Temptation Sailing, Glenelg, South Australia © South Australian Tourism Commission
6 places to swim with wild dolphins
Australia's magnificent oceans offer one of the world's ultimate wildlife encounters: swimming with wild dolphins.
By Sheriden Rhodes
These guided encounters, from Australia's west coast to the serene waters of Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay, allow you to swim with curious dolphins in their natural environment.
Regarded as Australia's dolphin capital, Port Stephens is home to a remarkable dolphin encounter. Most swim-with-dolphin experiences involve floating in the ocean and waiting in a stationary position until the dolphins approach you, but with Dolphin Swim Australia, swimmers are pulled slowly alongside the dolphins. Participants are attached to a harness and clipped to a tow rope between the twin bows of a catamaran. As the dolphins move playfully through the water, you effectively swim in time with them.
How to experience it: Dolphin Swim Tours leave from Dock C of d’Albora Marinas in Nelson Bay. Guests are asked to arrive at the dock at 6.15am, so consider spending the night in Port Stephens prior to your tour.
This wild dolphin encounter operates in the waters off Adelaide's favourite beachside town, Glenelg. Hop on board Temptation in your supplied wetsuit, snorkel and mask, hang on to a flotation line, and wait for common and bottlenose dolphins to gather around to play, swimming around and beneath you. Thousands of dolphins call the Gulf St Vincent home, so dolphin sightings are virtually guaranteed.
How to experience it: Just 20 minutes from Adelaide, Temptation Sailing tours depart from Marina Pier in Glenelg. Tours depart daily during dolphin season at 8.00am and return to the pier at approximately 12.15am.
Melbourne is home to a vast harbour – Port Phillip Bay. About 80 frolicking bottlenose dolphins live here, and two local tour operators, Polperro Dolphin Swim and Moonraker Dolphin Swims, offer wonderful snorkelling experiences. Simply hop into the water and dolphins and Australian fur seals will swim around and beneath you, often in circles. Afterwards, you'll tuck into homemade scones and a warming cup of tea.
How to experience it: Polperro Dolphin Swim operate tours twice daily during dolphin season from late September to early May. Moonraker Dolphin Swims operate from October to April and offer a range of tours that depart daily from Sorrento Pier on the tip of the Mornington Peninsula.
Well known for its incredible wildlife spotting opportunities on land, it's no surprise that Kangaroo Island is also home to marine species living just off its golden shores. Jump into the water with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures or Kangaroo Island Ocean Safari to swim alongside bottlenose dolphins and even long-nosed seals.
How to experience it: If you don't feel like swimming. you can ride along to get incredible shots of dolphins coming near the boat on the Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures Tours.
In the Bunbury Geographe region of Western Australia, you can swim with wild dolphins under the watchful eye of a marine biologist and volunteers from the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Venture into the open waters of Koombana Bay, where the curious bottlenose dolphins usually choose to approach swimmers. As in all other locations, encounters rely on dolphins approaching swimmers of their own accord.
How to experience it: Just north of the Margaret River region, the Dolphin Discovery Centre operates swim encounter tours from the beginning of November to the end of April. Swim tours depart daily at 8am.
Swim with dolphins on this remarkable tour of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. The knowledgeable crew from Rockingham Wild Encounters has, over the years, befriended hundreds of local dolphins that call the area's sheltered bays and islands home. You may see mothers nursing calves, discover how dolphins use stingrays to catch their dinner or simply watch the boys showing off for the ladies.
How to experience it: Less than an hour drive south of Perth, Rockingham Wild Encounters tours are available from early September to early June, though exact dates may vary each year. Tours depart from the Cruising Yacht Club, and transportation can be arranged from Perth.