Discovering dolphins in the Bay of Islands

Go dolphin swimming or viewing on a cruise while exploring the natural beauty and magic of the Bay of Islands on a comfortable catamaran.

Dolphin watching and swimming has been a huge success in the Bay of Islands thanks to the large populations of dolphins in the area.

Researchers have identified that around 450 dolphins live in the area and call the Bay of Islands their home. To be honest if you were a dolphin wouldn’t you? The Bay of Islands is beautiful and has the warmest sea in New Zealand.

The main type of dolphins seen is the Bottlenose and is viewed on around 95% of trips. From time to time you will see Common dolphins, Orca and migrating whales travelling through the Bay of Islands.

Dolphins are extremely friendly and love to catch a free ride on the bow, play in the boats wake and show off to their crowd of spectators.

If you’ve never seen dolphins before you are in for a treat. They are truly amazing mammals and a joy to watch playing in their natural environment.

Most people will be surprised how big Bottlenose dolphins are - they can get up to four metres in length and weigh over 500kg.

Certain trips actually allow you the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Swimming with dolphins is an experience that is truly amazing and one you will keep close for ever.

Everyone at home will be truly envious of you when they see the pictures featuring the beauty of the bay and you swimming with dolphins.

There are a few things stopping the swim though, New Zealand law doesn’t allow you to enter the water when calves are present in the pod. This is because the calves are inquisitive little fellows and take a lot of interest in humans, forgetting to feed.

This stresses out Mum and could lead to the calve being separated from the pod. The second limitation are the sea conditions on the day and the skipper won’t allow you to get in if he thinks it is unsafe to do so.

Explore NZ run a group of tours called Dolphin Discoveries that depart daily from Paihia and Russell.

Dolphin Discoveries actually pioneered swimming with the dolphins in the Bay of Islands, so these guys certainly know what they are doing.

If you are interested in viewing dolphins but also want to have more time to explore the Bay of Islands the trip for you is called Discover the Bay - ‘Hole in the Rock’ and Dolphin Viewing.

The trip is a great sightseeing tour and lets you take in the best of what the bay has to offer.

You will visit the iconic ‘Hole in the Rock’ and if the conditions permit you can actually drive through. The size of the boat means you have no room for mistake and adds a real element of excitement.

You also can look back on Cape Brett and the lighthouse. This is a sight to behold as you have the rugged coast line, high cliffs and the lighthouse all in the same view.

Seeing this from the water with the sun’s reflection makes it even more special. You will also stop off and visit the stunning Otehei Bay and get time to enjoy the beach, explore Urupukapuka Island and learn or even becoming involved in their ecological restoration programme ‘Project Island Song’.

If your focus is more on swimming with dolphins then the trip for you is called Swim with the Dolphins ‘Dolphin Eco-Adventure’.

The trip heads out in search of dolphins and when conditions permit you get the chance to swim with them.

A snorkel, mask and fins are provided, you just need to bring you swimmers, a towel and a change of clothes for after.

Then off you go, into the warmest water in New Zealand and the opportunity to swim with dolphins. The more interesting you are the more likely the dolphins will check you out and play with you.

You have to be loud, fun, dive under the water, spin and splash around. To be with the dolphins in their natural environment is fantastic and to see them up close is amazing.

If they take a shine to you and have a little play, your day will be complete, leaving you with an experience of a life time and a memory to treasure.

You still get a chance to explore the bay in between swimming, take in all the views and experience the beauty and vastness of the bay from the water.

Both trips are fantastic and it just depends on whether your preference is to visit all the sights and landmarks that make up the bay, while viewing dolphins or you would prefer to spend more time with the dolphins and have the opportunity to swim with them.

There isn’t a better way to travel around the bay than by boat as you cover so much ground, get the lovely reflections from the sun on the water and get wrapped up in the diversity and natural beauty that feels like it last forever.

The trees and plants are so lush, green and give a tropical feel. Each island is so different and you will always have new scenery to look at and feel immersed in.

Experiencing the Bay of Islands on the water is a must, throw into the equation the chance to view or swim with dolphin and the experience is complete. You will not regret taking this trip!

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