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Dolphin & Whale Spotting
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Dolphins eat at least 9kgs of fish every day and thus need to live near a good supply of food and spend 75% of the time looking for food. Some of the dolphins we find have made their home around the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park which consists three islands all encircled by coral reefs. Here there is an abundance of fish and seafood. Dolphins are seen on most days but as they are wild animal’s sightings cannot be guaranteed.

Species of dolphin most often sighted:

Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus): They are the largest of the dolphins with a grey upper body and paler but spotted underside. Their beaks are short and stout with a crease where it meets the forehead. They have a thick head and body that tapers to the flukes beginning behind their dorsal fins. Average in the pod is 25. They are the most playful of dolphin families and often approach divers underwater. They are seen every day.

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis): This is a distinctive dolphin with a characteristic thickened ridge on middle of back and a small, pointed dorsal fin. They are shy, and stay close to the shoreline and around mangroves. They are seen less often.

Spotted Dolphin (S.attentuata): The body is dark grey with numerous white spots, particularly on sides and lower parts; juveniles without spots. It has a curved, robust dorsal fin and long, dark beak with white lips. Seen regularly having made the Kisite/ Mpunguti area their home.

Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis): They have a slender robust body which is black on the back from beak to midway between dorsal fin and flukes, with distinctive hour-glass pattern of yellow, brown and grey on flanks. The dorsal fin is sickle. Known for riding waves of boats for pleasure and may do so for hours. Also frequently leap into the air.

Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris): They have a slim tapered body which is grey on the upper part and pale grey to white underneath. There is a dark patch encircling the eye which extends to the tip of beak which is long and dark. They are often in very large numbers of up to 1000 and are happy to swim at the bow of the dhows. Spinner dolphins are so named as they leap and spin out of the water. They are always fast movers.

Habits: Dolphins swim in small social groups known as pods. The size of pods range from as small as 3-5 to huge pods of 100 or more. A usual pod has 10-25 members. Mothers with calves swim near the centre of the pod. Young males may form their own pod and may be joined by juvenile females. Sometimes adult males may wander off temporarily. Dolphins within the same pod communicate using a series of groans, clicks and whistles.

Feeding: Dolphins primarily eat fish but will also feed on squid, octopus, crustaceans and shrimp. The only function of their teeth is to catch slippery lively prey before it is swallowed. They find their prey using eco-location (clicking sounds that echo back) and use high pitched pulses of sound to confuse them.

Mating: This occurs seasonally and is promiscuous in that many males attempt to mate with one female. The gestation period is between 10-12 months during which time the female chooses another suitable 'midwife'. The young are born live, suckle for 14 months, and are ready to eat fish after 3 months.  Dolphins are the only other species of animals that have sex for fun.


Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae): A really special treat!!!  Normally seen between August and October. They are the most acrobatic of all whale species and are often seen breaching (lunging out of the water). These magnificent gentle giants are on their migratory path heading south. A mother calling her calf can be heard for miles in underwater! They have a rounded dark grey to black body and a massive head with large bumps. A characteristic humped back and broad tail flukes which visible from afar when diving.

Short Finned Pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhyncus): They have a narrow dark body with lighter saddle on back behind dorsal fin, and a light patch on belly with a bulbous head. They are easily mistaken for large dolphins or false killer whale.

WHALE SHARKS (Rhincodon typus):

We had incredibly frequent sightings during 2005-2007. Since then sightings have dramatically reduced. We work together with the East African Whaleshark Trust.  Peak sightings are December to February but you may get lucky and see them any time.


Like all wild animals, dolphins, whales and whale sharks are unpredictable. They may spend many minutes in surface waters or may be seen for a few seconds then suddenly disappear. We are careful not to disturb them as we are, after all, in their territory and must treat them with RESPECT. We approach them slowly keeping our distance, gaining their TRUST and appreciating the chance to view these wonderful creatures. The captain's considerate boat driving is also important.

As members of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and International Dolphin Watch we ensure that we follow their CODE OF CONDUCT when encountering these wonderful creatures of the wild which reads as follows:

Interaction with marine mammals:

  • Do not chase or harass. Allow them to take the initiative. If they swim away do not continue to pursue them.
  • Do not crowd around them. If more than two boats move away.
  • Do not make sudden changes in speed or direction. Maintain boat in neutral gear.
  • Take special care when young ones are present.
  • When feeding or mating keep your distance and observe quietly.
  • Move away if you notice any signs of distress.