An intimate swimming encounter with dolphins is an experience like no other. Exhilarating and calming, sharing the big blue with these intelligent, inquisitive and graceful animals should be high on this summer’s must-do list.
Award-winning company Rockingham Dolphins provides Perth’s only Swim with Wild Dolphins tour. The company has been running for 18 years and it's because of this long and trusting relationship that the dolphins allow humans to unobtrusively enter their world and interact with them. On a Swim with Wild Dolphins tour, the Rockingham Dolphins crew will take you out to the sheltered shallows of Rockingham’s calm, clear bays in search of any of the 150 local dolphins they now call friends. Once they’ve been located, it's on with your mask and snorkel before you enter the water to experience what most will never have an opportunity to do.
Before long, the water is alive with flashing grey torpedoes and the air and water is filled with whistles, splashes and laughter. While floating on the surface, you watch in speechless awe as the dolphins rise from the depths and swim around you – twisting, turning, gliding and jumping.
You don't need to be a confident swimmer to partake in the experience. Tour-goers form a small chain by grabbing each other’s belts. The group is then gently towed along by an experienced Rockingham Dolphins’ crewmember using an underwater aqua-scooter. You just have to hang on, relax and enjoy the exhilarating experience.
The dolphins you interact with are wild animals existing naturally in their habitat. As such, the outcome of the tour depends on which dolphins are found and what kind of a mood they are in. They don't do tricks and the tour does not involve feeding them. It’s simply a matter of spending time enjoying each other's company.
The crewmembers work with whatever behaviours the dolphins present, such as hunting, feeding, swimming, resting, mothers looking after newborn calves or males fighting. Or, you may find yourself in the middle of an X-rated dolphin sex show – dolphins are extremely frisky animals and it’s quite common to find them mating.
The tours started as a dream of owner Terry Howson, who developed a life-long passion for the ocean and its inhabitants while growing up playing in the water and on the beaches of WA’s Indian Ocean. After working on his brother’s charter boats in the Kimberley region and learning everything he could about the sea, Terry moved to Rockingham to pursue his dream of swimming with wild dolphins. He knew that many dolphins frequented Rockingham’s waters – all he had to do was somehow befriend them.
For more than half a year, Terry spent seven days a week, 10 hours a day, watching and learning before he got his first underwater glimpse of a curious young female, now known as Logo. Interactions with Logo and other dolphins became more frequent and Terry was able to create a truly unique eco-tourism adventure.
Swim with Wild Dolphins tours are available every day from September 1 to May 31, weather permitting. Tours range from $155 to $165 per person, including wetsuits, snorkel gear, a light lunch and refreshments. A courtesy return bus service is available from Perth city and the tours depart from The Cruising Yacht Club Jetty in Rockingham at 7.30am, returning between 11.30am and 1.30pm.
All you need to take on the tour is a towel, sunscreen, a warm jacket and your camera. Wear your swimsuit, shirt, shorts and a hat. Dolphin Watching tours are also available. For more information, contact Rockingham Dolphins on (08) 9591 1333 or visit dolphins.com.au.
Facts and Figures
The species found off Rockingham is the bottlenose dolphin, which is the most common species found close to the Australian coast.
Bottlenose dolphins live for up to 40 years – females generally outlive the males as the boys spend a lot of time beating each other up!
There are at least 268 dolphins catalogued in the Rockingham area, of which Rockingham Dolphins knows about 180.
Sleeping dolphins powernap for about 15 to 30 seconds at a time, shutting down half the brain to rest while the other half keeps them breathing and floating at the surface. They alternate the side of the brain rested throughout the day and by doing this they get the equivalent of a good night’s sleep.