Who we are
Dolphin Discoveries is the result of founders Kevin & Claudia Merrill’s love of the ocean and the wonderful sea life that lives within.
The Merrill’s have lived in Kona since the 1980’s and since that time have studied and photographed the marine mammals in Kona as well as the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Tonga, the Cook Islands and New Zealand. (Many of the photos on our website were taken by Claudia Merrill during her numerous trips and studies of the dolphin and other marine life.)
For more than 30 years their passion and special interests have been focused on Spinner Dolphins, Pilot Whales, Bottlenose and Spotted Dolphins, Green Sea Turtles as well as seasonal Humpback Whales. They have made it their life’s work to share with others through unique learning opportunities and adventures how to safely and humanely observe and learn about dolphins, whales and the importance of the ocean’s ecosystem that have gone far beyond other guided boat trips.
Retiring in 2019 from Dolphin Discoveries – but not the ocean – Kevin and Claudia have chosen to give the responsibility and stewardship of their company to a new generation of hardworking dolphin lovers.
Dolphin Discoveries new owners are building on the foundation and principles established by the Merrills to continue with their practice of respect for the environment while offing the best in customer service and entertainment value anywhere in Hawaii.
They look forward to showing you the adventure of your life every time you visit Kona and Dolphin Discoveries.
What should I bring?
Guests should bring a towel, sunglasses, rub on environmentally reef friendly sunscreen, camera and light cover-up. For the Manta trips we strongly advise you bring a towel and a sweatshirt or cover-up to use after your trip.
What do you mean, “Bring ONLY environmentally friendly sunscreen?”
While regular sunscreen is hard at work protecting your skin, it is also killing the coral and reef environment.
Most chemical sunscreens contain oxybenzone, which is believed to be the culprit. Oxybenzone damages the coral’s DNA, inhibiting its ability to reproduce. Found in over 3,500 sunscreens sold in the U.S., oxybenzone is the most common, harmful chemical linked to bleaching fragile coral reef populations worldwide. Its use by ocean swimmers and snorkelers contributes an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen into rivers and oceans each year. As little as one drop in the equivalent of six-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools can seriously harm coral reefs and marine ecosystems.
In an attempt to “do our part” and protect our beautiful Kona Reefs and their ecosystems we insist that ALL sunscreen used while on our trips be “REEF FRIENDLY.”
You may find “REEF FRIENDLY” sunscreen (the “rub in” variety and NOT the “spray kind”, please!) at nearly all drugstores, convenience and grocery stores on the island. Be sure to look on the label for the words “REEF FRIENDLY” or that the ingredient list does not include oxybenzone.
Will there be shade on the boat?
All of our boats offer shade. However we strongly suggest you bring along and apply beforehand a waterproof and environmentally friendly sunscreen, or wearing a rash guard or paddle shirt. For some guests, a hat might be a good idea too. Just make sure it won’t blow off and end up in the ocean. If you take the proper precautions, you can easily avoid overexposure. Kona weather can be cloudy in the afternoon, so those who are very concerned will often choose our three-hour Captain Cook’s Afternoon Snorkel Adventure.
May I bring my own equipment?
If you have equipment that you are comfortable with, feel free to bring it if you like! The snorkel gear we keep onboard is excellent- silicone masks, dry snorkels with purge valves and fins in a wide array sizes. For your protection, we sanitize the equipment after each use. There is no discount for providing your own equipment.
Will we see dolphins if we don’t take the Dolphin Swim Adventure?
Although we do not guarantee that we will view dolphins on any but our Dolphin Swim Adventure it is not uncommon to get lucky and view dolphins or other large marine life (turtles, whales) either on our way to or from some of our favorite snorkeling sites.
If you book a Dolphin Discovery Adventure we are extremely proud of our “Dolphin View” record being nearly 98% of the time. However, if for any reason we are unable to view dolphins on the day and time you have joined us, we will gladly offer you an opportunity go out a second time at no additional charge on a space available basis. Therefor we recommend you plan your Dolphin Discovery Adventure early during your visit to Hawai’i so that if necessary we can reschedule your tour without running into conflicts with the rest of your itinerary. IMPORTANT: There are no refunds if you do not view the dolphins or whales during any trip.
What if we don’t see any dolphins or Manta Ray?
If for any reason we are unable to view Dolphin or Manta Ray on the day and time you have joined us, we will gladly offer you an opportunity go out a second time at no additional charge on a space available basis. So we recommend you plan your Dolphin or Manta Adventures early during your visit to Hawai’i so that if necessary we can reschedule your tour without running into conflicts with the rest of your itinerary.)
Will we swim with the Manta Rays?
You will be in the water however it is not possible to do “free snorkeling” during the tour because your snorkel and fins can hurt the manta rays. Touching them can remove their protective skin coating. Manta rays may come as close as arm’s length during your viewing session however if touched the Manta ray will most likely leave the viewing area. Manta rays are not dangerous. They are considered harmless and are mostly very curious and swim around divers.
Do you teach people how to snorkel?
Although we cannot offer snorkel lessons or assist snorkelers with snorkeling methods while in the water our crew will be happy to help you adjust your mask, fins ad snorkel and help you become comfortable viewing the tropical fish. We can also provide you with either a float jacket or flotation assistance device we call a “Noodle”.
What if I have never snorkeled before but I really want to swim the dolphins in the wild?
It could be challenging to attempt the wild dolphin swim. Because of the nature of wild dolphin swims, the snorkeler has to be ready to slide into the water equipped with all necessary snorkeling gear when it is safest for the dolphins. We visit the dolphins in their natural habitat, the water depth could be 10 feet or 300 feet (in which case you won’t see the bottom). For this reason, it is best that you are comfortable swimming in deep, open-ocean water for the Dolphin Swim Adventure .
Therefore we do not recommend our Dolphin Adventure Swim for anyone who is not comfortable in the water and /or has never snorkeled before. We strongly recommend choosing either the Kona Coast Deluxe Snorkel Adventure or Captain Cook’s AM/ PM Snorkel Adventure. Then, if you were comfortable and enjoyed that experience you may want to book Dolphin Discovery Adventure. We’ll even offer you a 20% discount for the Dolphin Swim Adventure using a Promotion Code that will be included in the confirmation email you will receive after you make your reservation and you book in the same week!
How will we get in and out of the boat?
At the dock you will step in. While out snorkeling you will slide into the water off the side of the boat. You will exit the water using a strong, secure, stable ladder along with assistance from the captain and crew.
How deep will the water be?
Kealakekua and Honaunau Bays feature beautiful coral bottoms. The best snorkeling is normally found in 5-15 ft. of water. For the protection of the coral and its ecosystems no one is allowed to stand on or touch the coral or any living thing in, on or around the reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. If you would feel more comfortable wearing a snorkel vest or noodle for added flotation, just ask.
Are there restrooms on board?
There are no bathrooms on board. With that in mind, we suggest you plan ahead and use the facilities near our check-in location before you depart. Once onboard, your first opportunity to “get into the water” will be approximately 30-40 minutes into the trip.
What happens if there is bad weather or the water is rough?
This is very rare as the Kona Coast is blessed with the best weather, least rain, and calmest water in the state. The occasional gloomy sky can quickly turn sunny. For this reason, no trip will be cancelled prior to 30 minutes before its scheduled time of departure. If the trip is canceled, we will make every effort to reschedule your trip (subject to availability) for a later time during your stay on the island. If that is not possible, we will cheerfully refund your full purchase amount.
Do you think I will get sea sick?
Generally we have fewer problems with seasickness than regular boats and large catamarans because of the open air, fast-moving nature of our vessels. However, while our vessels will affect far fewer guests, there are still people who are strongly susceptible and will become seasick no matter what. We suggest an over-the-counter medication for those people to ensure a fun adventure. Also let your captain know of your concerns, many of them have great island remedies – that work!
When or how long in advance should I make my reservation?
We suggest at least a week ahead unless you will be here during one of the busiest seasons (summer, spring break, and the holidays). During these busy times, we often book up several weeks in advance. You are welcome to make your reservation as much as a year in advance. For large groups, advance reservations are strongly recommended regardless of your season of travel.
Can I reserve a Private Charter?
Absolutely! We love to accommodating families, bachelor/bachelorettes, weddings, corporate or any other type of gathering or special event with sufficient notice. We can customize any of our exciting adventures to meet your needs and expectations. Call us (808) 322-8000. We’ll make it happen!
What if I need to cancel or change my reservation?
Since we do not overbook our vessels and we specialize in small groups, we enforces a strict 48 hour NO REFUND cancellation policy. If you must cancel for any reason including but not limited to change of travel plans, personal or family health or “change of heart” no refunds are given.
If you cancel your reservation at least 48 hours prior to your trip, you will receive a full refund. If you need to reschedule at any time after the 48 hours and prior to one hour before your scheduled departure, we will be happy to do so on a space available basis. If we cannot accommodate your request to reschedule and you still must cancel there will be no refund.
However, when you make your reservation on the checkout page we do provide “Trip-assurance” for $3 per person that covers cancelling for any of the above reasons within 48 hours of your scheduled trip time – excluding ‘no-show” and late arrival. We will provide you with a full refund minus the “Trip-assurance” charge. “Trip-assurance” may not be added after checkout.
Note: We reserve the right to cancel for any reason including weather, ocean conditions, mechanical problems or safety of our guests or crew. If for any reason we must cancel on the date and time you have scheduled, we will gladly offer you an opportunity go out a second time at no additional charge on a space available basis or provide you with a full refund.
For Private Charters, you will receive a full refund of the entire private booking amount minus a 10% cancellation fee for charters cancelled 7 days or less prior to their scheduled departure day (00:001HST of scheduled charter date).
Extenuating circumstance may be addressed on a case by case basis.