We went whale watching with Dana Wharf and the bottlenose dolphins were such a treat! I spent a childhood on boats and am lucky to have a lifetime of spotting these friendly fellows from shore and from boats. I’ll often be at the beach or a bluff top watching the dolphins and then I usually end up
being annoying giving a mini lesson to those standing around me about how to spot dolphins from shore or at sea.
Look for the Splash, Look for Lots of Splashes
The first to do when staring out at sea is scan the horizon for splashes. Keeping your eyes scanning left to right and then back right to left is key. Look for something different checking the water for a disturbance. When you see lots of splashes together, chances are it’s either:
Birds (like this pelican) diving down from the sky and feeding on bait fish. Or, if you see some jumping action or something that might look like a shark to you — it’s probably these guys:
See how you can barely see them except for the splash? It doesn’t seem that impressive from far away.
However, when you are on a whale watching boat — the key is speed. Too fast — and you’ll pass them by. Come to a stop — and they won’t hang out long. If you go slowly, the pod likes to come and check you out: chasing each other over and under, along the side and crossing underneath the bow.
We got great views from above and even underneath the water. The other things dolphins like to do is surf the wake of the boat. So when the captain brought the boat up to speed a bit more, they jumped the waves. They were magnificent! And it was awesome to see them in their natural setting, as always.
Near or Far?
On shore, I’ve seen them from right outside the breaking waves to much further out at sea. Nearest shore, you’ll look for the dorsal fin and out further you look for a whole pod with a bunch of splashes (and then rule out bird action). When you see them nearest shore, there are usually just one or two together instead of a whole pod.
Tips for Whale Watching with Dana Wharf:
- The earlier you go in the day, the calmer it will be.
- Bring jackets – it may be 80 degrees on shore, but once you get out on the ocean it can be considerably cooler. We dressed in layers.
- Bring a camera and/or binoculars.
- Wear sunscreen since there’s an extra chance of sunburn from the reflection on the water.
- The boat rides really well and takes the swell without much bounce. It didn’t feel “rocky” to me at all. My daughter didn’t get seasick!
Visit Dana Wharf’s website and follow them on Facebook where they have fun updates of what they are seeing out there. Dana Point’s Festival of Whales takes place annually in March (www.festivalofwhales.com).
I received two complimentary tickets for the trip and paid for 2 tickets myself.