By Rachel Delanoix
“Every time I see a dolphin I get excited,” says Marlo Landreth, “I point and scream, it could be like the fourth time in an hour that I’ve seen them, but I will still be running up on the beach going, ‘Dolphins! Dolphins!’ even if there’s nobody else on the beach; it’s just my instinct. I will never not be excited when I see a dolphin.”
The absolute joy of seeing wild dolphins is a rare treat for any beachgoer. And though these delightful and seemingly elusive creatures don’t follow a schedule, with a little planning, a few helpful tips, and a dash of luck, you can up the odds of a dolphin sighting for yourself and your family this summer.
Here are six ways to increase your chances of a wild dolphin sighting in Galveston.
- Take a Harbor Tour – There are plenty of these tours to choose from. Just walk across Harborside to Pier 21 and you’ll find several kiosks to welcome you. Baywatch is a popular dolphin sighting tour, and they have boats leaving every half hour through the summer. These tours will tell you up front there’s never a guarantee that you’ll see dolphins, but with the help of these trained experts, and the benefit of smoother water, you’ve got luck on your side.
- Kick back and watch the water – Whether you’re waiting for a harbor tour, or just waiting for happy hour, head over to Olympia Grill and ask for a table on the patio. Patience is your friend when it comes to seeing wild dolphins. If you’re on the other side of town, grab a spot on the deck at Jimmy’s on the Pier. Marlo Landreth, of SUP Paddleboards says, “They’re always out there. As far as it is from the shore to the end of the pier, if you double that, that’s normally where we see them. So if you went out twice as far as the pier, that’s where you’ll see them. They will be jumping out of the water, and I’ll look around and nobody’s watching, so nobody sees it. I can’t imagine how many times it’s happened, and I just don’t see it. You just have to take the time to stop and look. They’re out there.”
- Ride the ferry – You can’t get much better than free! Park on the Galveston Island side and walk on. Ride across to Bolivar and back and keep your eyes peeled. Landreth says, “Watch where the birds are. Usually where the birds are feeding on the surface there’s dolphins feeding underneath. If I’m out with a group and we’re looking for them, I’ll just wait and look for the birds. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a good way to start.”
- Be an early bird – Attend a sunrise yoga class on the beach with The Yoga Haven. Or check out the surf camps offered by Ohana. “Early morning, like daybreak, that’s usually when their feeding occurs or when they’re finishing their feeding,” says William “Boog” Cram of Ohana. “But typically once the sun breaks the horizon you can see them pop up, and they’re kind of patrolling just outside of the jettys. Occasionally they’ll come on the inside during camp on real smooth water days, and they’ll be maybe twenty yards from the kids that are surfing.”
- Get in the water – Throw on a bathing suit and head over to SUP Paddleboard on the beach near the 29th St. jetty. “Anytime I’ve ever done a paddle or a lesson where I’m out there for an hour, we see a dolphin, at least one,” says Landreth. “I like the more organic ways of seeing dolphins. I think it’s more exciting when they do come when it’s not expected. Like when we’re doing a lesson and we see them. I’ll say, ‘sit down! Let’s go! We’re paddling over there!’ It’s just so exciting. And it’s great because no matter how the lesson went, we got to see dolphins!”
- Change your perspective – Take a drive out to SeaWolf Park. The dolphins are so common in the water there that fishermen don’t seem to take notice of them. And anyplace there is a high concentration of fish, there are sure to be opportunistic dolphins scoping out an easy snack! Even if you stay close to the seawall, the difference of a few feet can mean a missed sighting. Marlo says, “On flat days, they come in really really close. They come in closer on flat days, and you can see them better on flat days, but their fins are only so tall so if the wave is that big, you’re gonna miss it. They come up for a second and go back down. Today I was out with a girl that was renting and I was watching dolphins, and she caught up to me and I said ‘Do you see them?’ and she was like ‘No.’ She was kneeling, and I was standing. That was just enough difference that she couldn’t see because of the wave height. So if I’m sitting here on the beach or if I’m standing also makes a big difference too.”
Landreth’s enthusiasm is a vivid reminder of the joys of living on and visiting Galveston island.
She says, “We went out when there was surf and there were these rolling swells. Suddenly about six sets out we saw eight dolphins just flying out of the front of the waves. I was like ‘oh my god, they’re so close!’ So we’re out there and we see them, and then they’re like four sets away, and then like three sets away, and I laid down on my board and I thought ‘what if they don’t see me?!’ You can’t hear anything except for them coming. And they’re moving fast! You can hear the sound of their blowhole when they’re coming up. They’re just so powerful, and they’re so big. They’re so much bigger than you think. It’s just amazing! And they come right up next to you; they’re smart, they know. I’m always like ‘they’re not gonna see me!’ but they do, they always stop just far enough away.
It’s just crazy how emotional it is sometimes when you’re out there, and you’re surrounded by them. It’s just you and there’s nothing else around that you can hear, and you’re just hanging out with some dolphins. You wonder ‘why do I ever complain about anything ever? I’m never gonna complain about anything ever again.’ It’s amazing just to see them. You have to just look for them. You have to pay attention, and if you look out there for long enough, you’ll see them.”