Known to spy-hop, synchronise-swim, whistle, and pay the occasional curiosity-filled visit to boats, dolphins in India are a delight to witness in the wild. We round up a few destinations where you can make your acquaintance with the playful mammals.

Few things compare to the joy of watching wildlife in their natural habitat. And if you’ve got glistening rivers and expansive seas on your mind this summer, you could add an afternoon of watching the most beloved and playful mammals to the itinerary.

Dolphin-watching is one of the most popular activities in India, and there are a host of species — marine and fluvial — to witness. The former includes species like the Indian Ocean Bottlenose dolphin and Humpback dolphin, while the latter includes Irrawaddy dolphins, Indus river dolphins, and the national aquatic animal of India, Ganges river dolphins.

It’s important to find responsible, ethical tour guides and safaris that steer clear of overcrowding boats and overwhelming dolphins. Conservationists also suggest avoiding directly interacting with dolphins or swimming with them to protect their habitat. The most sustainable method continues to be signing up for a leisurely boat ride and clicking pictures from afar. If you have yet to sight these chatty, intelligent, bubble-blowing creatures, head to these popular destinations in India. 

Hop on a boat and discover dolphins at these places in India


Home to the endangered Gangetic dolphins, also known as Soons, Bhagalpur in Bihar is the spot to head to if you’d like to witness India’s national aquatic animal. In particular, travellers head to the Vikramashila Dolphin Gangetic Sanctuary, the only protected space for the species. Over a hundred dolphins can be found in the 60-kilometre stretch of the Ganges river, and Bihar reportedly has over 50 percent of the world’s river dolphin population. In the recent past, reports have stated that the sightings of this mammal have gone up due to minimal human activity over the lockdown period. Other species to look out for here include freshwater turtles.

Best time to visit: October-June


This tropical paradise is a popular destination for diving, partying, beach hopping, and shopping. If you’re headed there for a while, dolphin spotting is a fun activity to engage in. While you could sign up for one of the many dolphin cruises on offer, you could also rent boats or talk fishermen into giving you a ride to the best spots. Popular species include the Indo pacific Humpback dolphins and finless porpoises. Morjim beach, also home to the Ridley turtles, is a popular spot for dolphin watching. Other notable beaches to head to include Sinquerim beach, Vagator, Cavelossim beach, and Coco beach.

Best time to visit: November-February


In addition to stunning backwaters and picturesque hill stations, God’s own country has a lot to offer to dolphin enthusiasts. In particular, Cherai beach is believed to be one of the best spots to watch humpback dolphins go about their day in Kerala. All you need to do is hop on a boat. Located about 24 kilometres from the district of Ernakulam, towards Vypeen Island, this beach is frequented for its serene atmosphere. Visitors can get a glimpse of fishermen out at sea while relaxing in nearby shacks. The seashells and range of bird species here are believed to be unique as well. Besides this, Kozhikode’s Dolphin Point and Calicut beach have been hailed as good spots for dolphin-watching, particularly early in the mornings.

Best time to visit: October-March

Andaman and Nicobar

Perhaps one of the most popular destinations for dolphin watching, the Andaman and Nicobar islands have several spots to discover. The North Button Island National Park, along the coast of India and is popular for housing the dugong (sea cow), water monitor lizard, and a host of oceanic dolphins. Similarly, the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park is home to the common dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, green turtles, and more. Barren Island is also a good place to spot a few bottlenose dolphins. Spinner dolphins have been found splashing about along the Andaman coast as well. Most tour guides offer dolphin safaris, and glass-bottom boat rides are common.

Best time to visit: October-May


Playing host to some of the country’s most engaging water sports like scuba diving and windsurfing, Lakshadweep has a host of islands and stunning pristine waters to discover. The corals here are well-preserved and home to several aquatic species, including turtles. To sight bottlenose dolphins, go island hopping at destinations like Kadmat island, Chetlat island, Agatti island, and Bangaram island. Quite recently, rare rough-toothed dolphins were also spotted in the waters of Lakshadweep.

Best time to visit: October-May


This might seem like an unusual destination to spot dolphins, but the Gulf of Kutch off the coast of Jamnagar is an underrated spot to sight dolphins. A survey conducted in 2013 put the number of mammals here at around 100. Most travellers head to the Marine National Park in this region to look at the green sea turtles, Ridley turtles, leatherbacks, sea snakes, sea cows, finless porpoises, and whales. Risso’s dolphins, common dolphins, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins are also popular here. Several tour operators have dolphin-sighting activities scheduled at the stunning, tourist-favourite Madhavpur beach.

Best time to visit: October-February


The coastal parts of Karnataka have often made their way to the headlines for sightings of dolphins, especially during high tides. The beaches are pristine, not too crowded, and serene, offering opportunities for surfing, parasailing, and more. Many tourists attest to being able to spot a host of marine life while vacationing in Gokarna, Karwar, and Mangalore. In particular, the Gokarna beach, Karwar beach, and Panambur beach are popular spots from which travellers hop on a boat to get acquainted with humpback dolphins. Other notable destinations include Paradise beach, Om beach, Kudle beach, Kurumgad island, Murudeshwar beach, and Devbagh beach. You could head to the dolphin viewpoint at some of these spots.

Best time to visit: October-February


Reportedly, over four species of dolphins, namely Indian Ocean humpback, spinner, pan-tropical spotted, and striped, have been found in the coastal regions of this part of India. Travellers recommend Dapoli, a gateway to popular beaches like Harihareshwar, Murud, Tarkali, Kuravde, Dabhol. Believed to be hidden gems, these spots boast stunning natural topography. Most dolphin-sighting activities take place early in the mornings, with many operators guaranteeing a successful watch party. Other activities here include adventurous water sports.

Best time to visit: November-February


Nestled at the confluence of the Siang, Dibang, and Lohit rivers, Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve is the second largest river island national park in the world. It’s also home to the elusive South Asian river dolphin, and a few can be spotted if you head to the floodplains of the Brahmaputra in the right season. Boat safaris are quite common and the perfect way to get a look at the playful creatures. Other wildlife to keep a lookout for include sloth bears, Indian civet, Hoolock gibbon, feral horses, and barking deer.

Best time to visit: November-April


Bearing a close resemblance to the Australian snubfin dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphins are a rare species of mammal found in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia. To take a look at them, as well as a few Gangetic dolphins, you could head to the popular Chilika lake in Satapada. The stunning lagoon hosts a diverse ecosystem of migratory birds and endangered animals. You could hop on a kayak or canoe to paddle around the region and get acquainted with dolphins. Keep an eye out for other stunning wildlife, including flamingos, Indian roller, greylag geese, white-bellied sea eagles, and more.

Best time to visit: November-February

Feature and hero image: Tim Hartelt/Pexels


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