Moreton Island wild dolphin feeding experience

16 Jul

MORETON ISLAND WILD DOLPHIN FEEDING EXPERIENCE  Dolphins are one of the most adored creatures on Earth and people travel from far and wide just to get close to them. Moreton Island near Brisbane is one of those special locations in Australia where people can pay to hand feed dolphins in the wild. For me, a truly devout admirer of the species, it was a bitter sweet experience.

The family of dolphins have been visiting Tangalooma Island Resort for decades. Three generations frequent the resort nightly, familiar with the routine of feeding at 6pm. Resort staff have watched them grow up and have names for every one of them.

But disappointment consumed me when a noisy flock of over 150 people raced towards the water to take part in the feeding experience during the weekend. The noise, pushing and shoving, and sneaky people jumping the fence to join the queue was too much for me, which made me feel for the seemingly dependent pod in the shallows of the water.

Only a handful of people were actually allowed into the water at a time and fish were rationed to one per person. The rules were firmly announced: no touching the dolphins. But it still felt like the dolphins were controlled for a show, rather than wild creatures as they should be.

Dolphins arrived early and people swum out to meet them.

Another disappointing aspect was the lack of management before and after the show. A number of dolphins arrived at the resort over an hour and a half before the feed was due to begin, swimming into shallow water in anticipation for food. People continued fishing off the pier despite the presence of dolphins below, and others swum right out to meet the wild pod, which is illegal in Australian waters (you are supposed to keep a distance away). Staff were nowhere in sight to manage the behaviours of their guests.

But the experience was still magical and I believe it must be effective in educating tourists from around the world. Getting up close to a dolphin, where you can see their playful eyes and powerful dorsal fins, is really inspiring – even if it was only for one minute. I only wish it was managed by researchers (not for profit) and restricted to fewer people.

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