Frequently Asked Questions About Whale Watching

Q?What should I bring?

Think of your trip as if you were going boating with a small group of friends. What would you like to have along? Water? Soda? Snacks and Sandwiches? We have a variety of assorted beverages, sandwiches, snacks, and ice cream available for purchase when you check in at our  Dolphin Deck. You’re welcome to bring beer or wine on our 2.5-hour Signature Safari but for safety we do recommend plastics cups. If you bring alcoholic beverages, we ask that you consume them responsibly.

Other items you might like to have with you: Cameras, extra film or memory cards, binoculars, sunscreen, cap or visor. A jacket or windbreaker is a good idea to have too. For your convenience we sell all of these items and more at our Dolphin Deck when you check in for your Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari.

Q?What should I wear?

It’s generally about 10 to 15 degrees cooler out on the water, even when the sun is out, so a good idea is to layer your clothes. A shirt, sweatshirt and jacket make a winning combination. Whenever possible, wear tennis or deck shoes, preferably with non-marking (non-black) soles. If it looks like it may rain, you might bring a rain poncho. A hat or visor to protect your head and eyes is a good idea too. Jackets, ponchos, and hats are available to purchase at our Dolphin Deck if you forget anything.

Q?Is there a bathroom on board?

Yes, all of our boats except for Fast Cat have a bathroom (or “head” as it’s known on a boat). Our most frequently used vessel, Manute’a, has two bathrooms. They are slightly below deck so you must be able to climb down a small boat ladder – three steps – to get to them.

Lily, our power catamaran, has one bathroom located on the lower deck. And our vessels and ORCA each have one bathroom. Fast Cat does not have a bathroom although there are facilities on land available to use prior to boarding.

Q?Can I take pictures or video?

Of course! Feel free to share photos and videos of your whale watching trip with us on Facebook or Instagram too. #captaindaves

Q?How far out do you go?

Usually no more than 3 to 5 miles, but we can go up to 8 miles from time to time, depending on where the dolphins and whales are. We are always in view of the gorgeous Southern California coastline.

Q?How old does my child have to be?

With the exception of Fast Cat (see below for more information), children of all ages are welcome aboard our boats. The vessels used for our daily whale watching trips are safe and certified by the United Stated Coast Guard. And kids are our good luck charms! To a dolphin, their children are the most important thing in the world. So dolphins are interested in babies of any species, and seem to be especially attracted to human children just like we’re attracted to baby dolphins. We frequently see dolphins cluster around one of the Underwater Viewing Pods if children are in there! We also have life vests for children, but you are welcome to bring your own. Children are safe anywhere on the boat as long as you are with them.

Our daily whale watching safaris don’t have an age limitation, however, we do notice that occasionally children under 3 years old get bored or fall asleep. We do go out of our way to make the trip more fun for them using miniature scale models of the whales and dolphins, as well as letting them see and touch actual whale baleen and whale vertebrae. Sometimes we are even able to let them take a turn at steering the boat!

Fast Cat, our new Rigid Hull Inflatable Catamaran, is also safe and is inspected and certified by the U. S. Coast Guard. For comfort, the minimum age requirement on open trips is 8 years old. On Fast Cat private charters the minimum age is 4 years old.

Q?How far ahead of time should we check in?

We recommend you arrive 30 minutes ahead of time. Between the months of June and September we suggest arriving 45 minutes in advance due to parking congestion in Dana Point Harbor. During the Festival of Whales and on any holiday we recommend allowing one hour because it can get REALLY busy!

Q?Can we bring someone who is in a wheelchair?

We do our best to accommodate every passenger that wants to go. Please call us at 949-488-2828 to make arrangements for a guest with special needs.

Q?What should I do about sea sickness?

If someone in your group has had problems with motion sickness in the past or you are concerned, consult your pharmacist. There are some new and improved ways to avoid this and they should be able to help you. If you do decide to take something, make certain that you do so at least one full hour prior to the trip’s departure. Eat lightly beforehand, avoid spicy foods, carbonated beverages, get plenty of sleep the night before and avoid alcohol the night before.

We have Dramamine, Bonine, Ginger tablets, Ginger Ale soda, and Pressure Point Wristbands available to purchase at our Dolphin Deck when you check in.

Q?When is the best time of day to locate the whales and dolphins?

We see dolphins, whales, and other types of marine wildlife throughout the year, all day long. There is no specific time of day when the animals are “out more”. It’s just about the same on each trip. The morning trips are calmer because there is less wind, so we can spot disturbances in the water more easily. However, the later trips have the advantage of knowing the history from the prior trips. It’s really up to you!

What We See
Learn more about the dolphins, whales, and other marine wildlife that we see year-round.

Q?Are the boats safe?

Yes! Manute’a, our 50-foot sailboat catamaran, and Lily, our 62-foot power catamaran, are U.S. Coast Guard certified to carry up to 49 passengers and are roomy even when the capacity is full. Our original 35-foot catamaran is U.S. Coast Guard certified for 26, but we usually limit the trips to 20 so there’s some extra elbow room. Because those boats have two hulls, they’re extra stable and don’t rock from side to side like a traditional mono-hull. There’s ample room on board with enough seating for everyone in the cockpit. We’ve had paraplegics and quadriplegics, pregnant mothers, and 6-week old infants on board. Our 6-passenger motor yacht ORCA is also U.S. Coast Guard approved and safe! Fast Cat is Orange County’s first Coast Guard inspected rigid hull inflatable catamaran.

Q?What if it rains or gets foggy?

If it’s safe, we go! Fortunately, we don’t usually get much rain here in Southern California. But for those times, your captain will make a decision as to the safety of the voyage just prior to departure time. You should be prepared and at the dock, ready to go! We do have rain ponchos available for purchase or feel free to bring your own.

Q?Can I cancel my trip?

All reservations are non-cancelable and non-changeable. If you have unforeseeable circumstances that require you to cancel your whale watching reservation please notify us in advance by calling 949-488-2828.

Q?Will I get wet?

That’s largely up to you!

Captain Dave’s wettest boat is also our fastest. Fast Cat offers a bumpy but very fun ride. Any closer to the water and the dolphins will think you’re one of the pod! You could get splashed so keep important items like electronics protected.

Our catamaran sailboat is very close to the water. Leave your shoes in the cabin and introduce those toes to daylight because there’s a good chance you’ll get wet if you go up on the bow, which features our Eye-Spy Dolphin Tram Nets so that you can get closer to the animals.  You can also remain in the covered cabin area, which has cushioned seating and stays dry.

Manute’a is our second catamaran sailboat, and the vessel used for our daily whale watching safaris. This catamaran is also designed to be close to water and has our Eye-Spy Dolphin Tram Nets. Depending on ocean conditions, possibly your feet and/or lower legs could get wet if you visit the bow while the boat is underway and going fast. However, when we’re with dolphins and whales, the boat slows down considerably and it’s less likely you’ll get splashed. You can also choose to watch from the covered cabin area, which has cushioned seating and stays dry.

Our power catamaran, Lily, has a bow that is higher off the water and is enclosed with Lexan® glass for wind protection so it’s extremely unlikely you’ll get wet, although a little spray from the ocean is possible under some circumstances. But you can wet your whistle in our upscale galley! You can also remain completely dry while viewing wildlife from the covered sundeck.

Captain Dave’s 6-passenger luxury motor yacht, ORCA, is available for private charters. This vessel is close to the water however you’re not likely to get wet when on the bow. A fully enclosed cabin and bridge, and the covered aft deck all offer views without getting splashed at all.

Q?What if we don’t see whales or dolphins?

Cetacean Declaration Badge: If you don't see any dolphins or whales, join us again for FREE within 1 year

In the unlikely event your safari does not see any whales OR dolphins, then in addition to having had a relaxing and refreshing 2 and 1/2-hour adventure aboard a boat, seen Dana Point’s beautiful coastline, and enjoyed one of Mrs. Capt. Dave’s famous brownies, you’ll also be able to come back for FREE within one calendar year from the date of your trip.*

Your “no sightings” ticket is non-transferable and expires one year from the date of your “no sightings” safari. Be sure to use your free ticket before the expiration date!

If you’re unable to use your Free “No Sightings” pass within one calendar year from the date of your trip, then you can still join us again and receive a special 50% discount off the full fare adult or child ticket.

* Free ticket for a “no sightings” safari is effective July 6, 2016.

Remember that Capt. Dave locates dolphins well over 95% of the time throughout the year on our Dolphin and Whale Watching Safaris.

Q?Should we tip the Captain and crew?

Only if you really want to, but it’s never expected. If you have enjoyed your whale watching trip, gratuity is always appreciated!

Additional questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us if we haven’t answered your question here.

Buy Tickets Online