Get up close and personal with Bottlenose Dolphins

Kangaroo Island provides important habitat for Bottlenose Dolphins, the species occurs commonly around Australia and throughout the world. A community volunteer ‘Citizen Science’ program on Kangaroo Island has been monitoring dolphin populations since 2005.

Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch runs regular surveys with their partners allowing local volunteers the opportunity to study these wonderful marine mammals. Images and video footage are collected, identifying individual dolphins by distinctive dorsal fins and body markings. Vital data is recorded on movements and habitats, creating a sustainable, longitudinal study of extraordinary international significance.

Bottlenose Dolphin Facts

Bottlenose Dolphins have a short thick snout or beak, giving rise to their name, with a curved mouth alluding to a smile. They are shades of grey, usually with a slightly lighter underbelly and measure around two to four metres in length. Bottlenose Dolphins are incredible swimmers, with their strong muscular bodies designed for propelling themselves at speed through the ocean waves and currents. A curved dorsal fin, powerful tail and pointed flippers help guide and steer them through the water, and at times launching themselves metres out of the water breaching.

Eating mostly fish, Bottlenose Dolphins are carnivores, sometimes feeding on crustaceans and cephalopods such as squid. Bottlenose Dolphins are commonly seen hunting, playing and cruising along the ‘blue-line’ where there is a mosaic of bare sand and seagrass meadows and often a tasty meal to be found.

As extremely social creatures, Bottlenose Dolphins live in groups called ‘pods’, with up to 80 dolphins having been seen together on the North Coast of Kangaroo Island. Playing, hunting and working together to raise their young dolphin ‘calves’, the pod typically keeps relatively close to shore, however at times may travel further out to sea.

Bottlenose Dolphins may breed year-round but usually give birth to their calves near the end of summer. With calves suckling for up to 18 months, there is every chance you will see younger dolphins amongst a pod in the bays and coves around the island year-round.

Dolphins Kangaroo Island
Dolphins on Kangaroo Island

Where to find them

Bottlenose Dolphins are common year-round in the waters surrounding Kangaroo Island. Sometimes spotted from the coast or beach, cruising along the shoreline as they move between feeding and resting locations throughout their home range. It is not uncommon to encounter Bottlenose Dolphins when out boating, particularly along the north and eastern coast of the island.

A resident pod cruises back and forth around Penneshaw and others patrol waters dotted around the island, sometimes in the calm waters of Emu Bay a pod will cruise the blue line delighting beach goers. Core pods are resident near Hog Bay, North Cape and Dashwood Bay. Dolphins can also be regularly seen from West Bay to Pennington Bay, with the possibility of viewing other species of dolphins, such as Common Dolphins also.

How to watch them

For the best viewing experience join a local marine tour to interact with these inquisitive and playful creatures, you can even join in some of the best snorkelling kangaroo island has to offer with Dolphins. From a boat, they will be ducking and diving amongst the white water of waves, their speed and agility under the water is astounding. Bottlenose Dolphins are curious, inquisitive creatures and will often approach a vessel to investigate or even ‘play’ in the waves caused by the moving boat. If you are in a boat, please be careful as boat strikes pose a threat to dolphins. Take a marine tour with a local guide often visiting local resident pods, where you can watch from the comfort of the vessel or swim nearby the dolphins for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, along with the opportunity to hear about the Islands marine life while cruising a variety of coastal habitats.

Did you know?

Remarkable swimmers, Bottlenose Dolphins can reach speeds of over 30 kilometres per hour as they glide through the water, they can also dive up to 250 metres deep.

List of links

  • Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures

    Let Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures show you a different side of Kangaroo Island and its wonderful marine wonderland.