About Us: The Story of How it All Began

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Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari is passionately owned and operated by husband and wife team, Captain Dave Anderson (“Captain Dave”), who is Coast Guard licensed, and his wife Gisele (Mrs. Captain Dave). For over twenty years, they have been taking people sailing to enjoy the company of some of the most magnificent marine mammals on the planet. Whether guiding families on one of their tours, hosting private parties, educating school groups, or entertaining celebrities, they’ve had the pleasure of introducing thousands of people from all around the world to the wonders of Dana Point—the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®.

Why would a couple dedicate themselves to a life on and around the water? Because, for them,  nothing compares to sharing the incredible beauty and natural wonders of sea life. Being able to provide people with lifelong memories, not to mention seeing guests awestruck as they pass right by a pod of dolphins for the first time or encounter an enormous blue whale, is a source of pride and endless joy.

Captain Dave, wife Gisele, and their daughter

Love at First Sail

Captain Dave and Gisele met sailing in the 1990s. Sailing wasn’t just a past-time for Dave, though, it had been his dream to make a living taking people out on his boat. He started taking small groups of people out to see the huge herds of wild dolphins and amazing whales off the Southern California coast. When he told other boaters about what he saw they were amazed. Capt. Dave realized if the people who live on their boats don’t know what lives off their coast, then who does? And so began Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari.

Soon, Gisele jumped on board with brownies and her business expertise and warm, friendly nature. Dave says she is the organization behind the organization. Her help enabled the business to grow into the year-round adventure that Californians and tourists have come to know and love today.

Capt. Dave's former yellow sailboat surrounded by dolphins

Capt. Dave’s former yellow sailboat, Lucid Dreamer

With Gisele’s love and support, Captain Dave eventually traded in his small yellow sailboat for a 35-foot catamaran sailboat with a capacity to carry 24 passengers. It was aboard this vessel, “DolphinSafari.com”, during regular trips, that Capt. Dave filmed his documentary, Wild Dolphins & Whales of Southern California. It won eight awards at two of the world’s biggest wildlife film festivals: the International Wildlife Film Festival and Wildscreen in England, the ‘Academy Awards’ of wildlife films. DolphinSafari.com was the first vessel in Southern California to offer year round dolphin watching trips.

DolphinSafari Catamaran Sailboat

Meet Manute’a

In 2007 Captain Dave added a second catamaran sailboat to his fleet. “Manute’a” was 50 feet long and carried up to 49 passengers. Like his first catamaran, Manute’a also had Eye-Spy Tram Nets for up close and personal viewing of the whales and dolphins. A couple of years later Dave upgraded Manute’a with one of his most innovative ideas: an Eye-to-Eye Underwater Viewing Pod. The Underwater Pods (he added second Pod two years later) gave passengers the opportunity to feel what it’s like to swim with wild dolphins and whales without having to jump in the water!

During the summer of 2009, Capt. Dave launched another special feature on Manute’a: WhaleWatchingTV. Long before Facebook, Instagram, and other social media apps were doing live video, Dave had the idea to broadcast his trips live on the internet. He outfitted the boat with seven cameras and microphones on the crew so everyone around the world could see whales and dolphins live on their computer.

Whale watching catamaran sailboat Manute'a with humpback whale fluke

Time for Something a Little Different

In 2012 Captain Dave brought into the fleet his only monohull vessel, a 38-foot Bayliner motor yacht he named “ORCA”. Unlike his other vessels, ORCA would carry up to six passengers in upscale comfort and be offered for private boat rentals only. ORCA can be chartered for whale watching, cruises celebrating special occasions, TV and film productions, and much more.

Motor Yacht ORCA Captain Dave's Dolphin Safari

A Passion for Whales & Dolphins

To help raise awareness about whale entanglement, Captain Dave authored the award-winning book, “Lily, A Gray Whale’s Odyssey” which was published in 2013. A captivating and scientifically accurate tale of a fictional gray whale’s migration with breathtaking photographs and foreword by Jean-Michel Cousteau. His book won eight awards in 2013 including the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for Best New Voice from the Independent Book Publishers Association. Captain Dave has been featured on the Ellen Show and on CBS Morning News for his conservation efforts and his successful whale disentanglements.

The covers of Capt. Dave's award winning book and documentary DVD

Hello Lily

“Lily”, a 65-foot power catamaran, was welcomed into the expanding fleet in October 2013. In addition to luxury accommodations such as a bow with cushioned bow seating and rails enclosed with Lexan® glass for wind protection, Lily is also equipped to respond to a whale in distress. She can host and feed an entire rescue team and stay with the whale for days until it is successfully disentangled.

Lily and a blue whale

Hey there, Fast Cat

In July 2015 Captain Dave premiered his newest catamaran, a rigid hull inflatable boat name “Fast Cat”. At the time it was Orange County’s first and only Coast Guard inspected RHIB. Fast Cat offers small groups of up to 12 a fun and high-speed adventure to view the amazing year-round wildlife off Southern California. Dave equipped Fast Cat with powerful engines capable of speeds up to 30 knots to ensure his guests spent less time looking for animals and more time getting up close and personal with them! He also customized the boat with heavily padded seats and seat backs to ensure comfort, a large sunshade, and custom teak flooring for an upscale look and feel.

Fast Cat with family at the bow surrounded by dolphins

Keeping Dana Point Beautiful

Having developed a passion for marine conservation through the boat tours and film-making process, Captain Dave initiated Orange County’s first whale disentanglement team in 2008. He continues to raise awareness of the thousands of whales and dolphins that die in fishing-gear entanglements every day worldwide.

Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari team is also proud to host beach clean-ups in Southern California to keep plastic and trash out of our oceans. Reef-safe sunscreen is also offered onboard to protect guests’ skin without hurting the wildlife in and around Dana Point. You can learn more about the various ways in which the company contributes by reading our comprehensive giving back page.

Volunteers at beach clean-up at Aliso Creek

Book a Life-changing Whale Watching Tour Today

Now, with more than two decades in the business, Mr. and Mrs. Captain Dave continue to spend their days taking romantic ocean cruises (well… and guiding them, too!) and enjoying batch after batch of Mrs. Captain Dave’s mouth-watering Triple Fudge Brownies. Yum!

Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari team would like to invite you to one of our famous whale watching tours and see what our passion for marine mammals is all about. The proceeds from every ticket purchased helps to preserve this magnificent area for future generations. And you never know—it might even change your life!

Please give us a call with your questions and comments, and book a tour online to come face-to-face the breathtaking wildlife at Dana Point—The Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®.