I have always been obsessed about dolphins. However, not only are close encounters usually very expensive, but it usually also requires donning on a wetsuit and swimming out in the open waters. This may not be very appealing if you are not a strong swimmer, or if you have little kiddies in tow. So when I found, not one, but two places in Queensland where you can stand knee-deep in the water and hand-feed wild dolphins, I was ecstatic!
Moreton Island is only a 75 minute ferry ride from Brisbane. Tangalooma Island Resort have set up accommodation and dolphin experiences on the island. You can choose to stay on the island and enjoy all it has to offer, or you can do a day trip which includes use of resort facilities and dolphin feeding at night. The resort offers a passenger ferry service from Holt St Wharf, which is a 10 minute taxi ride from Brisbane airport. The ferry ride was not particularly scenic but as soon as we saw the crystal clear, calm waters, we knew we had reached a slice of paradise.
Arriving at Moreton Island
Most nights just after sunset, a number of bottlenose dolphins swim up to the shores. They are completely wild and are free to visit whenever they like. We sat on the wharf and watched eagerly as more and more dolphins swam into the shallow waters to show off their streamline swims and flips. When it was our turn in the water, Rani, the dolphin, was just there – right next to my legs. He swam around me a little, just to check me out, before politely and gently taking the fish. It was an amazing experience. The water can get a bit cold and rough at night, and we were wet up to our waists, so we had to carry our little 5 year old. Unfortunately, it's dark and you are not allowed to use flash photography. You can however, purchase photos taken by the professional photographers.
In addition to the dolphin experience, there are plenty of activities at Tangalooma. You can watch the kookaburra and pelican feeding, but nothing beats just walking along the beach and looking out at the magnificent view. The water is very calm, making it a perfect playground for the kids. The soft fine sand slipping through your toes, as you watch the sea stars being washed up with the tide, is enough to make you feel like you are a million miles away from cares. All this just a little over an hour from Brisbane! There are various types of accommodation at Tangalooma. Please check their website for details.
Pelicans on the beach
Tin Can Bay
Tin Can Bay is a small quiet seaside village located along the Cooloola Coast, between Noosa and Fraser Island, about 2.5 hours north of Brisbane. A pod of Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins frequently visit the bay for breakfast. Being river and estuary dolphins, they like the warm shallow waters of Tin Can Bay and the Sandy Straits. Mystique is the alpha male and has been visiting since 1991 when he was just a calf. Patch is his mate and there are 7 others in the pod.
Spending time with Patch, the dolphin
The volunteer-run Barnacles Dolphin Centre opens at 7am, where you queue for a ticket. Entry costs $5 and feeding is an additional $5. Once you have your ticket you can grab some breakfast and coffee from the café until dolphin feeding starts at 8am. Prior to that, there is plenty of time for you to step into the calm warm waters and watch the dolphins frolicking around you. You are not allowed to touch the dolphins, but they are incredibly friendly and if they like you, they will come up and nuzzle your legs! When feeding time comes, sanitise your hands, hold the fish and enjoy the moment they gently take the fish from you. We were lucky to have four dolphins visit us when we were there. It was very relaxed and there was plenty of time for everyone to have a turn with the dolphins. As this is a morning feed, you can take as many photos as you like and the kids were only wet up to their knees.
Hand feeding the dolphin!
Dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay is without pomp and did not feel overly touristy. Don't forget to check out the souvenir section inside the café. They have a series of picture books depicting the stories of the dolphins that come to the bay.