5 Places to go Dolphin Spotting

With travel and tourism ever easier and people having the chance to go further and further afield, experiencing something new is high on many travelers’ list of vacation activities.

Dolphin Spotting
Dolphin Spotting

Getting close to nature is an extremely popular way to do this and dolphin watching is an exciting way to commune with the natural world. Dolphin watching is a particularly accessible activity thanks to the wide variety of dolphins and the widespread nature of their habitat.

Whichever part of the world visitors choose to take their holidays, there are some places that are considered to be prime dolphin watching locations.

Because it is possible to watch dolphins pretty much anywhere, it is quite a difficult task to narrow down all the locations to just five. However, what the following five places have in common is that it is possible to not only watch the dolphins, but also to swim with them.

The best dolphin watching is considered to be around the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. It is thought that there are more than 24 species of marine mammals living in these waters. This is thanks to the location of the islands which are in the middle of the Atlantic. This location makes the Azores an ideal habitat for animals that migrate, though there are also species native to the islands.

In the Azores, dolphins are plentiful and it is possible at times to see around eight different species. Super pods have also been spotted off the Azores. These super pods can consist of over a thousand dolphins.

New Zealand is another of the best places to experience dolphins and nowhere is better than Akaroa on New Zealand’s South Island. Only 75 miles from Christchurch, it is an easy place to reach. There are many other sites in New Zealand but Akaroa is considered the best.

Thanks to the large supply of nutrients in Akaroa’s coastal water, there is a huge amount of marine life, including big pods of Dusky dolphins, which can be seen almost the whole year round. There are also Hectors dolphins to be seen in and around Akaroa harbour almost daily, whatever the season.

Islands are particularly good places to go dolphin watching and The Hawaiian Islands are a perfect place to enjoy both watching and swimming with dolphins

Around the islands are Spinner, Spotted and Bottlenose dolphins, amongst others. Spinner dolphins are perhaps the most commonly seen and are famously playful. Oahu and Kona Islands are considered the best places to see dolphins in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Another island, this time close to the US, is the Bahamian Island of Bimini. Less than fifty miles from Miami and reached by plane within half an hour, Bimini is an ideal place to go dolphin watching.

Surrounded by beautiful, warm, shallow waters, Bimini is home to large numbers of Atlantic Spotted dolphins. Dolphin watching is big business here and the dolphins are amazingly interactive. The Atlantic Spotted dolphin is an extremely playful species as well as being highly intelligent and there is ample opportunity not only to watch these marine mammals, but also to swim with them.

The Red Sea is a beautiful place to watch and swim with dolphins, particularly Spinner and Bottlenose dolphins. Risso dolphins can also be seen, although they are a much shyer species, so not always on view.

The great thing about the Red Sea is that dolphin watching can be done year round, thanks to the abundance of dolphins in the area. Samadaii, in Marsa Alam, Egypt, is considered the best place to experience swimming with dolphins as the nearby lagoon is a common breeding ground in May, although the dolphins are there year round.

Warm areas such as St. Lucia and other places in the Caribbean and California are also popular dolphin watching sites, but dolphins can also be visited in cooler climes. Iceland is home to white beaked dolphins, whilst Ireland and Scotland also attract dolphins to their shores.

So, whether it is close to home or a more far flung destination, dolphin watching is an activity that can be experienced and enjoyed by anyone, almost anywhere, at almost any time of the year.

Top Five Things to do in New Zealand in the Winter

It may seem counter-intuitive to visit New Zealand in June, July or August, when it’s warm and sunny (or at least warmer and sunnier than usual) in the UK and the middle of winter down under. However, give it a try and you might find that the New Zealand winter is a great escape.

New Zealand Winter
Image by Wildernesscapes Photography (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildernessphotographs/)

Skiing and Snowboarding

Already well-known as a winter sport-lover’s mecca among locals and Australians, Queenstown, New Zealand is gaining an international reputation as the place to get your wintertime thrills. In addition to the bungee jumping and skydiving that earned the town its reputation as the ‘adventure capital of New Zealand’, are a whole slew of excellent slopes.

There are plenty of options, so snow bunnies of all levels will find something to do. And if you haven’t had quite enough of a heart-pounding, blood-pimping ride, try a heli-ski: helicopters drop you down on out-of-the-way alpine powder so pristine you’ll swear you’re dreaming.

Whale Watching

Whale watching is one of the most popular things to do in New Zealand anytime of the year. But did you know that some months are better than others for an up close view of these marine giants?

That’s right. While international tourists may need coaxing to visit New Zealand in the winter, pods of whales are more than willing to stop by. Humpback whales, blue whales and southern right whales leave the frigid waters of Antarctica in the winter and migrate towards tropical Tonga. Catch them mid-migration in Kaikoura, where they spend June and July with the sperm whales that live there year-round and feed on the giant squid living in the underwater Kaikoura Canyon.

Hot Pools

New Zealand is dotted with hundreds of natural hot pools on both the North and South Islands. Many of these pools are used as spas with extensive facilities attached. Fancy a facial, massage and soak in the pool? I thought so.

If being pampered isn’t up you alley, there are also plenty of un-cultivated springs in national parks aound the country. They may not be as deliberately clean as the facilities in Rotorua or Hanmer Springs, but what could be better than finding your own, personal hot tub in the middle of the forest? It goes without saying that the hot springs are best enjoyed in the winter, when the chilly air causes steam to rise visibly in the air, tempting even the most stubbornly terrestrial among us.

Culture

There’s more to New Zealand than hiking trails and sheep farms. Auckland is a fun city of 1.3 million people and Wellington is often acknowledged as being one of the coolest capital cities in the world. From hip bars and clubs to creative fusion cuisine to world-class museums, there is plenty to do in the climate-controlled indoors.

Wellington’s Te Papa (the national museum) is a fabulously curated peek into all aspects of New Zealand life and culture, while the Auckland Art Gallery holds an impressive collection of local treasures. To really get into the New Zealand cultural scene, look into the plays and concerts going on during your visit: we get a lot of world-class entertainment passing though at lower prices than you’d pay in the northern hemisphere.

Save Your Cash

The New Zealand winter is off-season for tourism, and you know what that means: cheaper airfare and accommodation. You’ll find you can stay longer and do more with the extra cash you save (which can be significant if you grab a good deal on flights).

You’ll also find that the typical tourist hotspots like Milford Sound and Te Papa are quiet and even downright pleasant. You may even be able to take photos that don’t have tour buses and mobs loitering in the background. Imagine.

And if you’re still dying for a dash a warm weather, look into a long stopover on your way back home. Depending on the direction you fly, most airlines will allow you some extra time in Dubai, Bangkok, Sydney or the Pacific Islands at no extra cost.

This guest post was written by New Zealand-based blogger Whitney Cox. Whitney writes on behalf of New Zealand sightseeing company Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Whale and Dolphin Watching Around Britain

The waters around the UK are not the first places people think of when whale watching is mentioned, but many visitors to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales miss out on the wonderful wildlife experiences that are available in and around the British Isles. There are actually some wonderful places to see dolphins, whales, seals, and spectacular basking sharks. Blue Whales have even been spotted in the Irish Sea.

Dolphin Watching
Image by i am a mermaid princess (http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanah_an/)

Wales is home to green hills, craggy mountains, and a spectacular coastline. The Pembrokeshire coast was one of the first places in Britain to be recognised and protected as a National Park, and it’s worth it. The seabirds flock in incredible numbers and dolphins can often be seen just off St David’s Head. Walk the Pembrokeshire Coast path in summer and you might even see fin whales. A little further in Cardigan Bay, you’ll find some of the best surfing in Britain and a resident population of more than 120 inquisitive, playful bottlenose dolphins.

Dorset and Cornwall are in the south-west, a few hours from London, Bristol, and the big cities of southern England. They have the what may be the bluest seas anywhere around the UK, some of the most spectacular sea-cliffs, and offer what must be one of the best chances of seeing large marine animals in Western Europe. Common dolphins can often be seen from the shore, and so can basking sharks (not at all dangerous, but up to 40ft long), minke whales, pilot whales, and even killer whales.

You can either wander the cliff-top paths and the beaches or take a special whale and dolphin spotting boat cruise. They is no shortage of tours so you won’t have trouble finding a boat to take you out, and the locals will know just where the animals are likely to be. Alternatively, you can take the ferry out to the Isles of Scilly or Bilbao in Spain. Travellers often get to see whales and dolphins on these routes.

Scotland holds the wildest and most untouched places in Britain. The Shetland Islands and the Isle of Mull are particularly good for whale watching. Minke whales and killer whales are the most common, and the Isles are certainly the place to go if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. For solitude, sea, and wildlife they are unrivalled.

Whether you live in the UK or just visit from time to time, it’s worth taking a few days and getting to know marine life that lives around the country. Most first time whale and dolphin spotters are shocked to find such well-kept secrets dotted around our coast.

Jess Spate lives in Cardiff on the southern coast of Wales. She works as a travel writer and for Timeshare Attorney, a group of lawyers and paralegal professionals who specialise in timeshare sales.