Setting sail to find dolphins near jeju island
Asia,  South Korea,  Travel

Chasing After Wild Dolphins at Jeju Island

Jeju Island (제주도)

Jeju Island is the largest off the coast of the peninsula and is a popular honeymoon spot for newlywed Koreans- and I can see why. It is a beautiful place surrounded by ocean. You’ll find quaint farms lined with uneven barriers, called bat-dam(밭담), which I find rather charming. It is definitely worth it to rent a car if you are there for a few days to fully enjoy the freedom to drive along the coastline!

I had an opportunity to check out Jeju Island for a couple of days one autumn. It was a vacation within a vacation. I was most excited about eating Jeju pork belly and seafood, and maybe getting a chance to see haenyo (sea women) free divers in action on my getaway.

Unluckily for me, there were no tours (that I could find) that would give me the haenyo experience I was searching for but the concierge suggested a morning out on the water in search of dolphins. Yes, please!

Gimnyeong Yacht Tour (김녕요트투어)

Our journey begins with the booking of the tour through the hotel concierge at the Daemyung Resort. The booking was made on the same day, and I was ready to sail in style in search of wild dolphins and feel the wind blow through my hair! October is in the slow season with low chances of seeing dolphins, so it was easy to get a same day reservation. 

Gimyeong Yacht Tour offers several services, but what I did was the Standard Tour which lasts 60 mins and included: a glass of wine, Hweh (sashimi), sailing, and some boat fishing. This cost me 60,000 KRW or just a little over $65 CAD.

BONA 520 Yacht

Luxury yacht BONA 520.

The BONA 520 yacht is advertised as the Ferrari of yachts, and what will take me on my nautical journey. The 52 ft yacht has a maximum capacity of 27 persons, but because of the slower season, I only shared the vessel with about a dozen other tourists.

The vessel is very, very luxurious, at least to a commoner like me (haha). It has a bedroom, kitchen, wine bar, PC room, and even has karaoke! With only an hour on the yacht, I wasn’t interested in the furnishings- I wanted to see dolphins!

I didn’t waste any time with the glass of wine or the snacks. However, I did finish the Hweh which were alive only moments ago in an enclosure near the yacht.

Indo-Pacific Bottle Nose Dolphin

The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops Aduncus) population near Jeju is about 100 and these are what I was hoping to see during the yacht tour.

Gimyeong Yacht Tour told the tourists on the boat that if we spotted the dolphins before the staff, we would win a stuffed dolphin plush. Determined to be the first to see the cetaceans, I went and grabbed a seat at the bow. Many of the tourists on board that day were afraid to get too close to the water so I had front row seats the entire time.

Even with a keen eye, the crew was still the first to spot the dolphins and the dolphin plush  was no longer up for grabs. Two young dolphins happily played off in the distance, and we approached them for a closer look.

Two bottlenose dolphins in the distance.

As we got closer, the excited dolphins started swimming around the yacht. We were told that the wild dolphins like to race the boat, so the crew sped up. The dolphins still managed to weave ahead of the bow the entire time. It was an exhilarating experience and the first time I saw cetaceans in the wild!

Fishing Above A Mountain

After the dolphins lost interest in us and we parted ways, we sailed to DuReok Mountain. Before you get excited, DuReok Mountain is really just a large underwater rock that makes an appearance when the tide is far out.

The interesting thing about the underwater “mountain” is that it has an abundance of life surrounding it making it an ideal fishing spot. I was fairly unlucky and caught nothing. While I did get a couple nibbles, I never managed to reel anything up. It was a little bit frustrating when everyone around me had bright red snappers at the end of their lines and I had nothing! My excitement from watching the dolphins must have scared them away…

I had a blast overall on my short yacht tour. The price I paid was reasonable for the adventure I had out on the ocean chasing after dolphins. If you’re in Jeju and looking to fill in some time during your trip, you should really check it out.

Where I went:

김녕요트투어 (Gimnyeong Yacht Tour)

Address: 4212-1 Gimnyeong-ri, Gujwa-eup, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea

Phone: +82 64-725-0225

Been to Jeju Island before? Let me know about your trip in the comments below!

Live large. Live Jennormously!


  • Arthur S

    Wow that is really cool. It has been a number of years since my only visit to Jeju. I had never seen kyul trees so it was exciting to see them growing. There are also some really awesome lava formations. The highlight was a day trip to Udo where I got to see a coral beach. The sand wasn’t sand at all but tiny rounded balls of coral. I really hope I can go back some day.

    • Jennormous

      I hope you get to go back! The coral beach sounds lovely =) If/When I return, I want to hike up their mountain and and also go to that cliff with the lava formations… I missed out on that. Also more bbq pork belly =9

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