After avoiding the wallaby family crossing the road as we left Denham, it was only a 20 minute drive across the peninsula to Monkey Mia. We were visiting this resort famous for its daily feeding of the wild dolphins, the first daily event being around 8am. This practice began in the 1960s when fishers began sharing their catch with the dolphins. The practice continued over the years and more dolphins visited as did more human visitors attracted by these beautiful creatures. Studies of the dolphins in the 1980s and 1990s revealed that the feeding practices were bad for the survival of the dolphins, the calves were not learning the necessary survival skills. Strict controls were introduced so today they control the fish feeding to only 10% of the Dolphins daily diet. The survival rate of Dolphin calves between 1995-2010 who visited Monkey Mia is 15 out of 17, the same as for dolphins who don’t visit this beach.
We survived the ticket gate process and found a space in the very large car-park with all the other camper vans. It wasn’t far to the the large administration block that checked our tickets as well as encouraging us to walk through the displays and souvenirs. The entry arcade through the main building led directly to a gathering forecourt where we were asked to wait until the Dolphin feeders and the Dolphins (presumably) were ready to feed and be fed. I noticed a whiteboard on the wall of this area where the administrators kept running totals of the number of Dolphins who arrived per session and the number of visitors who arrived to watch the process, For example for the last 5 days, the total for the number of tourists who came for the first Dolphin Feeding over that time was 1035…that’s a lot of customers. These statistics also showed that they record the difference between the feeding dolphins and those Dolphins who arrive just for a look. For each of the past four days, only 4 dolphins arrived and only two were feeding. It looked like a large crowd had arrived for today’s event so I was hoping for more than four hungry dolphins
According to the announcer, the Dolphins are fairly punctual so by the time we were let through to the beach or the viewing jetty, it wasn’t long before fins started to appear heading towards the beach. As we weren’t ready to get wet or get close and personal with Flipper, we chose the jetty. This probably gave us a better view of the Dolphins arriving and this morning there seemed to be 7 or 8 dolphins who chose to come for breakfast. The announcers were very good at sharing out the food to tourists of all ages lined along the beach. Folk of all ages seemed to highly enjoy the process.
We enjoyed watching the Dolphins being fed at Monkey Mia but we couldn’t help but wonder whether the process was good for the Dolphins in the long term. It was certainly good for the RAC resort that ran the facility. The website of Monkey Mia made the following statements about one positive of the whole process…Research.
“The Resort 100% supports the world leading research conducted off the beaches of Monkey Mia.
Since its humble beginnings, research has developed hugely at Monkey Mia, and to this day we still host and support a team of dolphin researchers under the direction of Dr. Janet Mann, a professor of Georgetown University, USA.
Hundreds of dolphins are surveyed and catalogued each year, they survey their behaviour, ecology, genetics, development, communication, social structure, predators and prey, providing a huge insight into dolphin life. All of this research is accomplished non-invasively without tagging or capturing the dolphins.”
The other thing we appreciated about the facility were the Information Boards scattered around the centre. Two examples are copied in below.
When the dolphin feeding was finished we went for a walk around the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. Over recent years we noted that the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia had invested in a lot of Caravan Parks/Resorts around Western Australia. For example, we were booked into a very well appointed one in Cervantes further on in our tour. We were very impressed with the facilities provided in this resort and the place seemed to be very full with visitors