Your chance to watch dolphins in the wild
How much does it cost?

For our Half Day Cruise, costs start at $130 for adults and $75 for children.
Our Full Day Cruise starts $150 for adults and $90 for children.

We also offer a 10% group discount for groups of 10 or more, and special educational rates are also available (conditions apply).  In terms of value for money, the Full Day Island and Wildlife cruise is hard to beat. Not only will you see dolphins and other marine wildlife, you can also enjoy a range of water activities during our island stopover.

Does Bay Explorer operate every day?
The Bay Explorer operates 7 days a week – we go out every day except for Christmas Day. However, we do operate our full and half day trips on different days.

Bookings are essential and can be made directly from this website. Check out availability here:

Do we need to book in advance?
Yes. Bookings are essential to secure your trip – if you’re visiting the region, we recommend you book on your first available day in the Bay, so that if the trip is postponed due to operational circumstances, you may (subject to availability) have the option of an alternate day.
Where does the boat leave from?
The boat departs from the Strand Wharf in Tauranga City. (you can find us across the road from  the Starbucks cafe).
When do we check in, and what time is departure?
Check-in is 30 minutes before departure time. Departure is at 8:00am for our full day cruise, and 9:00am for our half day cruise. Please be prompt as a courtesy to your crew and your fellow passengers.

It is very important that you provide contact details (including a New Zealand mobile phone number) where we can get hold of you.

What time does the boat get back to Tauranga?
Our full day cruise normally takes between 6 and 8 hours, and our half day cruise normally takes between 4 – 5 hours.  Variations are due to the seasonality between summer and winter, daylight saving, clients’ commitment to time, sea conditions, weather, time with dolphins or other marine life we encounter.
How big is the boat?
Bay Explorer is 18.3 metres (65ft) single hull vessel.  The boat is very stable in all sea conditions and designed for your safety and comfort.
What do we need to bring for the cruise?
The following items are recommended for all trips:

  • A water/drink bottle
  • A warm jacket (bring an extra layer or two so you can layer up or layer down according to the weather)
  • Eftpos card or cash (we have a licenced bar onboard, plus a range of snacks)
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Camera (check that your camera is charged; we do have a 230v power charger on board as a back-up)
  • Binoculars if you have them (we have a pair on board but if you have your own please bring them).

These are recommended for our full day trips:

  • Your own lunch (either a packed lunch or food brought for cooking on our free communal onboard BBQ)
  • Swimming gear is optional (and recommended) in summer *
  • Wetsuits and snorkelling gear if you are proficient *

*Note that extra items can be left on the boat while you participate in our water sports on our full day cruises.

What is included?
All of our cruises include:

  • Cruising on our comfortable vessel BAY EXPLORER.
  • Department of Conservation permit: We have a government permit to view dolphins whales and seals, we will spend time with these mammals whenever we see them.
  • The shared knowledge and passion of our professional and experienced captain and crew.
  • Onboard books and resources
  • An onboard licensed bar where you can purchase cold beer, chilled regional wine and much more.

Our full day cruise also includes:

  • Anchoring in a secluded island bay, where we can use Paddle Boards and Kayaks
  • Use of our onboard communal BBQ at lunch time
Can I bring my children onboard?

Yes you can! We offer Children’s pricing for ages 6-12, and children 5 years and under are $20 for all activities.

If bringing children, please be aware of the following:

  • While our boat is spacious, it is not a playground and children must be supervised at all times.
  • It is not an option to turn around and come back for one passenger, so please only bring your children if you think they will be okay on the boat for the entire duration of the trip.
What happens if I get seasick?
If you have suffered from seasickness in the past, or think you might, then we recommend taking some seasickness medication before the cruise. We also recommend bringing some spare medication with you (read the label carefully as some require that you take the medication the night before). We don’t have any to sell onboard, but you can normally get them from local pharmacies.
What happens if my cruise gets cancelled due to weather?
If we cancel the cruise due to weather we will either postpone you to another day, or offer a refund.
Do you have toilets on board?
Yes. There are two fully-flushing household toilets on board. Male and female toilets
Can we go swimming at the island?
During the summer, if conditions permit, there will be a chance for a swim out at the island.  You are welcome to bring your swimming gear on board and jump in for a dip when we anchor the boat.
Can we go swimming with dolphins?
Swimming with dolphins is not the focus of the cruise. Instead, we encourage watching marine wildlife from the boat. It’s awesome, and environmentally sustainable eco-tourism. Dolphin watching and other wildlife interactions from our boat is a breathtaking experience, made better since the animals are not interfered with. We have found that our massive outdoor cruise deck aboard the Bay Explorer is ideal for viewing dolphins and all wildlife.

Of note, any swimming with wild common dolphins is difficult to execute and largely constrained by legalities. By law, NO SWIMMING with dolphins is allowed if there is the presence of juveniles (under the Marine Mammal Protection Act).  However these young animals are adorable to watch and witness from the comfort of the boat..

NOTE: NO commercial operator can offer swimming with dolphins that have juveniles present in the pod, and juveniles are often present over summer months.  You must be made legally aware of this if booking with other operators.

How do you find marine mammals?
With over 20 years experience and research undertaken, our crew are experienced and knowledgeable. Finding marine mammals in the Bay of Plenty is a study of the food chain, and requires an understanding of tidal flows and current movements.



Most importantly, finding wildlife relies on a keen eye and an ability to keep focused on the water; it requires concentration as there is nothing really to focus on the sea and 360° viewing with an infinity of water, but a trained eye can pick up the slightest movement up to a 2km away. Finding the local seabirds and schooling fish can be the gateway to finding dolphins on our safari. It requires an understanding of tidal flows and current movements to find fish and birds. Often you must rely on your own instinct from many encounters in past days. Sometimes we receive information from other vessels out in the Bay who have spotted animals on their own travels.

What research do you conduct?
We work with the Department of Conservation, collecting data with every encounter about the marine mammals, their environment and their behaviors. Our business also enables research to be carried out for Masters and PhD studies, supporting students at Toi Ohomai and the University of Waikato in their Marine Studies.
Are marine mammals endangered?
Marine mammals face many outside threats, ranging from commercial whaling to captivity, ship strikes and pollution. Fortunately in New Zealand there is a very strong advocacy to protect these animals. Legislation has been established to help the protection of species and habitat. There are many ways to reduce impact on these animals with the right understanding of their biology and behaviour.  All crew members of the Bay Explorers are marine enthusiasts and conservationists.
Do you have educational material on board?
Read our great books and folio about animals, geography, history, and the cultures past and present. We have compiled a selection of material from various publications pertaining to Marine Mammals in NZ and worldwide. This is available to you in open book form, laminated, a living document updated and edited regularly.

Current books include:

  • MAMMALS by Kate Mulcahy & Raewyn Peart.
Can groups go on the tour?
Yes, the Bay Explorer is great for photographic groups, social groups, business groups and conferences etc. It is an ideal activity for a half or whole day outing. We offer a 10% group discount for groups of ten or more. Special educational rates are also available during our low season.  Please contact us for more information.
Is there a maximum age limit or physical ability requirement?
The cruise does not call for a certain amount of physical ability – you can simply sit back and relax and enjoy all that you can see.
(please inform crew however if you have any special medical or physical needs).  Please note that the optional water sport activities will require you to enter the water via an inflatable craft. Our preferred method involves stepping from the vessel onto an inflatable boat and then onto a standup paddle board SUP or onto a kayak. To get back on board, you will need to climb up a ladder up the side of the boat. However – as mentioned – if you require a more passive experience simply stay onboard and relax and observe the beautiful bay, have lunch or snacks and a drink from the licenced bar.
Do these cruises suit everyone?
Yes, everyone!  We have a broad base of clientele who are interested in a full or half day experience; they tend to appreciate all that is the ocean, not just the wildlife encounters. Passengers can choose and participate in any of the water activities we offer on full day cruises, but this is completely optional, so you can define your BEST DAY EVER your way.
Does the vessel accommodate wheelchairs?
Our vessel is not wheelchair friendly in its design but we can accommodate wheelchairs if we know in advance.  Please advise us at point of booking (also inform crew if you have any other special medical or physical needs)

Book Your Adventure

Come join us on the water to experience the BEST DAY EVER in the Bay of Plenty!  Use our easy online booking system to secure your spot now!

The Bay Explorer

Bay Explorer are local boat tour specialists who are passionate about all our region has to offer. We are proudly Kiwi owned and operated, with plenty of experience running day trips from Tauranga.

Departure Point

Corner of Wharf Street & The Strand
New Zealand 3110

Ph: 021 605 968
Intnl: +64 21 605 968

footer-doc-100pxEndorsed by Department of Conservation New Zealand to interact with marine wildlife.

Accredited by QUALMARK Tourism New Zealand’s proud mark of excellence.

footer-trip-100pxCheck out the Bay Explorer reviews on Trip Advisor New Zealand!