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Virginia Beach Area Features

Dolphins - Virginia Beach Locals

  By: Jacqueline Palsha

With glassy fins and graceful arches, they break the ocean’s surface, skin glistening, their sleek bodies gliding through the surf with ease. They are regular visitors to Virginia Beach when the days are long and the water is warm. They’ve been known to jump and frolic and feed within sight of the shore, and their presence can easily draw a crowd.

They are bottlenose dolphins, and their friendly nature conjures up comparisons to Flipper and marine park shows, but these are not domesticated mammals. They are creatures of the sea, at home in their untamed environment, providing a glimpse into ocean life that never ceases to delight.

Perhaps that’s why dolphin watching excursions are so popular in this area. These guided boat trips give patrons the opportunity to observe bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat. Of course, they can be spotted from the beach as well, but there is something to be said for being up close and personal with these beloved creatures.

Thrilling, spiritual, spectacular...These are just a few of the adjectives frequently used to describe such encounters. But just what is it about this particular mammal that elicits such interest?

For starters, dolphins rank among the most intelligent of marine mammals, and bottlenose dolphins, like the ones off Virginia’s coast, are some of the most researched. Earning their name from the shape of their short, stubby beaks, bottlenose dolphins are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They typically weigh 440 to 600 pounds, live an average of 20 years and reach an average size of 10 feet. They feed on a variety of fish and consume 13 to 33 pounds of food per day.

Like other dolphin species, they are social animals, well-known for their playful, carefree character. Many would consider them friendly, seeming to enjoy human interaction, but they can also be aggressive and territorial, and with 18 to 26 pairs of sharp, conical teeth on either side of their jaws, it’s a good idea to respect their space. When using personal watercraft, it is unlawful to steer into a pod of dolphins. Keep a respectful distance so as not to disturb them.

That’s why boat trips are so ideal! These excursions will get you close enough to safely connect with these miraculous creatures, to experience them in the wild, in a world where all humans are visitors and where the bottlenose dolphin is happily at home.

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