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Dolphins are social animals and travel in pods together. Sometimes those pods grow into thousands of dolphins "dancing" in the ocean.
Common dolphins are the most abundant marine mammals encountered off the Southern California coastline with estimates upwards of one million dolphins. They are often seen in large groups and a typical pod will number around 200 individuals, though sometimes they are observed by the thousands.
Seeing dolphins in their natural habitat is a thrilling and unforgettable experience! At an average of 6-8 feet long, common dolphins are extremely friendly and social and will frequently come right over to boats to bow ride and surf in the boat wake. They are hugely acrobatic and sometimes will suddenly launch out of the water in a spectacular leap, landing with a big splash.
Perhaps one of the most breathtaking scenes to experience on the water is a dolphin stampede. This occurs when hundreds, even thousands of dolphins suddenly begin leaping in and out of the water at an astonishing speed in one direction, as if they are sprinting towards or away from something. The leaping behavior is referred to as “porpoising” and it allows the dolphins to travel at their fastest speed, as there is less resistance through air than through water.
Dolphin stampedes can occur at any time with little to no warning and the reasoning behind a stampede still baffles scientists. No one is certain why dolphins suddenly begin to stampede, but it is theorized they may be alerted to a food source, evading a nearby predator, or meeting up with another pod of dolphins. Though not considered a “rare” occurrence, dolphin stampedes are only witnessed by lucky boaters a handful of times a year, much to the delight of excited passengers on board.
Dolphins rely on healthy oceans to thrive and they need our help. The ocean faces many threats due to human activity, but it is imperative that we conserve and protect our oceans for generations to come. Illegal hunting, entanglement, and ship strikes are just a few examples of threats to dolphins and whales around the world. We can help protect these animals by reducing our carbon footprint, leaving the environment cleaner than we found it, eating only sustainably caught seafood, and shopping locally to reduce excess shipping. The Seven Leave No Trace Principles are a great way to mindfully enjoy our natural environment.
Choosing an eco-friendly tour operator for your wildlife encounter is a great way to pay respect to the animals you’re viewing. A responsible tour operator should view wildlife from a safe distance with a low-impact, focus on education, and contribute to conservation. Davey’s Locker and Newport Landing Whale Watching are great choices for viewing local wildlife off the coast of Southern California. Whales and dolphins can be seen year-round.