Perth 2013 – Wading with wild dolphins

One of the most memorable events on our trip was our close encounter with wild dolphins. We drove 2 hours south of Perth city to the town of Bunbury, where 500 dolphins call Koombana Bay home.

An unassuming little centre called the Dolphin Discovery Centre, is situated right next to the beach facing the Indian Ocean. A few times a week, dolphins swim near the shore to playfully interact with visitors!

As it states on the website, amazingly:

We don’t clearly understand why the dolphins continue to visit the Zone today however research does suggest that the small amount of food they receive as a reward for their visit is not the only attraction. There are many dolphins that visit the Zone regularly that do not receive any fish and many of them stay for extended periods of time for interaction with the human visitors. Sick and injured dolphins also treat the beach as a haven, with some repeatedly visiting during periods of illness or injury.

Our very knowledgeable guide
We weren’t sure if they’d come on the one day we had to visit Bunbury. So we explored the inside of the centre for a while, and suddenly we sensed some activity, and the hubs told the volunteer guide, “I think I see some dolphins in the distance”. And there they were, four to five dolphins, frolicking right before our eyes, as we hurried down to the water’s edge. It was enchanting.

They swam so extremely close to shore. Initially, there appeared to be some tussling between the one male dolphin and 4 other females that came near that day, so the volunteers told us to stand back. Thereafter when they calmed down a little, we formed a line and waded out to them! 

It was a magical experience. To witness a completely wild dolphin swim directly towards a line of humans, playfully going back and forth, as if it were basking in all the admiration…

I used to think that the brouhaha about captive dolphins was much ado about nothing, but after seeing them in the wild, it just made me realise how much more meaningful it was to interact with them up close without keeping them in a small tank.

I suppose it is only then, that they can lead the lives that they were made for – our guide said that the females are always either pregnant or having a calf swim alongside. Gestation takes a full 12 months, and they only mate from Jan-Feb, interestingly. Murdoch University has a research cabin next to the centre and students are currently studying population genetics via collecting the dolphins’ DNA, by pinging a little biopsy dart at them.

After the dolphins swam off, the girls busied themselves in the sand. It was such a lovely day. Such a perfect mingling of elements, the warm Australian sun, bright blue sky, glittering water and fantastic breeze… I could have stayed there for hours…

The centre also conducts boat trips out, and excursions where folks can swim with the dolphins. However, that is more costly, ranging from $49 to $149 respectively for adults. In contrast, all we saw cost only the price of admission, which is $10 per adult, and $5 for kids above 4. Eminently reasonable, I felt!

We also enjoyed ourselves walking around the small aquarium tanks indoors, getting acquainted with Eli the long Moray eel who decided to swim out and display his full 1m length, two octopi, two crayfish and an interesting large rock pool with so many starfish (also called Sea Stars).

The very friendly volunteers there let the girls touch sea urchins (non-poisonous of course), sea stars and showed us three camouflaged flounders.

We watched a short 3D dolphin show, and two IMAX style videos. The discovery centre is not swanky now, but has its unique homey charm. Which is why I felt a tad sad when our guide mentioned that there are plans to refurbish the centre in 2 years to one that was much bigger, better, shinier.

I hope the feel remains warm and cosy, which might still be possible given the passionate volunteers that the centre is so blessed to have. After all, it’s the software that gives a place its character, regardless of how large and shiny.

  21 comments for “Perth 2013 – Wading with wild dolphins

  1. September 24, 2013 at 2:29 am

    Gorgeous day out at the Dolphin Discovery Centre and that Sea Urchin is huge! πŸ™‚ I’ve included this attraction in our list of ‘to-do’s the next time we visit Perth. Thanks for sharing!

    • September 26, 2013 at 5:54 am

      Yes, I thought most sea urchins were poisonous but we got to touch two that aren’t!

      Welcome! Will be sharing quite a few more posts on the highlights of this trip, so stay tuned! πŸ™‚

  2. September 24, 2013 at 2:31 am

    What a beautiful encounter! It really shows that even wild dolphins are tame and friendly in nature. I remember Perth for its lovely beaches and sprawling vineyards. Would love to bring the kids there one day…

    • September 26, 2013 at 5:55 am

      Yes, Perth is great cos it’s such a short flight (relatively, to me!), it’s clean, and is great for road trips. πŸ™‚

  3. September 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Such a lovely visit and what a wonderful experience meeting the wild dolphins! You can also do this at Port Stephens in Sydney too btw. It also has it’s own pod of wild dolphins which visit regularly, but we didn’t manage to swing by when we were there. Love that the whole place looks so uncrowded during your visit!

    • September 26, 2013 at 5:57 am

      Nice! Makes me think that places without their own pod of wild dolphins (our sunny isle) are perhaps meant to stay as such! haha.

      Yes, there were pockets of visitors but though the building was small, it was very uncrowded heh. Perhaps cos we were there on a Monday morning too!

  4. August 25, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Nice! Didn’t know you could see Dolphins so close at Perth. When I saw the title, I thought you went up to Monkey Mia or something. I guess the dolphin sightings here are not guaranteed?
    Bumble Bee Mum recently posted…{Travel Tuesday #8} Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium ~ Beautiful Sea indeed!My Profile

  5. August 25, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Oh my gosh, up close and personal with dolphins! The beach looks amazing too. Sigh, makes me nostalgic about my Perth trip too.

    • August 25, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Yah… it’s so chill there huh?

  6. May
    August 25, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Wow! They come so close to shore! Lovely! Pity we are back from Perth now. Could have added it into our itinerary!

    • August 25, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      There’s always next time! I’m always amazed at how near Perth is to Singapore.

  7. August 25, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    What a wonderful experience! We were not even that close to seeing the dolphins during our trip to Bohol in Philippines. Plus we travelled so far out into the waters. πŸ™‚
    Phoebe recently posted…Singapore Night Festival 2015My Profile

    • August 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      Yes I had never been so close to dolphins before – it was so magical!

  8. August 25, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    We are planning a trip to Perth next year, this is definitely in my to-go list!

    • August 25, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      That’s great! Looking forward to your blog post on it. πŸ™‚

  9. August 25, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I also thought you were up at Monkey Mia! I didn’t know we could go up close with the dolphins in Bunbury. We lived in Perth for almost 4 years, did a trip down to Albany to do whale watching (whales weren’t out..boo), and just briefly skimmed through Bunbury. Will definitely keep this one in mind when we bring the kids back to our second home! =)
    Justine recently posted…Primary School Registration for Dragon babiesMy Profile

  10. August 25, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    Hubby’s keen to go to Perth with budget flights that fly there but I’ve the impression it’s boring for the kids. But reading the comments here, I think I may be mistaken. Seeing the dolphins swim so close and free must be so special.
    Susan recently posted…Krabi with the family – Our stay at Holiday Inn Resort KrabiMy Profile

  11. August 26, 2015 at 7:36 am

    It’s so wonderful to see them upclose and personal in the beautiful Aussie beach.. I love that shot of the water glistening in the sunlight!!
    Ai Sakura recently posted…Wordless Wednesday {linky}: Singapore Playgrounds – Kallang Wave Mall Waterplay | Week 29My Profile

  12. August 26, 2015 at 8:25 am

    We’ve been round the world (well, almost) but never been to Perth πŸ˜› I think it’s time I plan a trip there. Would you recommend going in Dec? Would we be able to see the wild dolphins then?
    Angie.S recently posted…Fast and Stable connection anywhere with Changi RecommendsMy Profile

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