Looking for Manatees and Dolphins on Captiva Island

Located just off the coast of Florida, Captiva Island has long been a well-kept secret among tourist destinations in the state. One of the best reasons to visit this gorgeous area is wildlife. You’ll find an unbelievable variety of native animals all over the island, but perhaps the most intriguing is the dolphins and manatees. These elusive creatures appear on the shores and will add a special surprise to your vacation if you can spot them! Here is our guide to finding a manatee or dolphin on your Captiva Island getaway.

Dolphins swimming along the boat during a cruise on Captiva Island

General Information

When you’re trying to spot wildlife in the water, you’ll first want to make sure you know what you’re looking for. Dolphins can often be confused with porpoises, but there are a few key differences. If you’re close enough, you can spot the dolphin’s cone-shaped teeth and elongated snout. You’ll also see the dorsal fin floating above the water. Often, you won’t spot just one dolphin by itself. They are very social creatures, usually traveling in pods of two to six animals.

Manatees can be a bit harder to spot simply because there are fewer of them. They’ve been an endangered species since the 1960s, but under Florida protection laws, those that remain are safe to roam the waters. You’re likely to see manatees in and around Captiva when the water is warmer, and they’re known to come around busy areas near the shore, so you may even be able to see one from land! Some of the characteristic features include thick skin, large tails, and tiny front flippers.

Manatee spotted in marina Sanibel

How to Spot a Dolphin or Manatee

Thanks to the popularity of these animals, there are plenty of cruise companies in the Captiva Island area that offer tours, allowing you to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. Though you are likely to spot them from shore, taking a cruise may be your best bet for getting a bit closer while also ensuring you’re at a safe distance to maintain safety for both you and the animals.

One popular tour company is Captiva Cruises, which provides a special Dolphin & Wildlife Cruise with the specific aim of spotting these creatures. On top of seeing dolphins and manatees, you’re likely to see native and migratory birds. These tours are often led by volunteers from a local non-profit called the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, so you can have a fun afternoon spotting animals while supporting a good cause!

Many of the tours in Captiva specialize in dolphin spotting, but if you’re namely interested in manatees, take a day trip down to Naples’s Manatee Eco-Tours. These tours are great for all ages, as there are no rough waters or fast speeds. There are tours happening throughout the day, and your experienced captain will teach you about manatees and other animal and plant life you may see along the way.

Where to Stay

Our Captiva Island vacation rentals put you close to the action, meaning you’re never far from spotting some incredible wildlife. We have options for all size parties, so everyone can come along for the ride and have plenty of room to spare. With over 30 years of experience, our vacation rental coordination service is specifically dedicated to helping you.

You’ll be near all the best attractions, like the beach, restaurants, shops, and more. Our friendly staff loves living and working on Captiva Island, and we can’t wait to help you fall in love with it as well! For more information about the local wildlife, the Captiva Island area, and our relaxing Sanibel Island beachfront rentals browse our Gopher Enterprises website or contact us today!