5 Dec 2013

Dolphins, Not Monkeys!

I just returned from three months of exploring the Australian continent. Landing in Sydney on the east coast, we drove 16,000 km in a rented camper, then took the train across the Nullabor Desert for 2 days and 2 nights, flew to Tasmania and drove all around that island. We saw and learned a lot!
The first recorded arrival of white men on Australian soil, was on a Dutch trading ship, under the command of Captain Dirk Hartog, arriving on October 25, 1616 - more than 150 years before Captain Cook. Hartog left a pewter plate, nailed to a post. The original plate is now back in the Rijksmuseum, but there’s a replica of the plate in a town called Geraldton on the west coast.

On the west coast, we visited a resort called Monkey Mia. There are no monkeys here. It is believed that the name originates with a boat called The Monkey that used to frequent the area. Mia means home in an Asian language. Before going, I talked to many people who had visited this resort where wild dolphins come to interact with people. Everyone said it used to be fun, but that now it is very touristy and regulated. But still. When wild dolphins come to shore, I wanted to experience that. I did not have high expectations. I also suspected it to be commercialized.
BUT it was fun! It’s done in a lovely manner. You do have to pay a small entrance fee, but that is often the case at wildlife or nature reserves. The rangers gave a informative talk and the bottlenose dolphins arrived around 8 AM. No one makes them show up, they truly do live free in the ocean. Of course they have been conditioned, know that there is a treat waiting by the shore. But I do believe the regulations are in the dolphins best interest. If they did not strictly enforce rules, people would feed them all sorts of stuff including bread, or worse. They would touch them and affect them with sunscreen or bacteria.
Now, we all had a long, good look at the six wild dolphins that came to shore. They almost beached themselves and showed off. One mother brought a small calf. It was lovely. A few people were allowed to feed a fish to them and then it was over. The dolphins come back as they please but are only fed in the morning, and only up to five females, bringing off spring, males and other friends along.

Bottlenose dolphin coming in to socialize.

Monkey Mia is part of a much larger preserve, a UNESCO World Heritage area including Shark Bay, Shell Beach, Hamelin Pool and a few other special areas that deserve preservation for future generations.

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