Dolphins in Cape Town: When, Where, and How to See Them!

Last Updated on April 8, 2024 by thecapetownblog

The rumours are true: there are dolphins in Cape Town!

However, it’s definitely not as common to spot dolphins in Cape Town as it is whales. But with that being said, you can spot these friendly and intelligent animals playing in the waters around the Mother City all year round – you just need to know where to look. 

There are several different species of dolphin that you can spot in different places around Cape Town. The best way to spot them is to get out to sea on a boat trip, but it is possible to see them from the land as well. 

So, without further ado, let’s dive into when, where, and how to see dolphins in Cape Town! 

What species of dolphin live in Cape Town?

Heaviside’s dolphins

Heaviside’s dolphins – also known as Haviside’s dolphins or Benguela dolphins – were first discovered off of the Cape of Good Hope! They’re about 1.8 metres long and weigh around 75 kilograms, and are only found in cool, Southern hemisphere waters. It’s estimated that around 6,345 Heaviside’s dolphins live between Table Bay and Lamberts Bay. 

Dusky dolphins 

Dusky dolphins are among the most commonly spotted dolphins in Cape Town. Dusky dolphins are known for their distinctive patterns and white bellies, and for being very acrobatic. Part of their charm is the fact that they perform seemingly gravity defying leaps and spins out of the water! 

Dusky dolphins are most commonly found in False Bay. The False Bay coast includes the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, so towns like Simon’s Town, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, and Fish Hoek are all along the False Bay coast. 

Bottlenose dolphins

There are actually two kinds of Bottlenose dolphins in Cape Town: common Bottlenose dolphins and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. Again, these are often found in False Bay! 

Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most famous types of dolphins. The famous dolphin ‘Flipper’ was a common bottlenose! 

The Indo-Pacific bottlenose is slimmer and lighter than the common bottlenose, but don’t be fooled – they can still weigh up to 230 kilograms! 

Humpback dolphins

Humpback dolphins can be found between Cape Town and Mozambique. Their name comes from the fact that they have a hump in front of their dorsal fin. They tend to be quite a shy type of dolphin, and so they’re harder to spot than Heaviside’s, dusky, and bottlenose dolphins. 

When is the best time to see dolphins in Cape Town?

It’s actually possible to spot dolphins at any time of year in Cape Town. Dusky, Heaviside, and Bottlenose dolphins can be found in the waters of False Bay all year round. However, generally speaking, summer is the best time to see dolphins in Cape Town, according to the International Whaling Commission

Where is the best place to see dolphins in Cape Town?

Dyer Island 

Dyer Island is a protected nature reserve off the coast of Gansbaai, which is about 2 hours from Cape Town. The reserve consists of 3 different islands and is a great place to spot fur seals, sharks, and African penguins. 

Since Dyer Island is protected, it’s not open to the general public. The only way to visit is via a boat tour, such as this awesome Marine Safari

False Bay 

Dolphins live in False Bay all year round, although it can be difficult to spot them from the shore. Still, if you venture out on a boat trip or kayaking adventure from somewhere like Simon’s Town or Muizenberg, then you have a chance of spotting some dolphins! For example, you may spot them on this kayaking adventure from Simon’s Town to Boulder’s Beach.

Atlantic Coast

You can also spot dolphins along the Atlantic Coast – aka the one that runs along the Waterfront, Sea Point, and Clifton. I actually saw them myself on a kayak tour in Sea Point with Kaskazi Kayaks, which was so much fun. Or if you want to go from the Waterfront, you can head out on this Atlantic ocean kayaking tour.

How to see dolphins in Cape Town?

A daytime boat cruise

I was lucky enough to spot a dolphin on this 1-hour boat cruise that I did. It was super quick so I didn’t even manage to take a photo, but it was very exciting. I also saw a sun fish and some seals!

The cruise costs R300 (£13/$16) and departs from the Waterfront at 11:30 AM or 2 PM. It’s a pretty affordable thing to do here and a really nice experience, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot dolphins too!

A sunset cruise 

Sunset is the perfect time of day for dolphin spotting, so a sunset boat cruise is the perfect opportunity to spot some friendly dolphins. They might even end up tailing your boat for a while! 

This sunset catamaran cruise departs from the V&A Waterfront and gives you gorgeous views of Table Mountain at sunset and you and your companion get a bottle of champagne to share! It lasts for 90 minutes and costs R580 (£25/$32), which I think is a reasonable price for such a lovely experience.

However, I didn’t actually see any dolphins when I did this cruise… but you never know!

Big 5 marine safari in Gaansbaai

In South Africa, there’s the land “big five” and then the Marine Big Five. The marine big five animals are:

  • Whales
  • Seals
  • Penguins
  • Sharks
  • Dolphins

Therefore, this marine big 5 safari is one of the best ways to see dolphins in Cape Town. 

You get picked up from central Cape Town and driven for just over 2 hours to Gansbaai. You’ll have breakfast at a local restaurant and then head out on a marine safari that takes you to the famous Dyer Island to see the marine big 5. This is one of the best places on the Western Cape for seeing marine life, so I think that this is a fantastic, bucket-list-worthy thing to do! 

Then, you’ll head back to the Great White House restaurant for a warm bowl of soup (which you’ll probably need after being out on the water for so long!) and then driven back to Cape Town. The experience costs R2,700 (£117/$149) including transport, food, and your expert-led marine safari.

Marine Safari from the Waterfront

Okay, so Gaansbaai is a real marine life hotspot BUT it’s pretty far from Cape Town. I went shark cage diving in Gaansbaai and honestly, travelling there and back from the city in one day was a bit too much. However, there’s a WAY cheaper cruise that leaves from the Waterfront.

It’s a 1.5 hour tour and you can spot penguins, sunfish, whales (during winter), seals, and dolphins. You only get about 1.5 hours on the boat with the Gaansbaai tour, so I think that this one allows you to really make the most of your time in Cape Town because there’s not 6 hours of travel time involved. However, you’re unlikely to see any sharks, but personally, I’d take that trade off. Plus, it’s only R900 (£38 or $48 USD).


I had a fantastic time kayaking in Sea Point with Kaskazi Kayaks, and I would definitely recommend them. For R550, we got a 2-hour kayaking tour and we saw tons of dolphins, especially during the second hour. We also saw a penguin, a sun fish, and some cute seals who came to say hello. The kayaks had rudders so steering was really easy – even for me, and I have no upper body strength! You can read my full review of the experience here.

Alternatively, you can also book a kayak tour in Hout Bay for R450, including free cancellation. You’re guaranteed to see tons of seals and Hout Bay is on the False Bay Coast, so it’s an ideal place to see dolphins. It’s also just a beautiful part of Cape Town that I highly recommend spending some time in.

Ocean Wildlife Encounter

This small group ocean wildlife encounter is another amazing way to spot dolphins in Cape Town. The reason I think this tour is such a great option is that there’s no fixed route. Instead, your guide will tailor your itinerary according to conditions and recent wildlife sightings to maximise your chances of seeing dolphins, seals, and whales! 

There will be a maximum of 7 participants on board, so it’s a personal experience and you’ll be able to ask your guide lots of questions. I always think that you learn more on a small group tour! 

The boat departs from Green Point, which is nice and convenient. There’s a reason it’s so highly rated! 

Thanks so much for reading this blog post! If you’d like to learn more about wildlife encounters in Cape Town, check out:

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