With two unexpected days to spend in Rainbow Beach getting some emergency repairs to our car after a rather adventurous trip to Fraser Island, I booked our family onto a dolphin feeding tour. The trip with Dolphin Ferry Cruises included a dawn ferry ride to Tin Can Bay followed by the opportunity to hand feed wild dolphins. I had not researched the trip before booking and my vision of an intimate dolphin encounter in a secluded bay did not come to life. Nevertheless, the trip, although rather busy and commercial, was fun and definitely worth doing if you find yourself with time on your hands in Rainbow Beach.
We were picked up by minibus in the centre of Rainbow Beach at 6.30am and taken to Carlo Point Marina. The ferry ride took about 30 mins and was an enjoyable cruise with views of Fraser Island. The dolphin encounter is at the marina by Barnacles Cafe in Tin Can Bay and our small tour group joined the 50 or so people already there. (It's possible just to turn up at Barnacles and pay $5 at the cafe to feed dolphins - see the following Weekend Notes review by Grace).
Two Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins duly arrived and lined up side-by-side at the shore. There was half an hour or so available to wade into the water and watch the dolphins although it was hard to get a decent view unless you get a spot at the front. My husband retired to the cafe with a large coffee at this point. Our trip was outside the school holiday period and apparently it gets even busier at Christmas and Easter time.
At 8 o'clock everyone queued up to get a bucket with a fish and had the opportunity to feed one of the dolphins which was genuinely thrilling. Our group then got the boat back to Rainbow Beach in time for hotel check-outs.
Get ready to share the experience with quite a few others
Whilst the experience was not as 'wild' as I had imagined, we did have a really enjoyable trip and it was a great way to start the day in Rainbow Beach. As it can be busy, my recommendation would be to hang back and enjoy a breakfast at Barnacles Cafe when you arrive, whilst the crowds spend time with the dolphins. Towards the end of the session, most people had given their fish and were leaving - this would definitely be the best time to get a more isolated encounter with these amazing mammals.