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Learn About Dolphins

Dolphin Watch Guide & Information

Bottlenose dolphins live in small groups called pods. They live in temperate and tropical regions, mostly along coastal areas and mid ocean. The size and appearance of bottlenose dolphins vary according to whether they live inshore or offshore and can dive down to a depth of 300 metres, and hold their breath for 10 to 15 minutes.

How Dolphins Communicate

Dolphins use two means of communication: vocalisation and echolocation. Vocalisation is used to communicate with other dolphins. Echolocation is used for detecting objects in the water.

A clicking noise is sent from the dolphin’s forehead (melon) that rebounds off an object and back through the dolphins jaw bone, where it is interpreted in the dolphin’s brain.

The dolphin knows how far away the object is by how long it takes for the echo to return, and how large the object is by the strength of the echo.

Echolocation from a dolphin is so sensitive it can detect the heart beat of a child inside a mother’s womb, yet can increase the strength of the echo to stun small fish.


Dolphins belong to an order of aquatic mammals known as cetaceans. There are 37 species of dolphin and porpoise world wide.

Thirteen species of dolphin’s live in Australian waters, though only one type of dolphin lives in one area all its life, the Bottlenose Dolphin, of which 100-150 reside in Port Stephens.

All cetaceans are protected species.

Dolphin Watching Rules

  • Two boats are allowed near the pod of dolphins at the same time.
  • 30 minutes maximum time spent with each pod of dolphins.
  • Do not disrupt or harass the dolphins.
  • Let the dolphins come to the boat – do not chase the dolphins.
  • Do not approach the dolphin from head-on or behind.
  • Keep noise to a minimum.
  • No feeding or touching

The female dolphin has a calf in the womb for 11 to 12 months. During the birth, 2 female dolphins act as midwives to assist with the delivery.

As soon as the calf is born, the mother will take it to the surface for its first breath of air. Within 24 hours the baby is suckling milk from its mother, and does so for 12 – 18 months.

The calf matures at the age of 6 and will live up to 30 to 40 years of age. The female dolphins will have a calf every 2-3 years and 6-8 calves in a lifetime.