Dolphin Watching Guidelines

Along the East African Coastal region, dolphin watching is an established ecotourism activity and has been a popular tourist activity for more than 20 years. It is in the community’s interest to protect the dolphins so they can continue to benefit from them as a source of income for generations to come.  Good dolphin watching practice is important for protecting dolphins from harm. People and boats can cause them stress and injury, disrupt their natural behaviours such as; feeding, nursing, mating and migration and reduce breeding success.  If tour operators manage their tours well, and customers behave appropriately, the impacts can be minimized. It is with this in mind that the Watamu Marine Association (WMA) developed guidelines for dolphin watching. Visitors, tour operators and boat operators are urged to follow these guidelines which will encourage them to stay around for others to enjoy and benefit from.

Are you going Dolphin Watching? If so, please follow these guidelines

  • Do not touch dolphins.
  • Do not feed dolphins or throw object in the water to attract them.
  • Do not make sudden or loud noises like banging on the boat or shouting. This can damage their hearing and interfere with their communication, navigation and prey location.
  • Do not swim with dolphins unless they come to you first. Chasing dolphins to swim with them may place both you and the dolphin at risk.

Are you a boat operator? If so, please follow these guidelines

  • When you sight a dolphin, approach at a steady speed, slowing to 5 knots when within 1 kilometer of the animal.
  • The recommended way to approach a dolphin is from the side and slightly to the rear.
  • Try not to approach calves or pods containing calves.
  • Do not intercept their path of travel or approach head on.
  • Move your boat with care around dolphins.  Do not make erratic movements which can confuse them.
  • Do not deliberately encourage bow-riding, however if dolphins are bow-riding, do not change speed or direction suddenly.
  • Do not chase the dolphins and take care to avoid collisions.  Being hit by boats can cause serious and even fatal injuries to dolphins. If a dolphins surfaces very near your boat, stop or slow down.
  • If you notice signs of disturbance move away from the animals that are disturbed. Do not make repeated attempts to interact with dolphins that appear disturbed.
  • Signs of disturbance include;
    • Attempts to move away from the boat
    • Regular changes in swimming direction or speed
    • Hasty dives
    • Lengthy periods of time underwater
  • Where possible leave a distance of 50 meters between your boat and the dolphins, and 100 meters directly in front or behind a dolphin.
  • Within 50 metres boats should operate at no wake speed.
  • Where possible, give dolphins the choice to approach you. Dolphins are sociable animals they may choose to move towards people and boats, but our operators should let the animals choose the nature of their contact with people.
  • Do not surround dolphins. No more than 3 boats should be within 100 meters either side of a dolphin.
  • When you have finished watching the dolphins please move away slowly.
  • Please report any collisions with dolphins, injures or abnormal behavior to your nearest Kenya Wildlife Service office.

Also report to Watamu Marine Association (WMA)


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