Home to more than a hundred islands, coves, bays and inlets; the Bay of Islands is one of the most beautiful places in the country to get out on the water.

Unforgettable Encounters

The success rate of finding dolphins here is very high, averaging around 95%. Once the captain finds a pod and gives the all-clear to swim, be ready to jump in with a snorkel, mask and fins as fast as you can. Often, ‘singing’ underwater catches the interest of dolphins; sometimes they’ll ‘sing’ back to you at a higher pitch before swimming closer for a better look. If you would prefer to stay dry, the photo opportunities from the boat are magical – enjoy watching the dolphins glide underneath the hull, play in the bow wake or jump in and out of the water around the swimmers. 

When pods have calves or juveniles with them or if the sea is too rough, swimming is not possible. Most days it’s an unforgettable experience that’s remembered fondly for years to come.

Make sure to also look out for orcas, whales and seals – the Bay of Islands is an underwater playground for marine creatures of all shapes and sizes, and sightings are common.

MoaTrek specialises in creating unforgettable New Zealand vacations, weaving the very best experiences the country has to offer into our small group tours. Swimming with dolphins in the Bay of Islands is part of many of our itinerary options – we’ve experienced the magic ourselves; and we know how special this encounter really is. We’re kiwi-owned and operated and we’re passionate about the amazing holiday experience our country has to offer. Learn more on our website, or enquire now.

Article by

  • Phone
  • Visit our website

Have you got a great story to tell? Add your own article