I thought I had seen dolphins before because hey, I live in Perth and dolphins are not that big a deal right? We see them jumping in front of the prows of boats at the Fremantle wharfs, playing in the surf at Mullaloo beach and around the bridges in the Swan River so to me while the thought of swimming with the dolphins was interesting, it wasn’t earth-shattering. I was definitely not prepared for the amazing adventure that awaited me aboard the Apollo 3, the 15.5 m purpose built dolphin experience boat run by Rockingham Wild Encounters and taking people out to swim with dolphins.
Our day started at 8 am on the jetty at Val Street in Rockingham. We were pleased with the free street parking near the jetty which meant we only had to carry our towels and change of clothes a short way. There were already people waiting there so we joined the crowd. The crew of the Apollo 3 were really good while we were waiting nervously and kept us informed of how long it would be until we could board.
The crew gave us a hand getting onto the boat handed everyone a snorkel set as they said hello. They were very friendly and chatty while we got on and settled ourselves. We then had a short briefing on what the day would entail and wetsuits were handed out. There was a great variety of wetsuit sizes and the crew were brilliant at helping everyone feel comfortable with their wetsuit. I wasn’t happy with the fit of my wetsuits until I was on my third one. I felt a bit silly getting in and out of different wetsuits but the crew didn’t see it as an inconvenience at all and were really accommodating. The age, background and physical stature of the guests were so varied that I was really impressed that had something to fit everyone.
As the experience was with wild dolphins the crew very kindly but firmly made it clear that the dolphins were not tamed and they didn’t feed them. The dolphins allowed us to swim with them as a result of the mutual trust and friendship the business has built up with the pods over the past 26 years. They were very knowledgeable and they explained the different species that were in the area and the species that we would encounter. With that, they also explained the different habits of the dolphins and the areas that they would be travelling between.
Of course the dreaded ‘S’ word – Shark – came up in the safety briefing the crew did before we set off and all our concerns were addressed and all were made to feel safe. The crew utilised shark shields and as our safety and as enjoyment seemed to be foremost in their minds we all relaxed. Rockingham Wild Encounters definitely had all the processes and controls in place for a safe and exciting trip.
As the skipper started the trip and we prowled around Rockingham’s bays and islands looking for the dolphins we were broken in to groups of 4 – 6 people and given a coloured belt. This then became our colour group so when red belts were called we knew it was our turn to get into the water. Each crew member was responsible for two colour groups while in the water so we went through how to get in and out of the water via the huge rear swimming platform.
While we were still cruising the bay and chatting with the other guests the crew cut up a huge platter of fruit and passed it around which I enjoyed along with the endless tea, coffee and water which was available on board. There were a few of us which suffered from seasickness so the ginger biscuits and ginger tea provided were gratefully received. If the nausea got out of hand Rockingham Wild Encounters also sold Soothing Scents Quease Ease while on board.
When the dolphins were spotted and our group was called we slid into the water. We held onto the belt of the person in front of us and lay on the surface of the water with our faces in the water breathing through our snorkel. We didn’t need to swim as our group leader was riding on a small water scooter which pulled the whole group through the water to where the dolphins were.
The first pod we saw had about 10 dolphins in it and we lay on top of the water and watched them socialising with each other. On that swim a member of another group spotted a 1.5 m shark disappearing into the distance. Even though we have shark shields around us and there was no threat the crew understood that this sighting caused fear in the children and more fragile members of the group so the groups were pulled out of the water and we went cruising for a different pod of dolphins.
I knew a light lunch was being provided from reading the website before we went on our Wild Dolphin Encounter but I didn’t count on the quality of the food. There was a choice of ham, salami and salad wraps and chicken and salad wraps. Both types of wraps were beautifully prepared and delicious. Some guests had other dietary requirements and they had salads prepared to their specifications so everyone was well fed and happy.
The highlight of the day for me was the dolphins we saw in the quiet cove of Penguin Island. There I saw dolphins feeding and playing in the seagrass. The water was so clear I could see the scratches on the dolphin’s skin and look them in the eye. I was stunned at how big these dolphins were and how small I felt next to them in the water. It was an absolutely amazing experience to see these happy, free dolphins playing and living in their own environment. I really felt like I was part of their world.
This is an experience I will recommend to everyone I know. It was tranquil and magical to be with the majestic animals right off the coast of our own city.
Before this I knew that Rockingham Wild Encounters ran the ferries and penguin feeding from Penguin Island and ran the Sea Lion Cruise as I have taken the kids to do that previously but I didn’t know about some of the other services they offered. Now I’ve tried the Dolphin Swim and I can’t wait to go back and try Island Yoga. It is such a beautiful location I’m excited to see what they can offer with the combination of yoga, meditation and live music.
Here are some comments that my family wanted to share about their experience:
Leah – Aged 11
When my mum told me we were going swimming with dolphins I was terrified, but once I was swimming it was amazing and I was surprised how beautiful and friendly these creatures were. Close to the end of our experience we went over to Penguin Island and the dolphins there were very friendly and social. The water was about 4 meters deep, the water was clear and you could see the dolphins swimming underneath us.
Alex – Aged 13
The experience was really exhilarating and I give the dolphin swim a big thumbs up!! At one point in the day we really saw how random and untamed the sea and the trip was as we saw dolphins (obviously) and a penguin!! The crew were really nice and answered all our questions with certainty. When we changed location to near Penguin Island the water was as clear as day. It was an awesome experience and one I would totally recommend for others.
Dave – Aged 41
I never knew that you could swim with dolphins in WA. The experience was awesome to say the least, the dolphins swam between us and right up to us, and the crew were great, friendly and engaging, I had a fantastic day, one that I hope I can do again in the future.
Thanks to our friends at Rockingham Wild Encounters for this amazing experience that we strongly recommend you add to your bucket list. A day out that the whole family will never forget.
Rockingham Wild Encounters offer two fabulous discounts in KidzaBuzz – 10% Off Swim with Dolphins Cruise & 10% Off Penguin Island Ferry & Cruises (offers found in the Visit the Animals section).
For more information about the dolphins swim, island & ferry cruises please visit www.penguinisland.com.au
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