Road trip in Western Australia – Part 6: ”Dolphins in Monkey Mia”

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Welcome to this series of articles about a roadtrip in Western Australia. There is a lot of ways to do the west coast of course. We did a short roadtrip, 18 days in a campervan and from today and onwards you will be able to follow our trip through my articles and photos. This is part 6. Enjoy!

In the map below you can see where we have been and whats coming up.

The alarm goes off early. It’s dolphin time. Our van is parked at a caravan park in the small town of Denham, Shark Bay. We have one of the spots on the hill with a good view over the ocean. Nice to wake up to.

We have to be up early to not miss the dolphin feeding on the other side of Shark Bay in a place called Monkey Mia. In the waters of Shark Bay Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins lives. And we want to see them.

We drive 30 minutes east from Denham and can see how the sun rise over the flat landscape. I pull the window down and can feel the wind in my face and how the air starts to warm up. Another beautiful day is coming up in Western Australia.

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Now you probably think that dolphin feeding is not a very good thing to support. But this feeding is different. Since the 80s the Indo-Pacific bottle nose dolphins that lives in Shark Bay has come close to the beach because they are curious.

The scientists started to learn about the dolphins here and studied them. And they learned how they could protect them from danger. They also started with dolphin feeding to attract tourist which means more money for their projects.

The feedings are very restricted. A dolphin has to eat around 35 kilograms of fish every day. At the feedings here every dolphin only gets fed once and only with one fish. That means the dolphins have to hunt the rest of the day. The tourist are not allowed to touch the dolphins and there is not a set time for when the feedings happens. The dolphins decide when it will be by coming in to the beach. Here in Monkey Mia they are only allowed to have three sets of feeding and interaction with the dolphins and only between 8am and 1pm.

Tourists are allowed to stand in the water just with their feet and can watch the beautiful animals closely. And of course there is no show. No jumps, no balls and no splashing. Because all that is not natural. The dolphins will come in, swim around, wait to be fed and will get close to have a look on the tourists.
”They are as curious of you as you are of them”, one of the dolphin workers tells us while we standing with our feet in the water.

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Two of the dolphins in Monkey Mia. Photo: Patrik Enlund

This morning it’s just over 100 tourist here.
”The tourists will always outnumber the dolphins”, the dolphin woman says.

Im standing there in the water and realize I probably look stupid with that big smile on my face. This if for sure one of the happiest days in my life. This is so cool. One of the dolphins, which is called Surprise, is so close I can touch her – but I of course don’t. I take hundreds of photos instead. Surprise swims on the side with one of her eyes above the surface looking straight on me.
”She checks out the latest cameras”, says one of the workers and laugh.

The female dolphin "Surprise". Photo: Patrik Enlund
The female dolphin ”Surprise”. Photo: Patrik Enlund

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Surprise is one of the oldest dolphins. She is 39 years which is really old for a bottle nose dolphin. She is a mother of six and one of her daughters, ”Shock” is also visiting the beach this morning. In total there are four dolphins close to the beach for our visit. The other two are named Puck and Piccolo. All four of them are females.
”We recognize them by looking at their back fin and the body shape”, says one of the dolphin workers.

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All the dolphins stays in the shallow water for a long time and we can have a really close look on this amazing and smart animals.

By random choice a couple of tourist will be picked to get to give the fish to the dolphins. I’m like a little child and so badly want go be chosen but I’m not lucky.

I remember when I was a kid visiting one of the zoos back home. The little eight-year-old me thought it was so cool when the dolphins played with the balls, jumped through the rings and splashed water on us. That is nothing compared to this.

My experience in Monkey Mia is way better. This made my day. My year. My life.

It’s free to watch the dolphins. But Monkey Mia is inside the national park and to enter you have to pay the small park fee. With this fee you support the management and care of the dolphins.

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