Summer is a great time to suit up and swim with the dolphins in Bunbury.
Bunbury's Koombana Bay is a hot spot for bottlenose dolphins with a recorded resident population of over 100 during the summer months. Not only is the protected bay a mating and breeding ground for the friendly animals, it's also a safe haven for mothers who are close to giving birth to their calves.
During summer, the Dolphin Discovery Centre, in conjunction with Naturalist Charters, offers Swim on the Wild Side tours giving visitors the exciting opportunity to swim with the dolphins. Run by marine biologists and trained volunteers, swimmers not only get the buzz of swimming just metres from a dolphin but are also educated on the animals' behaviour and activity in the bay.
The tours run from the centre twice daily at 8am and 11am for three hours. After spending a half hour suiting up and discussing water safety, groups of no more than 12 people head out on one of Naturalist Charter's vessels in search of the dolphins. The other two and a half hours are spent on the boat discussing the animals' behaviour while enjoying muffins and juice, and swimming in the bay with the animals.
Once located, the dolphins' behaviour is assessed before visitors are allowed in the water. Although naturally playful and inquisitive, swimming is not permitted if the dolphins are feeding, fighting or mating as it is too disruptive, although in this situation tour goers get the rare privilege of seeing the animals interact in these ways from the boat.
Generally, however, swimmers are able to get into the water and the dolphins, being so naturally curious, will stop what they're doing and come a little closer for a look. And while you're not allowed to touch the animals it is also not uncommon for the dolphins to brush alongside you while you're swimming.
Tours include the hire of the snorkelling gear, refreshments, buoyancy vest, fins, wetsuit, cruise and entry to the centre, where you'll find a range of interactive dolphin displays. If you'd rather just watch from the boat there is the option of joining the tour and partaking in the on-board discussions without actually getting wet.
Children eight and over are welcome on the tours and an adult must accompany children under 16 years of age. Although buoyancy gear is provided a low level of swimming ability is necessary to participate in a Swim on the Wild Side tour.
Tours are extremely popular and book out weeks in advance so to avoid disappointment make sure you contact the Dolphin Discovery Centre well in advance to reserve your spot. If you do happen to miss out there is also the option of taking a dolphin cruise where you'll see numerous dolphins "bow-riding" and playing in the bay. Dolphin cruises are perfect for the disabled, elderly, those short of time or people with young families. For more information on Dolphin Cruises contact the centre or Naturalist Charters.