Visitors may not be aware that Galveston Harbor, the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay are home to frolicking dolphins year-round that can make a thrilling adventure of any boat ride or nature tour on the water. And people visiting the island have a few excellent options for seeing the playful marine life.
“Everyone loves dolphins. It’s not something you experience every day – being up close and personal with the animals,” says Captain Michael Caldwell, the owner of Baywatch Dolphin Tours, one of a few Galveston businesses that provide tours along the Galveston waterfront and beyond. “In summer months there’s a 99 percent chance of seeing dolphins, and it’s unusual if we don’t see them.”
Caldwell says there can be up to 10 to 20 dolphin sightings on a trip. Leaving from Pier 21, Baywatch’s 45-minute narrated tours using dolphin-safe, jet-drive boats run every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with two boats for busy summer months providing a tour every 30 minutes. The tours sail to the east end of Galveston harbor making note of history, buildings and other sites along the way, while keeping an eye out for dolphins. Prices run $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
“When there are dolphins are out there, and when people see them, they get super excited,” says Captain Graham Forshee, owner of Galveston Water Adventures. “It’s amazing to see them in their natural habitat. Dolphins are intelligent creatures and we’re still learning more about their levels of communication.”
Known for its thrilling SPINTIME Jet Boat that spins on its axis at high speeds, Water Adventures also hosts one hour eco-water tours to see dolphins and other marine life. The tours aboard a 45-foot, twin-engine catamaran-style boat sail from Pier 21 to the sunken oil tanker SS Selma on the edge of the Houston Ship Channel.
“We have a 360-degree view and customers can stand up and move around so everyone has a good chance of seeing the Dolphins,” notes Forshee. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for kids 12 and under. The business also offers separate sunset cruises when there’s a greater chance of seeing even more dolphins.
Another island business offers private fishing and nature watching tours. “Ours is a combination of tours where we take you to different sights and watch for dolphins at the same time,” says Melody Short, owner of Get Hooked Charters. “We tell stories and engage with the customers as part of a private tour.”
One of the customized tours offered is their family-friendly Dolphin and Sightseeing Tour, taking passengers for a two-hour ride from the Galveston Yacht Basin floating docks to the Pelican Island Bridge and to the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel. A group or family chartering a boat can design their own tour. Sunset cruises can also be arranged.
“Everyone loves dolphins,” says Short. “People are amazed by them. They jump out of the water, do tricks, come alongside the boat and you never know what they’re going to do next. “
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