There are over a thousand common and bottlenose dolphins occupying the waters off the coast of Adelaide. Temptation Sailing provides the unique opportunity for passengers to observe and interact with dolphins in their natural surroundings whilst respecting the animal and their environment.
The Marina Pier at Holdfast Shores is the meeting site. We boarded the catamaran along with a small group of international tourists and three staff members (skipper, crew member, and marine biologist).
Upon boarding we completed the requisite paperwork and were issued a wetsuit, mask, and snorkel then sat on the front deck for the safety drill and were instructed not to touch the dolphins.
It wasn't long before the first dolphin sighting. In fact, two were spotted as we exited the marina.
The boat travelled the south coast of Adelaide for a short while until a pod was located. The command, "swimmers ready," was given by the skipper as we readied ourselves at the stern to slide in (no splashing as dolphins consider this a sign of aggression).
The pod was reluctant to play so we let them be and resumed the cruise. There were a few false alarms like this but eventually the command was given and floatation lines thrown in, along with the comforting yet concerning shark shields.
The dolphins must have been interested because the skipper called, "swimmers in," and one by one we slid into the ocean. The crew called out directions to look for dolphins as the boat continued slowly through the water.
The dolphins swam happily alongside the boat and playfully dived beneath the swimmers.
Nearly winter, algal blooms, and an overcast day meant the visibility in the sea was poor and it was difficult to view the dolphins under the water. With better conditions I'm sure it would be spectacular.
It was thrilling to be so close to wild dolphins but after some time battling the icy water, a foggy mask, and the wake of the boat (it's an intense arm workout), I decided the lone English girl who opted to stay dry and observe had the right idea.
At one point, a dolphin took special interest in one swimmer and made a beeline straight for him, stopped about arm's length away, and watched him inquisitively.
Unfortunately, he was face down in the water and didn't hear our shouts to look at the dolphin. After about 15 seconds, he saw the dolphin dive beneath him and swim away.
The crew were monitoring the dolphins, taking note of numbers, size, behaviour, and paying particular attention to the well-being of the animals due to the recent spate of deceased marine life washing up on South Australian beaches.
When I inquired about this, they seemed uncertain but said the cause was most likely to be naturally occurring algal blooms that deplete oxygen from the water and make it uninhabitable.
Recent reports suggest a rare virus may be to blame.
A crew member took photos during the cruise which were collated as a slideshow and screened on the journey back to the marina. Passengers have the option of purchasing the high definition images on a USB as a memento of the experience.
Concerned about sea sickness, I took ginger tablets as a precaution but it didn't seem to be necessary as the cruise was smooth and the boat stable.
Temptation is twice as wide as vessels of similar size and designed to slice through the water rather than bounce over the waves, creating a very pleasant boating experience.
The dolphin swim and watch occurs every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday (except during winter when it is just too cold). Passengers are asked to meet at the marina at 7.20 am; the boat departs at 7.45 am and returns at 11.30 am.
It costs $98 for adults and $88 for children (8 – 15 years) to swim with dolphins. If you just wish to watch, the cruise costs $68 for adults and $58 for children. Part proceeds contribute to a dolphin research program.
Wear your bathers as there isn't room nor time to change on the boat and remember to bring your camera, towel, sunblock, and hat.
Don't resist Temptation Sailing, visit the website for more information.