Diving Into A Dolphin Swim

Leaping, clicking and whistling, the dolphins excitedly swam around occasionally tilting on their sides as though they were wondering what this line of strange things was doing in the water. We were on a dolphin swim with Temptation Dolphin Cruises and watching a pod of bottlenose dolphins circling us in the water.

At 6:30am, I’d woken up excitedly, immediately looking forward to the morning’s activity. Due to somebody else in the room with us, we had to be really quiet getting ready and packing up our now dry washing so as not to wake him up. I’m not sure why I was so careful in not disturbing him though as he’d repeatedly turned the light on and off and paced around the room all night despite knowing full well that we were trying to sleep. Still, I’m not one for deliberately getting on people’s nerves so I made sure that I quietly placed things in my bag and we carried our things out to the landing. After shoving the louder, crinklier things in, we then headed off downstairs to reception to leave our things in the left luggage storage. It’s always nice when hostels offer this, I’m not sure what we’d have done otherwise. I don’t think the people running the cruise would have been too happy if we’d dragged our bags on and taken up all the space! The day before, the nice girl on reception had told us that they’d be open at 7 so we’d be fine to drop our things off and then head to the harbour in time for 7:15 as it wasn’t far away at all. Sadly, this was not the case at all. By the time the reception opened it was almost 7:10am which meant that after quickly dumping the bags in a cupboard, we pretty much had to jog to get to the boat on time. I really tried to not be annoyed at all but it was hard when we’d made sure we were sorted and had to wait for other people who were late. Grrrr.

IMG_4396Despite the rush to the harbour, I enjoyed how quiet and pretty the walk was with just the occasional runner or kayaker passing. Glenelg really is a lovely place, quite like some Scottish towns, though of course a lot warmer at the moment (I think it was about 30C at 7 in the morning!). I would definitely liked to have spent a little bit more time there but with it being the school holidays and summer here, it was perhaps just a little bit too busy during the day. It gets to the point when you stop paying attention to the little town and end up just focusing on finding somewhere to sit or making sure you’re not in the way of anyone. Once we made it to the harbour, after a little car park detour, we found a group of people who looked like they were waiting for the same trip and stood with them. They all seemed nice and you could tell that they were all looking forward to the trip too. We all watched as the boat was prepared, the odd one taking a photo and making sure they had everything ready before watching as a couple of people starting walking towards the boat. Even though we’d been told not to go down yet as they were still getting ready, three of them headed off down the steps and began climbing on board. I couldn’t believe how pushy they were, I don’t think anyone could, and it was even more annoying when they got to go on first because of it. I don’t know about anyone else but I tend to do as I’m told in terms of things like this and yet always seem to be the worst off.  Of course, I knew we’d all get on the boat and get the chance to see the dolphins but I struggle in situations like this when the odd person does as they please and come off better because of it.

2.1420310412.me-on-the-boatAs we wandered down the stairs very eager to at least be the second on the boat, one of the women working on the boat spoke to us for a bit. She asked us if we’d ever seen wild dolphins before and then when we replied that we had in Scotland, she told us she knew Charlie Philips who does the dolphin identification over there. I liked that we are so far away from Scotland here, at least 10,000 miles, and they still knew each other due to working in the same industry. After I’d told her that we’d seen Mischief and she’d talked about Sundance, we climbed on to the boat to fill out our waiver forms and collect our wetsuits. I suppose it wasn’t the best sign that we had to sign a form to say that we accepted the fact that if anything happened to us whilst in the water they were not responsible but a lot of places do that. I was just getting more and more excited about seeing the dolphins.

After we’d handed our forms in, we headed up some steps to the front of the boat to find somewhere to sit and put on our wetsuits. Well, I say put on, it was more of a squeeze on; they were so tight and thick! To make sure that anybody who wasn’t entirely confident in the sea felt at ease, the suits were 5mm thick and acted as flotation devices. That way, you wouldn’t just sink into the depths and instead would just bob around on the surface. Definitely a good idea, it just didn’t seem it as we we trying to squeeze ourselves into them. Eventually we managed it and after Codie went to collect two sets of snorkels and masks, we sat down on the deck and waited for the safety talk. With over 50 people on the boat, it was quite a squash and took a bit of time though we got there in the end and huddle around to listen to the crew. The catamaran engine roared into life and as we left the harbour, a guy stood up at the front and introduced himself as one of two marine biologists on board. It was good to know that there were people who seriously knew what they were talking about and genuinely looked happy to be a part of the trip as I’ve been on a few where the crew just seem too tired to care. We were given a little bit of information about the dolphins in the area and some general information before being told about the swimming process. It sounded quite scary and a lot more like a drill than a swim. With everyone focusing on him, all keenDCIM101GOPRO to listen, he said that once dolphins had been sighted we would hear the words “swimmers ready” which was our signal to head to the back of the boat and make sure our snorkels were fitted correctly. Four people on each side needed to sit on the platforms and once the command “swimmers in” was heard, gently slip into the water without splashing in case they scared the dolphins away. Once they were in, the next eight people had to do the same until we were all in and holding onto two ropes in diagonal positions. Within 15-20 seconds. Yep, we had up to 20 seconds to get everybody in the water before the dolphins would be at the back of the boat and it would be too unsafe for anyone else to get in. I was a bit worried about this as I didn’t want to be stuck watching everybody else swimming with them because we hadn’t managed to get in on time.

It wasn’t long before the call of “swimmers ready” rang out and we all headed to the back. We were then told to get in but the people in front of us were too busy deciding who was going to get in first and so it was too late to. It was really annoying seeing the dolphins pass us and move on but I was optimistic for next time and we waited at the back so we could be ready. Pretty much the same thing happened the second time. They guy shouted “swimmers in” but the four people on our side waiting didn’t bother and just looked at each other instead. Yet again we had to watch the dolphins pass us, their dorsal fins gliding out of the water and moving further and further away. Getting more and more agitated, we sat down and waited for the next pod really hoping that we’d have the chance to get in soon. Whilst we were waiting, the woman we’d spoken to before came down and began telling everybody a little bit more about the bottlenose dolphins in the area. She said that the one we had just seen was called Snoopy and although he usually likes to play, he was more interested in his food that time. Although we hadn’t been in with him, it was nice to know his name and as we carried on I saw his fluke disappear under the surface.

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 22.04.34A little while later, as the woman was telling people about the breeding cycle of the species, we received our order to get ready and get into the water. It was a bit chaotic and there wasn’t much time as I battled with my snorkel and made my way over to the platform. The first four people entered the water and we were next. It was quite a rush and a panic to get in and once we did, the coldness hit me all of a sudden. It definitely wasn’t like the water temperatures of Queensland! Dragging myself down the rope whilst trying to counteract the buoyancy of the suit and regulate my breathing in the snorkel, I was amazed that this time we’d actually made it in. As the other swimmers were getting in, the marine biologist was stood on the boat shouting which direction the dolphins were in so we knew where to look and wouldn’t miss them. I was struggling a bit with my breathing as the water was so cold and the sea was quite choppy but as the dolphins drifted past us, my worrying seemed to fade away and unconsciously I regulated it all. It was amazing. They glided past underneath us, on their backs, on their sides, even bumping into each other. When you go dolphin watching on a boat, you generally only get to see the surface activity so having the opportunity to watch them in their own world was really, really cool. There under the water we were even able to hear them clicking and whistling to each other, the sound intensifying every now and again as they got closer. Every now and again I’d pop my ears out, though I didn’t want to, to be able to hear where they were. At one point the guy said that what we could see underneath us was two dolphins mating which is something you don’t expect to see and really interesting, you usually only witness things like that on documentaries. After swimming all around us for a while, the pod made it’s way over to the other side of the boat and began performing various acrobatic tricks and creating huge splashes next to the other line of swimmers. It seemed to go on for ages and I was quite jealous of the people who managed to be a lot closer to them but I was really enjoying just listening to them communicating to each other and wondering what they were saying. They did end up just behind the swimmers again at the end of the rope and we got another good look at them though they were leaving and soon carried on their trip. A few times my feet touched the line next to us and I felt a little vibration. It turned out to be the shark sensor which sent out electromagnetic waves, uncomfortable to sharks, and prevented them coming near so it was good to know it was on!

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 22.05.49Climbing back up the ladder, I was really pleased that we’d got to spend that much time with the dolphins though of course I wished it was more. I’d read a few reviews that holding onto the rope whilst the boat was moving was really hard work and required a lot of strength but to be honest, it was only when the boat turned that I even noticed were were! I’m sure I’ll feel it in my left arm tomorrow though as I was only able to see the dolphins by letting go with my right hand. We’d been told that we needed to hold on with both hands and stay within the ropes at all times but in order to be able to see them and not have our backs to them, we didn’t have a choice really. Optimistic for the next swim, we sat down as, like the dolphins, we carried on our trip. Codie had had the Go Pro for the first one as I was too busy concentrating on breathing to take it so I was really looking forward to having a go myself. The problem was, it never came. We seemed to be sitting and waiting for ages until the word dolphin was mentioned again and by this point we also seemed to be heading back to the harbour. When some eventually came near we all got ready only to be told that “we’d” missed them and again when some more swam past. I don’t know why we were blamed for missing them, we weren’t allowed to wear our sunglasses due to the rush to get in the water so couldn’t easily see through the sun glare and also didn’t have any binoculars. This meant that we weren’t the best at dolphin spotting unlike the people on the deck and the crew. We were just waiting to follow the orders like we’d been told too so I think it was a bit unfair to lay the blame entirely on us.

DSC_6773Even though it was disappointing that we didn’t get to swim with any more, whilst we were waiting  we did get to see a hammerhead shark and that was really cool. According to the crew, it was quite rare to see one and I really wished I’d been able to have by camera with me. It just seemed to swim slowly around the boat before ending up at the front. We all rushed to get another look, completely forgetting to bring the Go Pro, and managed to catch a glimpse of the fins slicing through the water. It’s a shame it didn’t last longer as I was really enjoying seeing a real shark but he soon disappeared under the surface and we carried on home. The guy jokingly said “swimmers in” and everyone laughed but a part of me still want to go in and get a closer look. It would have been amazing to see it up close and underwater though perhaps a little bit too risky. The hammerhead has been my favourite shark species since I was little and had a little plastic toy so to actually see one was such a good experience and far better than being stalked by one.

Upon reaching the harbour, everybody clambered off the front of the boat and headed off to spend the rest of the day in the sun. We’d already peeled our wetsuits off and handed them in along with the snorkels and I’d spent the last bit of the journey watching the planes taking off from Adelaide airport. The crew had taken quite a few photos of us throughout the trip, apparently, which you could buy on a dolphin shaped USB and so before disembarking I bought one with some of my Christmas money and we left. According to Codie I looked really pleased with it but all I can say is, I’m a sucker for an animal shape. Overall I really enjoyed the trip although I think at times it was a bit awkward and I didn’t appreciate being blamed for missing more swim opportunities. I’ve seen a few dolphin swims advertised before but for a lot more money and with a lot less of a guarantee of sightings, this one was 100%, so I suppose there wasn’t much to complain about. It definitely would have been nice to have spent more time with dolphins but they are wild and that’s what’s so great about it all; it’s their choice.

2.1420310412.ari-with-the-gumtreeOnce we’d left the boat and the harbour, we decided to go pack to the fish and chip shop we visited yesterday for some more of their tasty chips. We hadn’t eaten anything all morning and were starving so it seemed like a very good idea. And it was. We had a big cup of yummy potato goodness and a coke to wake us up before I decided it was time to head to the old gum tree. Codie wasn’t the happiest about this as it was now about 33C and it was quite a way away but I knew that if I didn’t go and see it whilst we were in the area, I’d be really disappointed so off we went. After walking for about 10 minutes in the blazing sun, I was beginning to regret my decision however when I got there, I felt like it was definitely worth the walk. Hidden under a shelter, a huge tree trunk curved over into a rainbow arched shape. With it being so old, most of the trunk had rotted away and had been filled in with concrete however some of the wood remained and it was weird to think how important it is to South Australia. On December 28th 1836, Governor Hindmarsh declared the establishment of the first government and British colony of South Australia. Whilst some European settlers had been living on Kangaroo Island, it was decided to move them over to the mainland and it was here where the Proclamation was read out though due to some initial difficulties, the day itself was only celebrated 21 years later in 1857. Whilst there are some people who disagree with the idea that it was under this tree that it was truly declared, I like to think it is and it’s quite strange to think that this all happened not that long ago. There’s a painting of this meeting and it looks absolutely nothing like the area does today; where we went today was a housing estate whereas it was just a grassy expanse. Crazy how much it’s changed in about 200 years.

On the way back to the hostel
On the way back to the hostel

After I’d enjoyed being around the tree, it was time for us to go back and collect our bags for the tram ride back to Adelaide. Unlike the walk there, the wind was now going in our direction which meant it was hotter than ever and we ended up having to stop at Woolworths to buy a drink. We ended up with 4 more Malteser reindeer chocolates (for about 20p each can you blame us?) and a pack of candy canes. Yum. By the time we got back to the hostel we were already quite tired and so the thought of having to lug all our luggage back to Adelaide’s city centre was not particularly nice. Nobody likes being packed on a tram at the best of times, especially when it was as hot as it was! Luckily for us though it wasn’t quite as busy as it had been yesterday so we managed to get seats and just enjoy the views, something I’d missed out on on the way.

Back in Adelaide and we hopped on the free bus to get back to The Producers hostel. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to having to stay there again because it was all a little bit bleak but it was the cheapest place so I couldn’t really complain. I’ve been enjoying being able to spend my money on fun activities rather than accommodation so for the sake of a bit of dirt (ok, a lot of dirt) it didn’t seem right to fork out a fortune on somewhere else. I have to admit I began to regret this decision when we turned up and discovered that it was all closed up and we had no way of getting in. Considering it’s actually a pub, it doesn’t ever seem to be open! We ended up hanging around there for a while, desperately ringing the number on the board only to discover that it rang the phone inside and debating where else there was to go for the night. It just wasn’t looking good at all. Grrrrrrrr. A little while later, a woman passed us and told us she’d come to tidy up her office in the building. It was a bit weird as she just seemed to have claimed one of the dorm rooms near to ours. For a split second I did wonder how she’d get any work done with so many people in the rooms lumbering about but I soon remembered where we were and that it was probably never full! It really does amaze me that the place is still operating as I’m pretty sure that if it was around back home, it’d be closed by health and safety instantly. Not only was the dirty kitchen fridge food still about, Martin the cockroach was lurking and our sheets hadn’t been touched. Pretty grim!

Trying to get back into the hostel.
Trying to get back into the hostel.

Eventually, after we’d settled back in the owner turned up and we paid for 2 more nights. It wasn’t great having to pay for a hovel but what could we do. At the end of the day, it was definitely an experience we were going to remember! We then wandered over to Woolworths and Coles to pick up some easy-to-make food for the night but they were closed before we’d bought the cheapest bottled water and so we ended up in Hungry Jacks again. Mmmmm, so nutritious. The triple flavour freeze was amazing though so well worth the water bottle hassle. When we got back to the lovely hostel, we quickly made a tea, had a shower and went to bed. It had been a long, long day full of things and I was desperate to just close my eyes and relax for a bit even if we were battling the stuffy temperatures. I don’t think the guy from last night could’ve coped because even we were struggling!

I’m not entirely sure what we’re going to be up to tomorrow but I have my eye on the cheese toastie van in the centre so I’m hoping there’s some sort of cheddar involved….

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