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Why Do Dolphins Swim Alongside Boats?

Hugely intelligent and lots of fun, many people dream of seeing dolphins. As a result, there’s an increase in the number of holidaymakers wanting to spend time with these creatures, and the choice of holidays across the world is growing. Dolphins are often seen swimming alongside boats, and I wanted to find out why.

Dolphins use the waves from boats to increase their swimming distance and speed. They can also feed on fish swept up by the ship’s waves. Dolphins are curious about the boats and the people on them.

I wanted to find out some more information, so I went on a dolphin-watching trip. I saw some large pods of dolphins and even managed to see some jumping about an arm’s length from me.

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Dolphins are aquatic mammals and are the most intelligent mammals in water. They have strong abilities to communicate, express emotions, and reason.

They have spread across every ocean and many freshwater rivers in North America. The cognitive abilities of dolphins are exceptional, and they are naturally curious and playful creatures who want to show themselves to the people on the boats.

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Why Do Dolphins Swim with Boats?

Dolphins are often seen swimming alongside ships at sea. Dolphins have their motivations and preferences for this behavior. Dolphins are playful mammals, and they find the company of boats appealing.

This depends on the type of ship, its passengers, and the dolphin’s mood. The intellectual capacity of dolphins is quite impressive. They learn very fast and can produce creative responses depending on the boat.

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It is thought that dolphins believe that a ship full of humans is an excellent opportunity for food. Some people throw fish overboard at sea, hoping to see a dolphin.

A fishing vessel with packed nets is also an excellent food source for a hungry dolphin. For hundreds of years, these mammals have been swimming beside ships, and it seems to scientists that they must have learned from experience that where there are humans, there is also a good chance of food.

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Greater Distance

The wake created by boats helps dolphins move quickly through the water with little effort. Dolphins can ride in imprints produced by boats covering further distances without putting in more energy.

When the wake created by a particular ship is high, they gain plenty of power to use while traveling from one location to the next.

Moving boats generate waves with energy. Dolphins take advantage of these waves, so they don’t need to work as hard when swimming. The bigger the ship, the bigger the wave.

How do dolphins swim? Find out here.

One Upmanship

Dolphins typically live and travel in groups ranging from 2-40 dolphins. Scientists have discovered pods as large as several hundred members. These groups are commonly regarded as herds, schools, or superpods.

In some cases, these large groups have been known to include more than one species interacting well. The species that usually interact in this multi-species group are spinner and spotted dolphins.

By working together, these large pods can often be seen next to a boat, showing off their skills to the other species. Both species will try to outshine the other, showing their complete jumps, flips, and tricks.

The grouping works exceptionally well for these two species mainly because their feeding habits are different, making it possible for them to travel together without competing for food.


Studies by scientists show that dolphins love to have fun. It is thought that some of their behaviors are simply for enjoyment, ranging from traveling through the water at high speed to interacting with other animals. The wake from boats is merely a speed booster for dolphins.


As a result of their high intellectual capacity, these mammals are more curious than many other animals.

Dolphins will approach unfamiliar objects and creatures to learn about them unless they have previously had a bad interaction. Dolphins may swim alongside boats to sate their curiosity.

The wake generated by a boat creates a strong disturbance on the water’s surface that dolphins often feel the need to investigate. When they do this, they will leap out of the water, appearing to play in the wake.

Dolphins are also perceived to have individual interests. There are reasons why dolphins might find a ship’s company appealing, depending on the type of vessel, its passengers, and the dolphin’s mood.

Dolphins are usually found in offshore & deeper waters, where very few boats go. They are curious about any newcomers in their habitat. Dolphins will swim along with large ships and small alike.

Dolphins are intrigued by boats’ noise, motion, and movements and will often follow them for a short while if a ship crosses their pod’s direction.

Dolphins can swim 5 to 10 kilometers per hour, although the fastest breed of dolphins can reach up to a maximum of 32 kilometers per hour. Using a ship’s wake, they can swim faster with little extra energy.

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Dolphins swim with large ships for a few reasons. The waves from the vessels allow them to swim faster. The lock is produced when the bow pushes the water out of the way of a boat at the front.

Dolphins are continually being pushed toward the surface and propelled forward at the ship’s speed. This allows the dolphin an easier way to move forward. Dolphins can swim with the boat without having to spend much energy.

Why Do Dolphins Swim in Front and Behind Boats?

A look at a dolphin’s personality can explain the behavior of swimming in front and behind boats.

When they notice an unfamiliar object moving along the surface of the water, dolphins get curious. Their curiosity gets the better, and they approach ships to determine what is happening and if they are a threat.

Dolphins have a complex communication method with their environment, which explains the happiness they derive from hearing humans clap and cheer for them from the boats.

Dolphins acknowledge and react to adoring crowds. These mammals are generally eager to perform for an audience. Dolphins seem to get pleasure from surfing through the waves next to a boat. They will jump in the air, seemingly for the amusement of people on board.

However, two of the biggest threats to dolphins are entanglement in fishing gear and nets and pollution. Sometimes, dolphins follow the same fish species that fishing boats are hunting and may get accidentally caught in their nets.

The ocean is greatly affected by pollution created by man. Pollution has been a severe threat to these aquatic mammals causing diseases and difficulty finding food.

Did you know there are 16 species of dolphins in North America? Find out what they are here.

Do Dolphins Get Struck by Boats?

Occasionally, dolphins do get hit by boats. Mariners need to be mindful of dolphins. The propellers on a ship can be responsible for thousands of dolphins’ deaths yearly.

Sometimes, they sustain injuries that may end up penetrating through their bones. Considering the severity of the wounds, dolphins can become aggressive.

Bottlenose dolphins are found closer to the coast. This makes them more liable to a hit from a boat or ship. The probability of vessels striking marine mammals decreases when speed is reduced, and wildlife organizations have been instrumental in campaigning for slower speeds.

They are reporting when collisions occur, and difficulties in recovering fatally-struck animals have also been a problem.

It is important for vessels to avoid rapid changes in both speed and direction and not exceed rates faster than the slowest mammal within a vicinity of 300 meters. Bats traveling at high speed are more likely to kill dolphins if they hit them.

Dolphins use sound often, and certain boats and vessels can be more dangerous. Jet skis are particularly troublesome, as they are quieter than most other boats. This makes them even harder for marine mammals to detect and avoid.

In studies, most dolphins hit by vessels were either young calves or dolphins not fully grown. The adults that were struck were generally mothers with their young.

It was shown that the younger animals were slower swimmers. The other reason was that they could not dive as well as they did not have fully developed lungs.

Interactions in captivity have allowed humans to find out more about dolphins. Dolphins are all very different, with different behaviors. These interactions show that some dolphins will be more curious in the wild than others.

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