Catalina’s Best Wild Dolphin Tours

There is something about dolphins that capture our imagination. Their deceptive smiles, playfulness, and keen intelligence all seem to mimic distinctly human characteristics. The waters around Catalina Island are the perfect place to get close to wild common, risso dolphin and bottlenose dolphins… almost close enough to touch… There are two tours to tell you about that are the absolute best you’ll find.

Imagine reaching your arms out as dolphins jump and dive right below you. What about sitting in an underwater pod 5 feet below the surface as dolphins whip past you and swim up alongside – the only way to truly become “one of the pod”! Listening in to dolphin chatter by hydrophone? This is what I’m talking about.

If you love dolphins, then the two tours below are the best ways to see them. Captivity just isn’t justifiable anymore, dolphins are wild creatures with complex social structures and the open ocean is where they belong. Seeing an entire pod of dolphins numbering in the hundreds (or thousands) is infinitely more exhilarating than seeing two trained dolphins doing flips at an aquarium.

Remember – dolphins are wild animals, and aren’t punching the clock to show up for your tour every day. So, while your chances are quite good, you may only see a few, or possible even none! That being said, most trips are a success. If you don’t see any, the tour operators will usually give you a discount on a future trip.

Wild Dolphin Tours on Catalina

Catalina Ocean Rafting

Catalina Ocean Rafting runs the only wild dolphin tour that operates directly out of Catalina Island. They offer a two hour tour called the Coastal Wild Dolphin Excursion. Catalina Ocean Rafting is famous for its high speed rigid hull inflatable boats, which get you right into the action. The tour covers about 20 miles of coastline, and along the way you will likely see bald eagles, harbor seals, sea lions, herons, and other marine animals.

Once you encounter a pod of wild dolphins, they will come up and swim with the boat. This tour has been running for almost 20 years, and many of the local dolphins have learned the routine and visit the boat regularly. From the bow, you can really get an up close view of these beautiful mammals.

Coastal Wild Dolphin Excursion: Departs daily at 11:30am. Adults $78. Children $67. Tour runs April 1st through October 31st.

For more information and reservations visit ww.catalinaoceanrafting.com or call (310) 510 0211 or toll free (800) 990 7238.

Video: Catalina Ocean Rafting Promo Vid

Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Safari

Okay, okay, so technically Captain Dave’s dolphin tour leaves from Dana Point Harbor, but after I tell you “why” I’ve included this tour – you’ll get it.

Captain (and Mrs.) Dave have been running one of the most unique and awesome whale/dolphin excursions in the world since 1995. Once aboard their high speed catamaran, you’ll start to see why this tour is just so different. The boat is totally customized for whale watching, and especially dolphin viewing. The catamaran design itself is also more stable, so – if you’re prone to sea sickness, you should do better here.

There are four unique ways to observe the dolphins on Capt. Dave’s boat. First, the boat is equipped with an underwater camera and plasma screen TV, so you can see the dolphins swimming below the surface. Or, between the hulls, you can get down into the nets – almost close enough to touch! the dolphin pod is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in awhile. The front sections of the hull are made of glass, and you can crawl up into them and literally get eye to eye with dolphins as the ride the bow waves! Lastly, the boat is equipped with a hydrophone, so you can listen to the dolphins a chatter amongst themselves.

Waiting for the icing on the cake? Mrs. Capt Dave’s famous chocolate brownies on every trip!

Dolphin and Whale Safari: Adults: $55. Children (3-11) $35. Infants (2 and under) free.

A note about Capt. Dave’s tours – you have to ask for the ‘big’ boat (Manute’a) if you want to get out far enough to see whales. The smaller of the two boats stays closer to shore – so you’ll only see dolphins. Ask for the Manute’a (big boat with the underwater viewing pods) when you book your reservation.

For more information and reservations visit www.dolphinsafari.com or call (949) 488 2828.

Video: Capt. Dave’s Dolphin Safari Tour on “Eye on LA”