The sympatric Heaviside’s (Cephalorhynchus heavisidii) and dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus
obscurus) are poorly studied in South Africa and are potentially at risk from anthropogenic threats including fisheries bycatch. As part of a larger study, shore-based observations were made in a small bay (~1000 m wide) in the Western Cape, South Africa, during the summer months of 1999–2001 to gather data on their nearshore movements and behaviour. Heaviside’s dolphins exhibited a diurnal onshore–offshore migration and the sighting rate varied significantly with time of day and brightness of the moon, with numbers being markedly higher before 12:00 and nearer a full moon. These patterns were presumed to be linked to the vertical migration of their principal prey, juvenile hake Merluccius species
and Heaviside’s dolphins appeared to be resting and not feeding inshore during the day. Sightings of dusky dolphin showed no predictable variation with time of day but their numbers inshore were significantly lower when upwelling conditions existed offshore. Larger groups of Heaviside’s dolphins (especially groups of four) were more active (leaps, etc.) than smaller groups, but behaviour was not linked to environmental factors. The dissimilar responses to environmental conditions suggest that sympatry in these two species is mediated by niche as well as prey differentiation.