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Hammerhead shark
Hammerhead shark, by staff photographer Mark Tyson, during our whale watching safari.

Dolphins, Whales, and Sharks, Oh My!

Orange County offers more than just the dolphin and whale watching that it is famous for. Our scenic waters are teeming with so many different types of wildlife, you never know what you may encounter during your whale watching trip. Every safari is different!

Do you “sea” lions? Yes, we do!

Dolphins and whales are not the only year-round animals seen during our whale watching safaris. Throughout the year we also see a group of animals called Pinnipeds. This group includes California Sea Lions, which are viewed on nearly every trip, as well as Harbor Seals and large Elephant Seals. Do you know the difference between a seal and a sea lion? Learn how to tell them apart from our expert naturalists during your safari!

California Sea Lions

Sea lions are the 2nd most numerous marine mammal off the coast of Dana Point, California.
Sea Lion on a red buoy at sunset

Harbor Seals

Harbor seal pups can dive for up to 2 minutes when they’re only a couple of days old.
Harbor seals regularly haul their bodies onto land for rest, body temperature regulation, and predator avoidance.
Harbor seals weight up to 245 pounds

Elephant Seals

Elephant seals spend much of their time offshore, diving to depths of 1,000 feet or more, and resting only briefly at the surface.
Elephant seals eat squid, fish, rays, and sharks
Male elephant seals can weigh up to 4,400 pounds

Expand your wings of knowledge.

We see more than 50 species of beautiful marine birds including endangered Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Blue Herons, Terns, Egrets, Shearwaters, Gulls, and more.

As a free extension of our regular dolphin and whale watching safari, the first trip of every Saturday has a pelagic bird emphasis, as well as the marine mammals.

A few of our frequently seen birds include:

Brown Pelicans

Brown pelicans almost diappeared from North America due to pesticides in the food chain.
Brown pelicans have a wingspan of over 78 inches
Brown pelicans eat small schooling fish like anchovies


We commonly see two types of gulls: California Gulls and Herring Gulls
California gulls have yellow bill with black band and red spot near the tip
Herring gulls have pink legs and no black band on their bill

Artic Terns

Arctic terns make the longest migration of any bird; traveling from the breeding grounds in the Arctic to wintering grounds in Antarctica.
Artic terns dive into the water for food
Arctic terns eat small fish, crustaceans, and sometimes insects

You won’t “need a bigger boat” to view sharks and other fish!

From tiny anchovies to the second largest fish in the world, Dana Point is host to a great variety of fish, many of which can be seen during our dolphin and whale watching excursions.

The Mola mola, or Sunfish, is one of the most frequent fish our passengers see because sunfish like to lay flat on the surface of the water. Mola are the largest bony fish in the world and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds.

Occassionally various species of sharks are seen at the surface, including Great White Sharks, Mako Sharks, Blue Sharks, Thresher Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks. During our regular dolphin and whale watching safaris we have also encountered very rare Basking Sharks, a filter feeder and the second largest living fish after the Whale Shark!


Dana Point, California, is one of only a handful of locations around the world to have seen a Megamouth Shark.
A juvenile great white shark

Mola Mola

Also known as Sunfish, they are the heaviest bony fish in the world, reaching lengths up to 14 feet across!
Mola mola eat mainly jellyfish

Schooling Fish

Small fish like sardines and anchovies are often seen grouped tightly together during a “feeding frenzy”, when dolphins, birds, sea lions, and sometimes minke or humpback whales are enjoying a feast.
Feeding frenzy with fish and dolphins

Uncommon Sea Creatures & Picturesque Landscapes

Unique and rare wildlife are also observed include beautiful jellyfish, sea turtles, devil rays, by-the-wind sailors, and more.

And on top of all the incredible animals, Captain Dave’s Dana Point whale watching safaris also view historic boats, gorgeous coastline and beaches, and many other memorable sights.

Sea Turtles

There are 5 known species of sea turtle off the California coast: Green, Leatherback, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, and Pacific Hawksbill.
Sea turtle in the ocean staring at the photographer
Sea turtle swimming at surface of ocean

Jellies and Hydrozoans

Although they resemble a jellyfish, By-the-Wind Sailors (Velella) are actually hydrozoans that “sail” with the wind and ocean currents.
Purple-striped Jellyfish
By-the-wind sailor

Landscapes and More

Only in southern California can you view white sandy beaches and palm trees along with snow-covered mountains at the same time!
Snow-capped mountains behind a row of palm trees and a beach
Historic schooners in a mock cannon battle at annual Tall Ships Festival

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