Dolphins, Whales, & Swimming Info

Meet Our Underwater Friends

Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins swimming

Ancient Hawaiians have been creating mythology around them, Mark Twain wrote about them, and scientists have been studying them; Hawaiian spinner dolphins have made their mark and their home on the west side of Oahu since well before recorded time.

These days, spinner dolphins are seen on a daily basis on the west side of Oahu. Spinners travel far off shore at night to their feeding grounds and return close to shore in shallow waters to socialize, nurse their young, and rest.

Spinner dolphins are the most common cetacean found around the Hawaiian Islands. They average 6 feet (2 m) in length and 175 pounds (80 kg). Pod size ranges between 10 and 100 individuals.

Resting behavior is characterized by swimming in tight groups, surfacing synchronously to breathe, and gliding along the sandy bottom in a “carpet” formation. Aerial activity, such as spins, head, and tail slappings, increases as they awaken during the late morning hours and through the afternoon.

More information on spinner dolphins

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Humpback Whales

Humpback whales migrate to the Hawaiian Islands during the winter months, mid-December to March. The humpback whales come to the Hawaiian Islands for the purpose of calving and mating; the warm inshore waters surrounding these islands offer the young whales protection from predators as they build up enough body fat for their 3,000-mile journey north.

Males reach 43 feet (14 m) and females 45 feet (15 m) in length and weigh 35 tons, on average. Males produce intricate songs, only during the mating season. Whale songs are composed of themes, which in turn are composed of phrases.

These acrobatic animals are known for breaching and slapping the water with their tails and pectoral fins. This type of whale can be found from as far south as South America, as far north as Alaska, in Australia, New Zealand, as well as a number of south Pacific islands, but one of the best places to view them up close is in the warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands. Humpback breaches are spectacular!

Guidelines For Swimming With Dolphins

  • Chevron down 1. Let the dolphins approach you
  • Maintain a quiet, relaxed manner when swimming among or near them. Avoid separating dolphins from the pod at large.

  • Chevron down 2. Swim with your hands by your sides
  • Chasing after, reaching for, or touching the dolphins will frighten or startle them, and they will move away. Be as quiet as possible when moving through the water.

  • Chevron down 3. Leave foreign objects aboard
  • Leave foreign objects aboard, such as rope, plastics, or play toys. Dolphins prefer to find and play with leaves and other organic debris. Follow their lead.

  • Chevron down 4. Trust in nature’s food supply
  • To attempt to feed wild dolphins would be harmful to their health needs as well as their social behaviors and it is illegal.

  • Chevron down 5. Be sensitive to dolphin behaviors
  • If they are in a state of rest or traveling, please respect that they may choose not to interact with you. Honor their habitat.

  • Chevron down 6. Be considerate
  • Watch out for other swimmers, allowing them adequate space for an intimate encounter.

  • Chevron down 7. Be cautious approaching the dolphins
  • Watch for swimmers. When near the dolphins, go slowly, quietly, and with focused attention so as not to disturb or change their course or behaviors.

  • Chevron down 8. Avoid sudden actions or noise
  • Erratic changes in speed, direction, or sound can confuse or startle dolphins.

  • Chevron down 9. Avoid diving down with dolphins
  • Dolphins play out a cat-and-mouse game with their predators every day of their lives. In the unlikely event that a predator does charge a dolphin you do not want to be close to them underwater. Your guides on the boat will explain.

  • Chevron down 10. Everyone will be wearing a life jacket for the dolphin swim
  • No exceptions!

Observe The Law:

Dolphins are protected by U.S. Federal law under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Amended in 1994. Under the act, it is illegal to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. Swimmers and boaters should make every effort to avoid disturbing them in their natural environment. For a more detailed look at the law, please ask the captain for the Marine Mammal Protection Act Record.

Know Your Limits:

Stay within a safe distance from the boat, (a safe distance would be only as far as your willing to swim back alone.) Watch for changing weather and sea conditions (the captain and crew are also watching for changes.) If you have any concerns about your safety before you get in the water stay aboard the vessel, while in the water, use the signal shown to you by our crew for help if you feel you need it, we will come to your aid.

Common Behaviors:

Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins are found feeding in the coastal waters offshore at night. During the day, they move into waters near shore and protected bays to rest and play. Dolphins at rest will surface for only brief periods of time, sustaining long deep dives together as a pod for 1.5 to 2 minutes. In this state, they show little interest in humans. Play mode is indicated by an increase in their aerial behavior, vocalization, splitting into smaller groups, and speeding up, generally favorable conditions for dolphins to initiate an encounter with humans.

Sustainability Commitment Statement

We here at Dolphin Excursions Hawaii, Inc. support the Hawaii Ecotourism Association’s principles of sustainable tourism, which addresses operating principles in the following content areas:

  • Environmental Management
  • Staff Management
  • Interpretation Management
  • Consumer Evaluation Management
  • Marketing Management

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