Immersive holidays are not just about relaxing in a plush hotel but also interacting with nature and other life forms. If you are planning a holiday in The Maldives, do not miss encounters with the delightful dolphins that often appear on the deep blue surface of the Indian Ocean. Animal lovers will doubly enjoy their rendezvous with these friendly dolphins in Maldives!
To the common man, vacations in this part of the world are all about lazy days spent in Maldives’ water villas with pool or snorkelling excursions in the sea. But the discerning traveller should know more. We bring you all that you need to know about dolphins in The Maldives.
Mostly residing in the ocean, dolphins are mammals known to possess a lot of intelligence. There are a total of 40 dolphin species around the world that survive. It is rare to find freshwater dolphins, apart from a handful of river species as most of them prefer to dwell in marine waters. If not in the ocean, you will find them along coastlines where the water is brackish.
These aquatic mammals are generally 6 feet to 12 feet in size and weigh a couple of 100 kilograms. The quintessential smile of the dolphin is a result of their naturally curved mouth. These cetaceans have small teeth to aid in their consumption of fish and squid.
Dolphins travel in small groups called pods. These pods generally have at least 12 dolphins, including fully grown adults and some juveniles who tend to swim only with their mother for up to 6 years sometimes. The marine mammals are famous for their friendly nature, and that is one of the reasons why they are so social.
Dolphins have several ways of communication which include making noises that resemble clicks, whistles and squeaks. These intelligent cetaceans are gifted with a built-in sonar (sound navigation and ranging) that also helps them in communication to a certain extent.
However, the primary use of their natural echolocation capability is to search for prey. Dolphins are able to size up their potential meal just by making clicking sounds so that those vibrations will bounce off the object. This technique can help them find out the distance and shape of the prey as well.
These social animals are polygamous, yet produce only one calf. The smallest dolphins (the Maui species) are only 5 feet in length while the largest ones (orca species, more popularly known as the killer whale) tend to dwarf most other marine animals, being 30 feet long.
It would not be an overstatement if we said that dolphins are talkative. The bottlenose dolphin is known to emit about a thousand clicking sounds in a single second! This hyperactive behaviour is more for echolocation than for communicating with one another though.
One must be aware of the fact that dolphins do not have gills, hence cannot breathe underwater. Being mammals, they use their lungs to take in oxygen from the air, even though they are capable of holding their breath for up to 8 to 10 minutes underwater.
It is interesting to note that these slippery dolphins have half of their brain working away (although turn by turn) even when they are asleep. This is to ensure they keep breathing. This phenomenon has earned dolphins the moniker of “semihemispheric sleepers”.
Dolphin Species Found in The Maldives
Interspersed in the Indian Ocean that surrounds all the islands in The Maldives, one can spot a number of dolphin species. While the world currently recognizes 42 dolphin species that include the large group of oceanic dolphins and a smaller collection of river dolphins, The Maldives hosts only oceanic dolphins.
Look for Maldives vacation packages that include dolphin watching to fully experience these cetaceans in their natural habitat. While some whales are also classified as dolphins in certain cases, if we stick to dolphins only, one will be able to spot at least 8 different species in this archipelago. Understand these dolphin species better:
Spinner Dolphins in Maldives
These conservation dependent low risk marine dolphins are very small in size. Spinner dolphins are among the most abundantly found dolphin species in The Maldives, thanks to its tropical climate. This mammal gets its name due to its ability to spin in the air when it leaps out of the water to catch a breath. Spinner dolphins can do acrobatic tricks as well, especially along its longitudinal axis as it travels through the ocean.
Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in Maldives
Identifiable by their long and sleek beak and slender body, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins can be sighted all round the year in the Indian Ocean. This near threatened species has a deep grey back while its belly is whitish to light grey in colour. Do not miss the dark flecks on the bellies of the adult dolphins!
Rough-Toothed Dolphins in Maldives
A species that requires warm water for its survival, the rough-toothed dolphins can sometimes also be solitary, a contradiction from their general tendency to live in groups. Notice how they skim over the surface of the water, telling you also to keep your chin-up and smile. Keep an eye out for conical heads to spot the rough-toothed dolphins in The Maldives.
Pantropical Spotted Dolphins in Maldives
Found in abundance, the pantropical spotted dolphins can be sighted either in the high seas or near the coast, the latter being larger in size and bearing more spots. This species is also quite friendly, and the cetaceans will often join your dolphin watching yacht to bow-ride (a behaviour commonly displayed by dolphins that swim close to the wake of the boat, either for fun or to conserve energy). The most notable characteristic of the pantropical spotted dolphins are their thin long beaks.
Fraser’s Dolphins in Maldives
Also known as Sarawak dolphin, the Fraser dolphin only exists deep in the ocean, so taking one of the liveaboards in Maldives is a great way to watch them. These thickset mammals have very small flippers and a tiny beak. When you spot these, you will find very large pods of 100 to 1,000 dolphins swimming together at very high speeds, stirring up the ocean waters.
Striped Dolphins in Maldives
If trying to spot striped dolphins in The Maldives, keep your eyes peeled for a few markers that will help you distinguish this species easily. Their eyes are encircled by a single or a couple of black bands which extend to the flipper, streaking along their back. Their bellies are often pink, blue or white in colour while their bellies are grey or white, with broad black stripes running across the body.
Risso’s Dolphins in Maldives
Also called monk dolphins or grampus, Risso’s dolphins have a creased head. Weighing up to 500 kilograms, this species is one of the heaviest and also the largest among dolphins. Look for their cream-coloured bellies and grey or brownish backs when identifying infants, and densely scarred whitish cetaceans when pointing out fully grown dolphins in this species. These scars are the result of frequent interaction with other toothed dolphins of this species.
Common Bottlenose Dolphins in Maldives
The most frequently spotted type of dolphins, the common bottlenose species is so named after the shape of its snout. One should not confuse this snout with their nose, though – bottlenose is simply a misnomer. Dolphins use their blowhole located at the top of their head to breathe out air. Their breeding season in the springtime is a fun time to go on dolphin watching trips.
Dolphin Watching in The Maldives
If you are looking to book activities in Maldives, dolphin watching will surely delight you to bits! Dolphin tours are arranged by most resorts in The Maldives, but sightings are not guaranteed as seasonal variations, weather conditions and water currents play factors, not to forget – luck. Regardless of the Maldives water bungalows you choose to spend your holiday in, dolphin trips are possible in most atolls across this country. Take a look at the most recommended locations.
The Best Spots for Dolphin Watching Maldives
It is hard to pick the greatest spots for watching dolphins in The Maldives as these cetaceans are richly spread across the nation. Still, some islands and certain hotels in The Maldives insist that they have the best sighting statistics. North Ari Atoll, South Ari Atoll, North Malé Atoll and South Malé Atoll are some of the best atolls for dolphin watching in The Maldives.
Apart from these highly frequented atolls, there are certain other atolls that do not attract as much crowd but never fail to attract dolphins. Book Maldives day tours in the Meemu Atoll, home to barely a couple of resorts – ensuring a more personalized and private dolphin watching experience.
Maldives honeymoon packages which include a stay at Hakuraa Huraa or Medhufushi Island Resort are sweet deals which you can grab if you would like to go dolphin watching in Meemu Atoll. Dolphins are known to frequently visit the Muli Channel in this atoll. According to statistics, dolphin quests result in successful sightings 85% of the time, and this is throughout the year!
The depth of the ocean is not much in this part of The Maldives, with the maximum depth ranging between 10 metres and 30 metres at various points. This lends a strikingly bright hue of blue to the water, making them a great backdrop to shoot your dolphin photos and videos. If you’re fortunate to have clear weather, you might also see the seabed and the reefs.
Along the channel, the visibility is very good as the strong underwater currents draw in cleaner water. The Muli Channel separates Meemu Atoll from the rest of the Indian Ocean while the outer reefs protect the islands that make up this atoll.
The friendly dolphins are known to bow-ride in the Muli Channel. They often gather in the wake of the boat, which is the area with waters in motion behind any water vessel that moves across the surface of the water body. The dolphins in Meemu Atoll don’t just swim or do their occasional breaching to breathe in air but also perform tricks such as high jumps.
When visiting The Maldives, you will most probably land at the Velana International Airport in Malé – the world’s smallest capital. Dolphin sightings are often reported near this public island and also the nearby local isle of Hulhumalé, especially before dusk.
The Best Times for Dolphin Watching Maldives
Afternoons and evenings are generally the best times of the day to go out on a dolphin ride. Even though dolphin watching trips are conducted in the mornings, the narrow duration of 9 AM to 10:30 AM is the most opportune time for sightings. One must remember that the cetaceans tend to flee from any approaching yacht or boat at this time.
However, 3:30 PM to 5 PM in the afternoon and early evening see a marked change in the behaviour of the dolphins as they often follow boats and indulge in playful bow-riding. Sightings are significantly higher during this time of the day as compared to mornings.
The Best Seasons for Dolphin Watching in Maldives
The best time of the year to watch dolphins in The Maldives depends on which part of this Asian archipelago you are visiting. Since the country lies on both sides of the equator, seasons often differ in each hemisphere. Dry season in one part of the nation means wet season in the other.
This phenomenon is amazing for travellers, who needn’t worry about the best seasons for watching dolphins in The Maldives as there’s always some atoll or island where sightings are probable. Just for the record, dolphins prefer clement weather. So, the best months for sighting dolphins in The Maldives are generally January to April when it is either winter or spring, although quite summery in this tropical paradise.
If you miss the dry season in your atoll of choice, hop over across the equator to a different atoll to skip the monsoon. Maldives weather is quite convenient this way! In general, the wet season ranges from May to October when the rains also make the seas a bit stormy and reduce visibility overall.
Swimming with Dolphins in The Maldives
Swimming or snorkelling with dolphins is the latest craze in The Maldives. If a private dolphin watching yacht tour does not do the trick, you can watch these oceanic mammals from even closer quarters by getting into the water yourself.
One of the most exciting activities to do in Maldives is swim with dolphins. Many Maldives luxury villas now offer swimming or sometimes snorkelling with dolphins as part of their experiential cruises. Before you begin your swim, you will be taken deeper into the ocean where the currents are strong and the water is warm – ideal for dolphins to visit.
Once the dolphins begin to chase your yacht, quietly climb down into the water without making much noise or splashes. If you impatiently jump instead, the dolphins will swiftly move away. It is very hard to observe the cetaceans from such proximity, but the attempts are always thrilling.
The most commonly spotted species while swimming is the spinner dolphin as their schedules are more-or-less fixed and easily trackable. Afternoon swims are best done in the deep waters whereas morning swims close to the atolls lead to better sightings.
Dolphin Cruises in The Maldives
Right from Malé – capital city of The Maldives to the remotest islands of this nation, dolphin cruises are routinely held and hugely popular with travellers. If you’re wondering what to do in Maldives for your honeymoon, book a sunset dolphin cruise. You will not only watch these jolly mammals riding the waves but also relish a date with your partner – champagne, canapés and all!
Morning cruises are also a thing. Relax in dhonis – traditional Maldivian wooden boats that sail in the high seas in search of dolphins. Have your breakfast at leisure on the open deck as you wait for these cetaceans to show up.
Tips for Sighting Dolphins in The Maldives
Dolphin tours are exhilarating, but there are some precautions and good practices that must be followed for a safe experience, both for you and for the dolphins. Keep these tips in mind while on a dolphin trip:
- There is no need to feed the dolphins to attract them. Clap to encourage them to come closer to your boat or continue with their acrobatics, especially when the captain of your boat slows down to prod the dolphins to follow.
- Snorkelling or swimming with dolphins doesn’t often guarantee sightings. You might hear their chatter or clicking noises in the distance, but might often miss to see them.
- If there are infants in the dolphin pod, avoid snorkelling as the snorkel might hurt the calves. Also, overprotective mothers might try to defend their babies, posing a risk to you.
- Always let the dolphins approach you instead of going after them. Avoid trying to touch these cetaceans in a bid to keep the interactions respectful.
- A wetsuit is great for swimming with the dolphins, but in case you don’t have thermally insulated ones, it’s alright. The water temperature ranges between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius in The Maldives.
Our Maldives tour packages are not limited to dolphins watching. You can take up whale spotting, trophy fishing or manta ray sighting, apart from dolphins in Maldives. Plan your next big holiday with Samudra Maldives and explore this group of islands like a pro!