Taking a Dip with Flipper
The wild dolphins that come to Monkey Mia's shore are justly famous. But you can swim with these creatures on the way to Margaret River, at Rockingham, 45 minutes south of Perth, and Bunbury 90 minutes away.
Rockingham Wild Encounters offers a "Swim with Wild Dolphins" adventure cruise from the Val Street Jetty, Rockingham (tel. 08/9591 1333; www.dolphins.com.au). You are taken out into Cockburn Sound, where guides use aqua scooters to attract the dolphins and to tow snorkelers into the action. The dolphins certainly seem to enjoy the encounter and a 99% success rate is claimed. Tours are daily September to early June and include a light lunch, at A$205 per person, A$20 more with pickup from Perth hotels.
At the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Koombana Drive, Bunbury (tel. 08/9791 3088; www.dolphindiscovery.com.au), you can stand with bottlenose dolphins in the thigh-deep "interaction zone" at Koombana Bay. The dolphins show up about 90% of the time in summer; the best time is 8am to noon ,but the water rarely has the same clarity as at Monkey Mia. From November to April (weather dependent), 3-hour "Dolphin Swim Encounter" tours enable you to snorkel, accompanied by a marine biologist, with some of the bay's 200-plus dolphins, for A$185 including equipment, or you can travel as an observer. The center has showers, a cafe, and a digital dolphinarium. Admission is A$10 adults; A$5 seniors, students, and children; A$25 families. Tour costs include center entry. The center opens daily 8am to 4pm October to May, and 9am to 2pm June to September; closed December 25. For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society site (www.wdcs.org).