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The dolphins of Monkey Mia

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 25 August 2007 | Views [1843] | Comments [1]

Since driving past Carnarvon, the scenery has become a bit greener, with some wild flowers adding some patches of colour here and there. Still, the road leading to Shark Bay is a detour of 130 km one way, and as I’m cruising along the straight black scar that the road makes through the bushy hills, I cannot help but wondering if this is all worth it. It’s true you don’t see dolphins every day, and since I had to get rid of the one I had in my aquarium – he kept on eating the other fishes – I haven’t seen one. But at the same time, it’s the kind of tourist trap where you are bound to get parked in groups where every one has to dutifully follow the yellow cap of the guide. The kind of experience I do not particularly relish on.

You see your first ranger at the entrance, where you have to pay the fee. Ten dollars and the ticket is valid two days. I say it’s pretty reasonable. After that, you are free to roam wherever you want. The rangers, all of them very nice, show up only when the dolphins approach for the feeding. They are here to regulate the exchanges between the different kinds of mammals and at the same time give a lot of explanations about the aquatic ones to the two-legged ones. The feeding process in itself takes all of five minutes perhaps, with everyone out of the water, except some volunteers and a few tourists handing the fish to the dolphin. Only five mature females are fed. And what they are given amounts to a small snack. It’s something that has been learned from experience.

Back in the seventies, people could go in the water at any time of the day, pat any dolphin with one hand while feeding him with the other. The dolphins’ reaction was quite natural: they hung around, waiting for the easy hand-outs. And when they were mothers, the time they spent near the beach was taken from the time they should have spent teaching their calves how to fend for themselves. The rangers then started to see the number of disappearing calves rise. The conclusion was evident: the interactions had to be regulated for everyone’s benefit. First, there was to be only 3 feedings a day. Second, since the number of visitors rose to a hundred thousand per year, and that each and every one of them wanted to touch a dolphin, the latter became a bit aggressive. A strictly no-touching policy was implemented, and since then the number of “aggressions” dwindled.

The first time I saw the feeding business, I was surprised to hear the ranger call the dolphins by their names. I was wondering if she wasn’t simply pulling our chain. How can you recognize a dolphin from another dolphin? From their dorsal fin, the ranger said. Only the very young have a perfect one. Along the years, it gets dents and marks from close encounters with Tiger Sharks - from which the bay got its name from to begin with - or fishing boat propellers. The female can also get scratches and marks from over excited males when reproduction time comes. Once I knew where to look, it all became quite obvious.

After a day at Monkey Mia, I was so amazed by what I had witnessed that I simply decided to come the next day for more. The dolphins were again here, like every day. And it’s been going on for more than thirty years now. I didn’t get to any of them, but then it’s not really important. Just getting to be so close to such a graceful and intelligent animal is a rather unique experience.

To see more pictures of Shark Bay, click here

Tags: ambassador van, sightseeing




That has to be a great experience for you!!! I'm really happy for you that you hade the chance to see this.
greetz Marieke

  Marieke Enfield Sep 20, 2007 6:42 PM

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