SIGHTSEEING IN VERO BEACH: INDIAN RIVER LAGOON DOLPHINS
Did you know that the Indian River Lagoon is home to over 1,000 dolphins?
Previous estimates assumed only a few hundred dolphins resided in our 156-mile stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway. Then in 2016 and 2017, a team of researchers embarked on 135 surveys to determine the exact number.
After collecting over 150,000 images of dorsal fins and analyzing them for unique marks, the researchers discovered there are at least 1,032 dolphins living in the lagoon. That’s about six dolphins per mile of water!
In this post, we’re going to cover everything there is to know about our flippered friends, including the best way to see them in their natural habitat.
ABOUT THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON DOLPHINS
The lagoon dolphins are Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. A small population of them settled in the Indian River Lagoon at an unknown point in history, and they haven’t left since.
The lagoon boasts an ideal habitat for dolphins thanks to its consistently warm waters and diverse ecosystem. Despite these appealing advantages, it hasn’t attracted more oceanic dolphin populations. The dolphins that reside in the lagoon seem to prefer staying there all year round, and ocean dolphins seldom pay a visit.
Aside from a few quirks, the lagoon dolphins are essentially the same as their ocean counterparts.
One way the populations differ is pod size. In the ocean, dolphins travel in large groups of around 25 to 200 individuals, but our local friends prefer to keep it more personal in pods of 10 or fewer.
In our next dolphin post, we’ll dive deeper into how the lagoon dolphins differ from their ocean counterparts. For now, we’ll focus on the fascinating qualities all Atlantic bottlenose dolphins share in common.
Although dolphins live in the water full-time, they’re mammals that breathe air and give birth to live young. Their natural lifespan typically ranges from 40 to 50 years, but sometimes they live even longer. Nicklo was the oldest dolphin on record at 67 years old when she was last seen in Florida’s Sarasota Bay.
What truly sets dolphins apart from other marine animals is their social behavior and intelligence.
Dolphins are exceptionally social animals, and they rely heavily on vocal communication to interact with each other. Through a variety of clicks, whistles, and squeals, they convey messages and emotions.
Each dolphin also has a unique signature whistle that other dolphins can recognize, even after years apart. These whistles are like names, and they help dolphins form close bonds within their tight-knit pods.
Dolphins are widely considered one of the top five most intelligent animals on the planet. They have an exceptional capacity to convey, understand, and follow complex commands. For example, they’re known to work together to corral fish while hunting, displaying impressive coordination and cooperation.
They also share what they’ve learned. In fact, it’s been reported that some dolphins released from captivity will teach their wild peers tricks. Billie the dolphin from Adelaide, Australia taught at least 9 wild dolphins how to tail-walk, a routine she learned from watching captive dolphins while she was being rehabilitated at a dolphinarium.
But it’s not just brainpower that makes dolphins a crowd favorite – they’re also playful and curious creatures, each with their own distinct personality. This lively nature can be seen in the way they interact with each other and with humans, often swimming up to boats or playing with objects they find in their environment.
BEST WAY TO SEE LAGOON DOLPHINS
Since dolphins can cover a considerable distance in a short period of time, a boat is the best way to spot them. There are several boat ramps located along the Indian River Lagoon that are perfect for launching your own boat, including two in the Riverside Park area.
Sightseeing boat tours are another great way to see dolphins in the lagoon. Our boat tours allow you to sit back, relax, and take in the stunning scenery of the Indian River Lagoon while an experienced captain navigates the waters and tracks down the dolphins. In addition to dolphin sightings, your captain will also tell you about the area and point out other wildlife, such as manatees, otters, rays, birds, and fish during your tour.
READY TO SET SAIL?
We’ve encountered the local dolphins’ hundreds of times during our many excursions on the Indian River Lagoon. Seeing these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat is a spectacular occasion every time. Book your dolphin boat tour today and add an unforgettable experience to your Vero Beach vacation.
Author: Lauren Hamer