Dolphins In Cornwall

Learn all about our favourite marine friends, the dolphin.

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Where’s the best place to see Dolphins in Cornwall?

The best way to see dolphins in Cornwall is via our boat trips of course! A few types of dolphin you may see on your boat trip include Common Dolphins (Delphinus Delphis), Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena Phocoena) and Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus).

As their name suggests, the dolphin you will most likely encounter is the Common Dolphin. Common Dolphins live in pods of between 50 and 100 and are extremely inquisitive characters. Because of their sociable nature, these dolphins tend to interact with the boats a lot more, giving you an up-close view of their beautiful pod. The Common Dolphin may be easier for you to spot: they can often be seen in their pods following the boats or you’ll see them jumping out of the water as they swim. They have a very distinctive yellow and grey ‘hourglass’ pattern along their sides. Lucky for us, they tend to live in the deep waters off the Cornish coast, just outside of Padstow!

Become a dolphin expert learning everything from diet to their links with aliens! To start you off, here are our top 9 interesting facts about dolphins.

9 interesting facts about Dolphins:

1

They name themselves - just like humans

It’s been proven that they develop their own unique whistle which is used by other dolphins to recognize them.
2

Dolphins have two stomachs

One for storage and the other for digestion
3

Dolphins are well known great divers

They can reach up to 1,000 feet underwater before having to come up for a breath.
4

Dolphins are very caring

they can often be seen tending to the ill or older members of their group.
5

They have midwives

When dolphins give birth there is a dolphin ‘midwife’ there to make sure the baby is delivered safely and is able to get to the surface to take its first breath.
6

Dolphins are helping us hunt for aliens.

Scientists have been analysing dolphin communication as a viable form of reaching out to some of the billions of galaxies in the universe.
7

There are 44 types of Dolphin

39 types of Oceanic Dolphins and 5 River Dolphins - There’s almost a dolphin for every oceanic environment
8

There are 2,913 dolphins

That are currently held in captivity worldwide. Mostly in the US and Japan.
9

Dolphins are fast!

Dolphins can reach speeds of over 30km an hour!

What is a Dolphin?

Dolphins are actually classed as small gregarious (that means they live in flocks/ organised communities) toothed whales. Known for their distinctive curved fin on their backs and beak-like snouts. Dolphins are extremely well known for their sociable nature and high intelligence; they’ve even been known to use tools and problem solve.

Book your Dolphin boat tour in Cornwall

Our popular 2-hour “Sea Life Safari” tour would be the best option if you’re looking to see the dolphins. Allowing more time and plenty of opportunities to seek out the dolphin pods, you’ll be sure to see a lot more fascinating and exciting wildlife on the way. Or hire the boat! Our skipper knows exactly where to go and at the best times to see the dolphins

Padstow Sealife Safaris offer a selection of the best boat trips in Cornwall for you to get up close with these most beautiful sea creatures. And with smaller boats of up to just 12 passengers, you can be sure to get a magnificent view of these lovely and playful mammals.

Are Dolphins Mammals?

Yes, dolphins are mammals, specifically marine mammals. This means that they are warm blooded, child bearing aquatic creatures. However unlike land mammals, aquatic mammals like dolphins and whales have a seperate breathing and food passage. This stops them from drowning when hunting and eating their prey. Because of this dolphins don’t actually possess vocal cords and instead uses their nasal passage to produce the distinctive clicks and whistles.

The earliest records of dolphins can be traced back as far as 10 million years. So they’ve been around for a while! Their closest relatives – the whales are even older, existing as far back as 40 million years ago, they lived on land before slowly evolving into the marine mammals we know today. Looking in to the past makes it easier to understand why these exclusively aquatic animals are mammals.

Is a Dolphin a fish?

No, dolphins aren’t fish. Although they do spend their entire lives in the water. Fish don’t have lungs, they have gills which allow them to take oxygen from the water. dolphins rely on their blowhole. Because of this dolphins have to be ‘conscious breathers, meaning they never fall asleep completely because they’d drown.

Dolphins vertebrate move vertically, similar to our human spines whereas most fish move their vertebrate horizontally (side to side) to move through the water.

Another distinctive quality is that dolphins are warm blooded. Although not all fish are cold blooded (opah, or moonfish is a fully warm-blooded fish although not as warm as mammals) most are because water is a ‘heat sink’ meaning it drains the heat out of surrounding objects which means it takes a lot of energy to stay at a constant heat. Dolphins combat this by surrounding their body with a thick layer of fat (commonly called blubber) which helps them stay warm in the chilly seas!

Where do Dolphins live?

Almost everywhere! Dolphins live in all oceans of the planet and even in some rivers too. There are 39 types of Oceanic Dolphins and 5 River Dolphin so with 44 different species there’s almost a dolphin for every oceanic environment. One of the best known dolphin (the bottlenose) live in every ocean in the world – bar the arctic and antarctic.

Most Dolphins live in the shallow waters, on the oceans continental shelves. Needing to come up for air means they don’t often need to go into the deep ocean, some of the larger Dolphins do venture slightly further out.

What do Dolphins eat?

They aren’t too picky. Being carnivores dolphins have to hunt for their food and on average need to eat between 4-9% of their body weight in fish per day. Their diets depend mostly on where they are. In cornwall dolphins eat fishes like herring, cod or mackerel, some others eat squids or other cephalopods. But bigger dolphins like killer whales eat marine mammals like seals or sea lions – sometimes even turtles!

Dolphins use several methods to catch their prey:

  • Herding: This is a cooperative hunt performed by a pod. Splitting into two, one group surrounds a school of fish while the other group take turns to eat through the compacted school of fish.
  • Corraling: The Dolphins trap fish in shallow waters.
  • Killer Whales: When killer whales hunt marine mammals they tend to use their tails to hit them in the water or throw . Stunning them enough to make a fatal blow.

Is a Killer Whale a Dolphin?

Yes, Killer whales or Orcas are often confused with being a whale thanks to their misleading name. Killer Whales are the largest member of the Dolphin family with the largest Orca recorded to be 32 feet long and 6 tons! Their distinctive black and white markings vary depending where they live. And like there dolphin relatives killer whales live anywhere. They’re the most widely distributed mammals (bar humans) on the planet.

How do Dolphins sleep?

When it’s time to sleep the Dolphin will shut down one hemisphere of it’s brain and close the opposite eye and will alternate this throughout its ‘sleep’ The brain that’s awake monitors the environment and controls breathing. There are three main reasons why they do this:

  • This type of sleep allows them to keep moving constantly which helps the warm blooded dolphin to maintain a constant heat.
  • To look out for danger & predators.
  • If they were fully unconscious they would likely drown because they have to be constantly holding their breath while underwater.

Do Dolphins sleep?

Yes, but not like land mammals. When we sleep there’s total unconsciousness, the suspension of senses and inactivation of all voluntary muscles. Dolphins never fully lose consciousness.

How long do Dolphins live?

Depending on the species dolphins can live up to 90+ years . Although in captivity these tend to be more than halved. For example Killer whales have a 40 – 60 year lifespan, some have been estimated to live for over 90 years. While captive killer whales have an average lifespan of 25 years or less.

Are Dolphins endangered?

Some are. The Maui dolphins, found in the waters of New Zealand are on the brink of extinction due to the masses of discarded fishing gear (ghost gear) with estimates suggesting less than 100 of these dolphins remain in existence.

What is a baby Dolphin called?

Baby Dolphins are called calves or pups.

What is a group of Dolphins called?

A group of dolphins is called a pod. These are normally made up of around 12 dolphins. However with an abundance of food they can reach up to 1000 individuals this is then called a superpod.

Common Dolphin

What species of Dolphin you’ll see on your trip:

A few types of dolphin you may see on your boat trip include Common Dolphins (Delphinus Delphis), Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena Phocoena) and Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus).

Common Dolphin:

These dolphins live in pods of between 50 and 100 individuals. They inhabit the deep offshore waters off our coastline and, lucky for us, off Padstow. They are very sociable creatures, enjoying bow riding and interacting with boats.

How to identify Common Dolphins:

  • They have attractive wavy marks along their sides of yellow, brown or gray, often described as an hourglass pattern
  • 1.5- 2.5 metres in length
  • Can swim at about 30 mph

As their name suggests, the dolphin you will most likely encounter is the Common Dolphin. Common Dolphins live in pods of between 50 and 100 and are extremely inquisitive characters. Because of their sociable nature, these dolphins tend to interact with the boats a lot more, giving you an up-close view of their beautiful pod. The Common Dolphin may be easier for you to spot: they can often be seen in their pods following the boats or you’ll see them jumping out of the water as they swim. They have a very distinctive yellow and grey ‘hourglass’ pattern along their sides. Lucky for us, they tend to live in the deep waters off the Cornish coast, just outside of Padstow!

Common Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphins:

We have a resident pod of this species in Cornwall. There are about 10 of them and they inhabit the sheltered inshore waters along the coastline.

How to identify this species:

  • 2.5- 3.5 metres in length
  • Mostly dark gray above and lighter gray or white belly
  • Inhabits shallow waters

Just like the Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphins are also extremely sociable and playful, although they live in smaller pods and can be a bit harder to track down. There are about 10 Bottlenose Dolphins that reside in the shallower waters just off the Cornish coast and tend to be dark grey with light grey bellies. The Bottlenose will mostly feast on fish and crustaceans and they communicate to each other by squeaking, whistling, snapping their jaws or even butting their heads.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Harbour Porpoise:

We have a resident pod on the south coast of Cornwall of between 8 and 10 individuals (they’re a bit difficult to count!)

How to identify a Harbour Porpoise:

  • Only 1.3 – 1.8 metres in length
  • Gray / dark brown coloured above, paler belly
  • Often makes a ‘puffing’ noise when at the surface breathing through its blowhole

And not to forget our shy friends – the Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena Phocoena). Easy to see during the calmer days due to their small size, the Harbour Porpoise are very shy and like to hunt for their fish closer to the shore in relatively shallow waters. Although they may be a bit harder to spot, you can sometimes hear them when they are close to the surface with a ‘puffing’ noise. A little more antisocial than other species of dolphin, Harbour Porpoise’s tend to either travel alone or in small pods of about five. One offspring is produced roughly every two years so you never know when you may spot a baby or two in the pod.

Porposie Dolphin

That Face… The first time you see a Puffin…