VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Tourists aren't the only ones coming to Oceanfront as the weather gets warmer -- dolphins are, too. In fact, they are already off the coast of Hampton Roads
"You'll have someone that will see a dolphin, jump up and get excited,” Alexis Rabon said.” You have people that this is a bucket list item for them, so they're checking that off."
Rabon is a naturalist and researcher with Rudee Tours, a tour and fishing company that takes people onto the ocean for ocean-related activities like dolphin watching. She sees dolphins constantly with every group of sight-seers she takes out on the water.
"It doesn't get much better than this, being out on the open ocean, seeing some of the most charismatic animals that our waters have to offer," Rabon said.
Right now is the perfect time to see dolphins, as the whales that were here during the cold months are migrating. The most common dolphin species visitors will see are bottlenose dolphins.
These specific kinds of dolphins are Atlantic Coastal, meaning they are found in shallow waters.
"So our dolphins are coming here for their food sources of drum fish and also to have little ones,” Rabon said. “For the big whales, they're in their primary feeding grounds, loading up on fish to build their blubber store."
Those wanting to document their dolphin-watching experience by taking pictures or video will need to be quick with their cameras or mobile device, because dolphins will jump out of the water quickly and at random.
If you want to dolphin-watch with your own boat, Rabon said to keep in mind that dolphins are federally protected. You could risk fines or jail time if your interactions endanger the dolphins.
Currently, Rudee Tours is offering five tours a day with each one lasting 90 minutes. Interested sight-seers are urged to reserve a tour online on the Rudee Tours website.
"Once you do it once, you'll be hooked and you'll want to keep coming back out,” Rabon said.