Bottlenose Dolphin, by staff photographer Dale Frink, during our whale watching safari.
When is the best time of day to see whales and dolphins?
What is the best time for whale watching? In order to determine the best time to whale watch, we randomly polled whales and dolphins and received a unanimous response. There is no specific time! Dolphin, whales and all types of marine wildlife float, freestyle, glide, pose, dive, dip and zip by throughout the year, all day long. Morning trips are calmer because there’s less wind, and disruptions in the water are easier to spot. But then again, later trips have the advantage of prior trip knowledge. So… it’s up to you!
How far in advance should I check in?
We recommend 30 minutes ahead of time. Check in and chill on the Dolphin Deck. From snacks to sunscreen, we’ve got your back. (Or head, if you need a hat.)
Between June – September, we suggest arriving 45 minutes in advance to ensure parking ease at Dana Point Harbor. If it’s a holiday or Festival of Whales, please allow one hour because whales tend to double park.
What should I bring with me?
Think ‘picnic with friends’ if picnic was on the ocean and friends are hungry.
Water, soda, snacks and sandwiches, maybe beer, wine or dark roasted cold brew? All good!
You’re welcome to bring beer and wine on our 2.5 hour Signature Safari, but for safety, please don’t forget the plastic cups! And as always, drink responsibly or walk the plank.
No time? Visit our DOLPHIN DECK where you can purchase cold beverages, delicious sandwiches, yummy snacks and refreshing ice cream.
Stuff to bring: Sunglasses, cameras, (or extra space on the smart phone), film or memory cards, binoculars, sunblock, small children, caps and visors. Jackets and windbreakers are always good, too. The DOLPHIN DECK has all these items and more! Check in early and chat with our land crew. They can answer questions and help pick out a sandwich.
Note: If you’re joining our 90-minte zodiac whale watching safari (“Fast Cat”), please be aware that the FAST CAT has special requirements about what you can bring. Visit our Fast Cat page for more information.
What should I wear? / What is the weather going to be?
It’s usually 10-15 degrees cooler on the water, even when the sun shines, so it’s a good idea to layer clothes. The “t-shirt, sweatshirt and windbreaker” ensemble might not bring out the paparazzi but is a winning combination at sea. Wear tennis or deck shoes if possible- – preferably with non-marking, non-black soles. And if it looks like rain, a rain poncho will help. A hat or visor is a good idea, too. Wear your hats securely, because the seals have refused to collect any more hats. (Their collection is amazing.)
Southern California weather is generally mild (see weather app), but like life, can be unpredictable. Ocean conditions and weather does change from day to day, hour to hour. Check our website or call our friendly crew if you have any questions!
Can I take pictures or video?
Is there a bathroom on the boat?
Yes! All boats have a bathroom except FAST CAT. The MANUTE’A has two bathrooms. The bathrooms are slightly below deck so you need to be able to climb down a small boat ladder – just three steps – to get to them. LILY, our power catamaran has one bathroom on the lower deck. The vessels DOLPHIN SAFARI.COM and ORCA each have one bathroom. And although FAST CAT does not have a bathroom, there are facilities on land available before boarding. (Quick, how many times did we say bathroom? Time is up.)
How far out to sea do you go?
Our vessels usually go out about 3-5 miles, but we have gone up to 8 miles from shore on occasion, depending on where the whales and dolphin are. We are always in view of the gorgeous Orange County coastline. Take a selfie, or three!
What should I do about seasickness?
If anyone in your group has had past problems with motion sickness, please consult a doctor. There are new and improved ways to avoid seasickness and they should be able to help you. If you plan on taking over-the-counter medication such as BONINE or DRAMAMINE, please be sure to take them at least one full hour before the trip’s departure. (Because the colors blue and green belong in the sea and not on you, right?)
DOLPHIN DECK to the rescue: Bonine, Dramamine, Ginger tablets. Ginger Ale and Pressure Point Wristbands are all available at the deck, but check in early to ensure maximum effectiveness.
MORE ADVICE: Eat lightly beforehand, avoid spicy foods and alcohol and get plenty of sleep the night before.
NATURAL REMEDIES include ginger, such as ginger cookies or ginger gum, and pressure point wristbands. Google ginger for more fun facts.
What happens if it rains or gets foggy?
If it’s safe, we go! And although it rarely rains in Southern California, your captain will make a decision as to the safety of the voyage before departure if it does. Be prepared, at the dock, and ready to go! Need a rain poncho? Who doesn’t? Purchase one at the DOLPHIN DECK or feel free to bring your own.
What if we don't see whales or dolphins?
Fun Fact: Capt. Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safaris locate dolphins or whales over 95% of the time throughout the year. Awesomeness.
Bonus Fun Fact: Mrs. Capt. Dave’s famous fudge brownies are handed out regardless of sightings. Double awesomeness.
But, in the unlikely event your safari turns up zero – no whales or dolphins – you can return for FREE within one year from the date of the trip!
(* Free ticket for a “no sightings” safari is effective July 6, 2016.)
IMPORTANT: Your “no sightings” ticket is non-transferable and expires one year from the date of your “no sightings” safari. Please use your free ticket before the expiration date! If you can’t use your Free “No Sightings” ticket within the year, join us again and receive a special 50% discount off the full fare adult or child ticket.
Are the boats safe?
Yes! Safe and roomy.
MANUTE’A, (50-ft catamaran) and LILY, (62-ft catamaran) are U.S. Coast Guard certified to carry up to 49 happy passengers and they are both roomy, even at full capacity. And although DOLPHINSAFARI.COM (our original 35-ft catamaran) is U.S. Coast Guard certified for 26, we limit the trips to 20 because we know you love extra elbow room. The boats have two hulls, are extra stable and don’t rock from side to side like a traditional mono-hull or a toddler on time out.
Did we mention our boats are roomy? There’s ample room with enough seating for everyone in the cockpit. We have accommodated paraplegics and quadriplegics, pregnant mothers and six-week old infants on board. (They’re really not old infants, but..) Our 6-passenger motor yacht ORCA is also U.S. Coast Guard approved and safe! And FAST CAT is Orange County’s first Coast Guard inspected rigid hull inflated catamaran.
Do you allow pregnant women?
Yes! Babies in the womb love dolphins and whales.
How old does my child have to be?
Children of all ages are welcome aboard our boats. (FAST CAT is the exception, check out special info below.) All of our vessels are safe and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
While our daily safaris do not have an age limit, children under three occasionally grow bored or fall asleep. We make the trip more fun and educational by using mini-scale models of the whales and dolphins and allow them to see and touch real whale baleen and vertebrae. Sometimes, we’re able to let them take a turn at steering the boat! (This works out fine, as long as they keep the boat in Orange County. A two year old steered us to Cancun one time so we limit the steering to two minutes.)
And kids are our good luck charms. Dolphins adore their children, and actually, they adore babies of any species. They seem to be especially attracted to human children, just as we are attracted to baby dolphins! We often see dolphins cluster around the Underwater Viewing Pods if children are in the pods. Pretty cool, huh?
Life vests are available for children and you are always welcome to bring your own. Children are safe anywhere on the boat, as long as you are with them!
ABOUT FAST CAT: For comfort, the minimum age requirement on public trips is 8-years-old. On private charters, the minimum age is 4-years old. FAST CAT, our Rigid Hull Inflatable Catamaran is also very safe and inspected and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Can I bring someone who is in a wheelchair?
Our crew wants to accommodate every passenger! Please call us at 949-488-2828 to make arrangements for a guest with special needs.
Will I get wet on the boat?
Options, we’ve got options!
Want wet? Captain Dave’s “wettest” boat is also our fastest. FAST CAT offers a bumpy and thrilling ride. Any closer to the water and the dolphins will name you and assume you’ve joined their pod. Splish, splash, protect your electronics in zip lock bags or other gear!
DOLPHINSARARI.COM, a catamaran sailboat, is very close to the water. Leave your Nikes in the cabin, let your toes say “hello, sunshine!”, because there’s a good chance you’ll get moist if you go up on the bow. The bow features our EYE-SPY DOLPHIN TRAM NETS so you can get up close and personal with sea life. But you can also stay in the dry, covered cabin area. There is cushioned seating, too! Dry, cushioned seating… or take a “bow” – up to you !
MANUTE’A, our catamaran sailboat, is the primary vessel used for our daily whale watching safaris. She also has our EYE-SPY DOLPHIN TRAM NETS and the stay-dry covered-cabin with cushioned seating option. Depending on ocean conditions, your legs and feet could get wet on the bow while the boat is out to sea and going fast! However, the boat slows down in the presence of dolphins and whales and you’re less likely to get splashed.
LILY, our power catamaran, has a bow higher off the water and is enclosed with Lexan® glass for wind protection, so it’s unlikely you’ll get wet. A little ocean spray maybe. (Not the berries.) But feel free to wet your whistle in our upscale galley! LILY also has a covered sundeck – stay dry while viewing the wonderful wildlife!
ORCA, our 6-passenger luxury motor yacht, is available for private charters. ORCA is close to the water but you’re not likely to get damp when on the bow. A fully enclosed cabin and bridge, a covered aft deck — all offer incredible views without a splash in sight!
Can I cancel my trip?
All reservations are non-cancelable and non-changeable. If there are unforeseen circumstances that require you to cancel your whale watching reservation please let us know in advance by calling 949-488-2828.
Should I tip the captain and crew?
Sure. But only if you would like to, and please know it’s never expected. If you have enjoyed your whale and dolphin safari, gratuities are always appreciated.
Do you have additional questions?