I find there is something magical about spotting a dolphin in the wild, their playful behaviour as they burst from the water and dart amongst waves invigorate the free spirit inside me.
Which is why I feel so passionately about enjoying these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, and not behind the glass of a tank or enclosure.
While spotting dolphins from the shoreline or playing in the bow of a boat is always possible, there are also other ways to have an up close and personal experience in an ethical and educational way.
We jump on a 75-min ferry ride from Brisbane to Moreton Island, where we stayed at the island’s only resort, Tangalooma Island Resort. It is here we had the unique experience of the Tangalooma wild dolphin feeding program, where a Dolphin Care Team, consisting of Eco Rangers and dedicated staff, run the program which operates to strict guidelines to ensure the protection of the dolphins.
I was told while it does operate daily at sunset, this is always at the dolphin’s discretion.
“If they don’t show up, they don’t show up,” said Hank, the GM at Tangalooma Island Resort.
“It is never a forced or controlled program. It is quite normal for any one of them to be absent from the feed on consecutive nights and this is not something to be worried about – they are probably having too much fun out in Moreton Bay.”
Not just an interaction with the dolphins, we are taught that to ensure the dolphins maintain their natural instincts and independence, the dolphins are feed between 10 to 20 percent of their daily food requirement. This ensures they also hunt for themselves and can survive on their own.
Buckets line the shore full of herring, a fish species that is commonly found in the Bay. The dolphins prefer herring due to their high fat and minimal bone content which make them easier to digest.
Ever since early 1980’s, when the dolphins would come to the famous resort jetty, people have been enjoying this organic interaction with them. Strangely enough, I felt the dolphins enjoy the interaction with us just as much. The dolphins that visit Tangalooma are actually part of two tight-knit family groups. In total, there are currently 13 dolphins visiting Tangalooma.
I found the actual interaction is not only educational but an ethical way to get up close and personal with dolphins. Time with them is limited and in no way was I able to touch the dolphins. Flash photography is also banned to ensure the comfort for the animals.