"Volunteer With Dolphins" is the experience of volunteer Elodie, who took some time during her Australian holidays to visit Monkey Mia, spending her time in the company of wild dolphins!
Monkey Mia is in Shark Bay, Western Australia, a place reputed for sharks, dugongs, rays, turtles, whales and obviously dolphins.
The water is crystal clear, the beaches are soft sand ranging from white to bright orange.
Is there anything you rather do during your holidays?
Volunteer with dolphins! (All pictures supplied by Elodie)
As I was planning my trip to visit the West Coast of Australia, a friend of mine, who had been working there with dolphins, collecting blow samples, told me about that little heaven called Monkey Mia.
This place is part of Shark Bay, and the water there is full of marine creatures. There are researchers who study the populations of sharks, dugongs, sea snakes, sea turtles, and dolphins.
There is also a daily dolphin feeding, organised by the rangers and the Department of Environment and Conservation, in which the public is allowed to come very close to the dolphins and some persons are randomly picked up to give a fish to the dolphin.
And the very nice part of it is that they need volunteers to prepare the fish and make people feed the dolphins!
This is a fantastic opportunity to approach these wonderful cetaceans and to learn a lot about them.
All that you have to do is send a request by email, so as to book your place volunteering in Monkey Mia.
All you will need is getting there,
affording your accommodation, and being covered by a travel insurance.
There can be 5 places available to volunteer with dolphins at any time of the year, and you can spend there from 4 days to 2 weeks.
It is better to book in advance of course, but sometimes you can find a place there even from a week to another, depending on how many volunteers are there already.
Monkey Mia is a small camping / village composed of a reception, a shop, a restaurant, bungalows, rooms, dorm rooms, a caravan park and a camp site. Kitchen, bathrooms and laundry are of course available, and also a bar called the Monkey Bar.
Being a volunteer allows you to get better prices everywhere in Monkey Mia.
Some wonderful movies have been made about the Monkey Mia marine wildlife, and they are displayed all day long in a place called the Theatrette.
The researchers also stay in Monkey Mia, so you can meet them easily. They are very interesting and lovely people to meet, and they are happy to share their wonderful stories with you if you ask for it. So many interesting studies are conducted over there!
Next to the Theatrette is a place called the Gallery, a small museum where you can learn a lot about marine wildlife and how to protect it.
The job there is running from 7:30 to 12:00 maximum, but you finish earlier if the dolphins come early for the 3 feedings.
Indeed, the dolphins are not fed more than 3 times, in fish quantities that do not exceed a quarter of their daily intake. They choose to come once, twice, or three times in the morning
To begin the morning there is a little bit of cleaning to do (sweeping the gallery, the theatrette, and the wooden path between the buildings). Then one of the volunteers stays behind the radio and records the observations of the rangers coming out of the radio.
When the dolphins come in the interaction area, the rangers go with them in the water and make a speech about them to the people who are standing on the beach, the feet in the water, with the dolphins swimming at less than 1 metre from them.
During this time, volunteers prepare 5 buckets for the 5 dolphins which are fed, weighting the fishes and defrosting them.
Volunteers also record environmental data such as air temperature, water temperature, wind direction and strength, how many boats are in the water...
At the end of the speech the volunteers go to the beach, each one carrying the bucket of one dolphin to feed, and they choose people from the assembly to come one by one feed the dolphin.
Tourists waiting to feed wild dolphins at Monkey Mia
One volunteer is needed to feed the pelicans, with fish pieces, so that they don't try to steal the fishes from the dolphins. There can be as many as 7 pelicans waiting for fish ! They are very well educated and wait for their fish just next to the person who is holding the yellow bucket, so it is easy to manage even if they fight a little bit sometimes...
Between the feeding times,
the volunteers are in charge to put the movies on, in the Theatrette, and do
the announcement for it.
This job was really easy because the rangers were always very kind and helping and they were always reminding us what to do at what time. They were always happy to share their observations and knowledge, and since they are an amazing source of stories about shark bay and the marine wildlife, that made our days amazing, learning so much!
The afternoons (and, half of the times, even the end of the morning) were free and there is a lot to see at Monkey Mia and around.
There is plenty to do right at your door, in Monkey Mia, you can:
Fishing near Monkey Mia
If you have a vehicle, you can also:
Francois Peron National Park
For me, the most difficult was to understand what the rangers were saying from the radio.
Indeed, I am french and had been in Australia for 2 months before that, which was quite good, but not enough to really catch every word they said... I was really feeling bad about that but actually it appeared that even the English guys couldn't hear well through the radio.
So it was quite normal to ask for people to repeat, and
actually I could manage not to be alone with the radio, as my volunteering
mates were very nice to me as well !
Monkey Mia is situated in a beautiful spot, and wild animals are fascinating both in the water and on land. Here a goanna fight.
The best moment was being in the water next to the dolphins. They can speak a
lot, making many different sounds.. and if you talk to them, they follow you
very closely and roll on their side to lift one eye outside the water and look
Puck thanks you for each fish she receives, rubbing her back against your leg or the leg of the person who gave the fish.
Nicky pushes your leg with the tip of her nose if she has to wait too much for the fish.
And sometimes, one of them becomes pink on the belly, which is the equivalent of a human blush, and makes you feel very special !
There was a funny moment when a pelican came lately and went in the water, aiming to the dolphins buckets.
I went to him taping the yellow bucket to attract him, and it actually worked pretty well, so the pelican was coming to me, on the sand.. but all of a sudden, I saw all the pelicans (4 of them) flying away to the water again, actually because of an emu that had just arrived and decided to chase them out of the beach !
Luckily the dolphins feeding was already done and the pelicans did not interfere with it.
This is such a rare opportunity: to mingle with wild dolphins!
Thank you Elodie for sharing this wonderful experience and tips on how to volunteer with dolphins.
Looks like this volunteer opportunity is always available and easy to apply for, and no doubt it will enrich your holidays in a very special way.
Apply to volunteer with dolphins now!