Diveworks Dolphin and Seal Encounters

Information, Terms, Conditions, Disclaimers, Diveworks Dolphin and Seal Encounters Whakatane.  

Dolphins,Whales and seals, when can we see them?

During the NZ summer months (about mid Nov-May) the Eastern Bay of Plenty becomes home to 1000's of Dolphins and many Whales who migrate into the area. Annual Dolphin numbers and the length of time they stay vary with the amount of bait-fish and pelagic present that summer season. Some dolphins do remain and large pods do pass through during the winter but sightings tend to be inconsistant therefor we close our Dolphin watching trips over this period (June-October). Seals are able to be seen and swam with year round.

Why are they here?

Dolphins are attracted by the annual hatch of pilchards, anchovies, mackerel and squid, (Bait-fish) as they emerge from the geothermal warmed sea floor to breed near the surface. These bait-fish are herded by Pelagic fish like Skip-jack tuna and Yellow fin Tuna which ride the  warm 19.5c - 24c East Australian current to form 'Bait balls'(tight balls of bait fish on or near the surface) The bait-balls provide easy food for Dolphins which provide exciting and frenzied action which will always be remembered. Seals feed on the abundant year round supply of reef fish and deep water oily fish.
 What will we see?
In the Eastern Bay of Plenty we encounter mainly Common and Bottlenose Dolphins. We sometimes see a variety of whale species including: Orca (killer whales), Bryde's, Pilot, Minke, Finn, and occasionally the Blue Whale. We also encounter blue penguins, gannets, various sea birds and the New Zealand fur seal (Kekeno). other sightings also include, Tuna, marlin, seals, sharks and penguins. Common dolphins are spectacular performers and love human company. They enjoy riding the pressure waves produced by boats.

Will we always see Dolphins, Whales and seals?

Our success rate is about 90% peak season, We can not guarantee to locate Dolphins on every voyage. The area the dolphins mainly occupy is approx 15 kms x 10 kms (150 sq KMs). We do our best and even liaise with local aircraft operators. If we fail to locate Dolphins within 2 hours we return to Whale Island for an Eco tour, snorkel and seal encounter.
Whales are regular travellers through this area but likewise we can not always guarantee encounters. (Our company maintains the Moral ethic, that if we believe an encounter is unlikely then we will advise you. We will also advise you on the likely hood of encounters in other areas, please remember that these animals are wild and sometime choose to not be found)
Can we always swim with them?

There is a need to protect dolphins and not interfere with their natural behavior.  There is No Guarantee we will swim with dolphins on any trip. Most importantly we are not permitted to interfere with the bonding between a mother and her young. Swimming is not permitted when dependent calves are in a pod. Therefore, some trips will become viewing only. However if sea conditions are comfortable and at the skippers' discretion it's okay you can swim with them. 

The numbers of people swimming with the dolphins is limited by the Department of Conservation to 10 persons per trip. We are also limited to 3 swimming attempts per trip with a maximum duration of 30 mins.  

due to local Maori protocol - Persons emitting any bodily fluids are not permitted to swim with Dolphins.

Sea conditions 

As tours operate in the open ocean they are subject to the elements of open water, swell and wind. These conditions can result in clients becoming seasick and suitable precautions should be taken by those who are susceptible.  We will not run trips if we consider it to rough.  Whakatane Harbor has a narrow bar entrance which can become unnavigable in certain weather and tide conditions. Unfortunately trips might sometimes have to be postponed or canceled at short notice due to this. Remember that the skipper has to be mindful of conditions on return as well as departure.

Another common question we have been asked; Q; You have told us you are not going out because it is to rough, is there another company that we can go out with? Answer; We have arguably the seaworthiest boat and the most experienced skipper locally. Why would you think that any other company would have the extraordinary ability to calm the waters.  


The area in which we are permitted to operate by the Department of Conservation is restricted East to a line from Ohiwa Harbour entrance to White Island. We will not cross East of this line to view Dolphins.

 What If we don't see any Dolphins?

You Pay for our expertise and our service. If we don't see any Dolphins within 2- 2 1/2 hours the trip will become a Moutohora or Rurima Island Eco and swim with seals Tour.

 Beautiful Moutohora Island is 7 kms from Whakatane. A wildlife sanctuary rejuvenated with New Zealand rare flora and Fauna. During a visit there we show you the famous Elephant Statue. We skillfully glide into spectacular Cathedral Arch.

 Enjoy a short stopover at Sulphur Bay a Geothermal beach (skippers choice) to explore the Geothermal activity, go snorkeling, or just relax and enjoy the scenery. On our cruise we pass birds nesting and seals resting in secluded bays.

 Do I need any previous snorkeling experience?

 Your first Dolphin swim in the open ocean is not the time or place to learn how to snorkel. Swimmers need to be able to swim well enough to look after themselves in the water and should have some prior experience. Each child must be accompanied in the water by an adult and swim at skippers discretion.

What Training will I get?

A briefing is given at our Booking Office or aboard our vessel before the trip takes place. Swimmers who are fitted with wetsuits & snorkeling gear are instructed on how to behave while interacting with the dolphins.


 A full commentary is provided in English.

 Are there any dangers like sharks?

 Tours are run in the open ocean and any venture involving the open ocean has an element of risk.

 Although we may be fortunate enough to see sharks the biggest danger we are likely to encounter while at sea is sunburn.

When do we operate and where from?

 We operate seven days a week, weather and conditions permitting. Departures are generally in the morning but are subject to change depending on weather and demand.

 We meet at our booking office: 96 the Strand , Whakatane 100 meters from the Information Center.  

 Free 'ALL DAY PARKING' can usually be had within 30 – 100 metres from our Office.

 Our vessels usually depart from 'THE GREEN WHARF' also located within 100 metres from our office, however on occasions we may depart from our second berth in the main wharf near the Sport Fishing Club.

Our Boats and crew

 We are %100 locally owned and operated with 20 years of local marine knowledge and experience.

Diveworks  (10.1 meter Aluminium mono hull)  Full NZ Passenger Survey (15 passengers excl Crew )

We have Toilet facilities. Full safety equipment (Life Jackets all sizes (Infant), life rings, Epirb, Marine Radios etc) on board

 How do I book?

 Please make your bookings in advance to avoid disappointment. Bookings can be made directly at our booking office 96 The Strand 

 By Phone      (07) 308 2001  , Freephone  0800 flipper (0800 3547737)  or Mobile for TXT    027 628 0849 

through our website www.dolphinsdownunder.com , or by email at  info@dolphinsdownder.com secure Credit card bookings can be made through www.whalesanddolphinwatch.co.nz 


 We accept Cash, cheque, Eftpos, Bartercard and major credit cards.


 Refund Policy
Full refund if we cancel. Half refund if you cancel less than 18 hours before departure. No refund if we don't see Dolphins.

Trip Duration and times:are dependant on numbers booked, tide and sea conditions that day

       Trip generally run 3-4 hours.


     Departures (November - May):  Departs 08.30              Returns 12.30 p.m.

                                                      Departs 1.00pm            Returns  5.00pm  

Reporting Time:  

 30 minutes prior to departure. Swimmers

We welcome everyone on board but, the trip may be less suitable for very young children and we don’t have room for pushchairs .


We offer group booking discounts for direct bookings. Please call us for more details

Groups of 6 or more %10

Family discounts available 


 Wetsuits and snorkel gear are supplied for swimmers.

 Things to bring

 Towel, swimming gear (wear your swimsuit under your clothes for convenient changing), hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, cameras , long sleeve shirt/cover up, lunch.

 After the Swim

 A tepid rinse hand shower is available on the boat after swimming and hot showers are available at our shop. Complimentary hot chocolate is usually served after a swim takes place, or alternatively, at the end of the tour back at our office at 96 The Strand..


 Please note our terms and conditions:

 Diveworks Charters will exercise due care and responsibility at all times, but can not accept any responsibility for any loss or personal injury suffered by you, "or your party you sign on behalf of", in undertaking any voyage

  It is "your responsibility" to inform us of any medical condition that you may have, or of any medication you may require.


 Diveworks Charters are the holders of a Marine Mammal watching concession issued by the Department of Conservation. All vessels used are Surveyed by the Maritme Safety Authority for Passenger service and Skippers and crews are appropriately qualified.

Our Mission/Vision Statement

Diveworks Charters priority is to give every customer, every time, a personalised tour.  Our tours are small in number enabling us to do this. We are dedicated to the customer having a wonderful experience.

  • Diveworks Charters hopes to inform our customers of the local area as well as it’s local history including our Maori history as well as the unfolding future.
  • Diveworks Charters is active in the local community such as schools, local clubs and groups informing as well as supporting our sanctuary Moutohora Island and local waters.
  • Diveworks Charters seeks to understand our customers needs and provide them with timely, accurate, safe quality service.  All initiatives, processes and systems are aligned with giving our customers value, education and safe adventures.
  • We are constantly striving to improve not only for the benefit of our customers but also within our company so our staff’s needs are met too.  Our staff are encouraged to continue their learning whether that be First Aid Certificates or Skippers Licences.


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All material herein copy; '2004 "Whale Island Tours".

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