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1 Day 50+ Mandurah’s Dolphins!

On Thursday 3rd April 2014, one of our crew members cruised Mandurah’s waters from the city, across the Peel Inlet to the Murray River, down through the Harvey Estuary, the Dawesville Cut and back along the ocean to where they started. On this cruise (~3-4 hours) they sighted over 50 different common bottle nose dolphins! This large number of sightings is a good indication of how large Mandurah’s dolphin population is and how healthy or waterways are to be able to sustain this number of dolphins. As you will note, a large number of young calves that have been born over this past summer were sighted this day, 7 calves in total! This is great news for Mandurah’s future dolphin population. These young calves all appeared to be healthy and happy and sticking close to their mother’s side. On most occasions this day, dolphins sighted were rounding up fish to feed on and playing with each other and in a playful, inquisitive mood in response to our crew member’s presence.

Please refer to the map below which shows the route taken by our crew member and location of sightings with the number of dolphins.

The first dolphin sighting was just past the New Mandurah Estuary Bridge where a pod of 5 dolphins were heading into the city centre (the opposite direction to our crew member). After a quick stop to say hello to our crew member they continued on their route towards the city centre.

The next sighting was in the Peel Inlet, a few hundred metres from the entrance to the Murray River. As one of our vessels, the Dancing Dolphin, cruised across the Peel Inlet a pod of 4 dolphins raced across the top of the water at impressive speeds from the South East towards it. When they were within 100 metres of the vessel they launched themselves high out of the water a number of times as if to catch the attention of those on board who hadn’t yet sighted them. They continued to follow the Dancing Dolphin before being distracted by a school of fish. Our crew member cruising Mandurah’s waters followed this pod for over half an hour as they fed in the shallows, surfed their bow wake and inquisitively checked them out. As they rode the bow wake for quite some distance they playfully nudged each other out of the way for the prime position.  These dolphins appeared to be having great luck with catching fish as many were thrown into the air in a playful manner as if to show off to our crew member. Two of the dolphins also partook in mating activities after they had a fulfilling feed. With very few boats in this area, it was so quiet and peaceful that the dolphin’s whistles could be heard clearly.
Map 1

After observing the first pod of dolphins for some time our crew member made their way across the Peel Inlet towards the Harvey Estuary. Half way across another pod of dolphins, 5 Adults and 1 juvenile were sighted swimming along heading in the opposite direction. Again our crew member stayed with this pod for around half an hour. At first they were very inquisitive and surfing the bow wake before being set on their mission to make their way towards Mandurah City.

The next sighting was approximately 100 metres out from the Dawesville Cut in the ocean. This pod was a large one consisting of around 15 dolphins. 3 of the dolphins in this pod were young calves born over the past couple of months and a few others were juveniles. This pod was swimming back and forward in a 50 metre zone rounding up fish and playing around. A very playful calf in this large pod was very interested in our crew member as it kept leaving its mother’s side to surf their bow wake, belly up, splashing around and launching itself out of the water showing off. This cheeky little calf’s mother kept having to chase after it to pull it back into line as it continuously swam after our crew member. The behaviour of this calf and its mother was very human like. After this pod had a fulfilling feed they became a lot more social with each other and our crew member. A large piece of seaweed became a beach ball as it was scooped up and tossed around the pod in a playful manner. Again with so few vessels in the area, it was so quiet and peaceful that the dolphin’s whistles could be heard clearly. After near 45 minutes with this pod another pod consisting of 10 dolphins joined. They came from the direction of Falcon ocean side. 2 of the dolphins in this pod were young calves born over the past couple of months. This pod were in a very playful mood and keen to interact with members of the larger pod they joined.

Cruising along the ocean coast from Dawesville to Halls head there were no sightings until approximately 100 metres out from the entrance to the Mandurah Estuary Channel a pod of 8 dolphins were sighted swimming north along the coast as they chased fish. This pod was quick to hop onto the crew member’s wake for a surf (free ride), playfully nudging each other out of the way for the prime position. After a fair while with this pod it was time to head in for the day.

On the way back to the boat ramp our crew member sighted a pod of dolphins in the distance near Stingray Point with one of our vessels, the Mandjar. On approach it was recognised that this pod consisted of 2 mother’s with their young calves. One of these calves was Mandurah’s newborn, only a week or so old, still bearing its foetal stripes from being folded up in its mother’s womb. The mothers were very protective of their young calves who stayed close to their side at all times. Still learning the dolphin ways, the newborn would bop to the surface to take a big breath of air and ride its mother’s slip stream.

All of our 1 Hour Dolphin & Scenic Canal cruises this day also recorded sightings.

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Mandurah’s Dolphins

Mandurah has a healthy population of Bottle Nose Dolphins (tusiops truncatus) that is estimated to number up to 75 individuals, depending on the time of year. The number increases around mating times when males come in and join the pods. The pods of dolphins average around 10-15 and have sometimes been seen to be as large as 25 down to solitary dolphins or smaller family groups of 3-4.

Their average length is about 3 metres, with calves being about 1 metre long at birth. We normally see baby dolphins appear between December and April. Mandurah's wild dolphins are medium grey in colour with light flanks and pale bellies. They can live up to 30 years and can swim in short bursts up to 40km/h and they love to play in our ferries bow waves and wash. As a matter of fact dolphins are the only other mammals apart from humans that continue to play well into their adult life. And Mandurah's wild dolphins are very playful!

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