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Dolphin Watching

Bay of Islands, New Zealand


Dolphin Watching in the Bay of Islands

Sightseeing, Tours, Attractions and Events in the Bay of Islands
Hotels and Accommodation in the Bay of Islands

More Dolphin Pictures
Tiki Touring catches up with dolphins

By Richard Moore



In an area bursting with interesting things to see the Dolphin Adventures tour out to spot and swim with dolphins is a fantastic journey.

There are both morning and afternoon tours and the likelihood of seeing the beautiful creatures is almost guaranteed.

The four-hour adventures begin at Paihia - with a pick-up at nearby Russell - and believe me if you get the right conditions you'll be in for an absolute treat.

Our Fullers' crew of Tammy and the wonderfully named Floppy begin the trip by explaining about what you can and can't do and also how the sea conditions and make-up of any dolphin pods will determine whether or not you can swim with the creatures.

It is illegal in New Zealand to get into the water with a dolphin pod that contains juveniles - both for the mammals' safety and your own. Dolphins are wonderful but a 200-kilo mother protecting her youngster from a perceived threat is not something I'd like to face.

But the gals did say we would at least see them and so out we motored on a stable and comfortable jet-powered catamaran.

Because the dolphins are wild their exact location varies depending on their whims and feeding patterns.

After about an hour of cruising the beautiful Bay of Island's coastline we were led to a super pod of about 40 dolphins. Normally there are about 15 in a pod so on the day we journeyed out we were very lucky.

Floppy can recognise individual dolphins by their dorsal fins and any scars they may have and each sighting is noted down along with times, locations and weather conditions.

This is to build up a picture of dolphin behaviour in the Bay of Islands, although the highly mobile and unpredictable mammals will more than likely make a mockery of trying to pin them down through science.

And it is one of the greatest joys of seeing dolphins in the wild. You are completely at their mercy and it all depends upon whether they feel like being sociable.

On our trip the pod was keen to come to look at us and then once they'd worked out we were pretty cool looking guys and gals they performed and showed off.

One hooked seaweed over its fin and began a game, while others sped by and around and leapt out of the water in a billow of spray that culminated in a whopping splash as it re-entered the blue of the bay.

Amid oohs and aahs and clicking cameras we marvelled at their antics and I have to say this cynical journalist forgot all the garbage going on in the world and just took in the pure enjoyment of witnessing such wonderful creatures in their element.

Pity I had to spend much of the time looking through my camera viewfinder but, hey, we hope you like the pictures.

The super pod did have juveniles within its midst and so swimming with them was out, but I reckon there was no-one aboard the boat who was too disappointed because the spectacle was amazing.

On the way back to Paihia we stopped in on Urupukapuka Island for a toilet stop and food and drinks at the local cafe. You can also take a quick dip in lovely Otehei Bay.

Fullers' Dolphin Adventures is a really well organised operation that mixes a terrific tour, with a professional, informative and really friendly service.

This is a must-do.

You can book a trip with Dolphin Adventures through Tiki Touring.


Cruise departs from either Paihia or Russell, in the Bay of Islands. Paihia - the Maritime Building, Marsden Road, on the Paihia waterfront. Russell - The Strand Wharf on the Russell waterfront.

Cruise departs: Paihia - 8:00am or 12:30pm Russell - 8:10am or 12:40pm Check in and boarding commences 10 minutes prior to departure

Return Details:
Cruise concludes at either The Strand Wharf in Russell or the Paihia wharf, approximately 4 hours after departure, or 9 1/2 hours after the morning departure if the island extension option is chosen.


  • Dolphin watching cruise Underwater microphone to listen to the dolphins.
  • Use of snorkels, goggles, fins and wetsuit when required
  • Urupukapuka Island visit and extended stay if option selected
  • Complimentary hot drink and hot freshwater showers at Otehei Bay Stable, fast, 13 metre catamaran with excellent viewing
  • New Zealand's Goods and Services Tax (GST)


  • Food and drinks other than those specified

Optional Tours:
This cruise operates with a choice of either a morning or an afternoon departure from either Paihia or Russell, as well as the option of extending your stay on Urupukapuka Island (on the morning departure only). Please select the appropriate tour grade option when pricing your booking request.

Additional Info:

  • This tour must be booked at least 24 hours in advance of travel. Confirmation for this product will be received within 24 hours, subject to availability.
  • Tour is operated in English unless otherwise stated.
  • Departures and itineraries may be subject to sea and weather conditions.
  • This excursion is Department of Conservation approved and a percentage of each fare goes towards dolphin research.

Fullers Guarantee:
If you do not see dolphins or whales, Fullers will give you a free ticket to go again until you do. Fullers have a 90%+ success rate in finding dolphins. This is not a money back offer and the ticket is not transferable to another person. However, if you are unable to utilize the offer of going again, then Fullers will refund NZD20.00 per adult (and NZD 10.00 per child), direct to you when you are in the Bay of Islands.

Swimming with Dolphins:
Whenever possible, Fullers allow you to swim with the dolphins, however under some conditions, viewing only will be possible. This is for your own safety as well as the protection and well being of the dolphins. Passengers wishing to swim should be competent and confident in the water.

What to Bring:
Passengers should wear their swimming costume under their clothes for ease of changing. Fullers suggest you bring a towel, some warmer clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen and a camera.




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