12/11/2009 - 00:00

A day with the wildlife

12/11/2009 - 00:00

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I CONSIDER myself to be a devoted Western Australian.Perth born-and-bred, I thought I’d seen most of what this glorious state has to offer in terms of tourism experiences.

A day with the wildlife

I CONSIDER myself to be a devoted Western Australian.

Perth born-and-bred, I thought I’d seen most of what this glorious state has to offer in terms of tourism experiences.

Like many sandgropers I’ve done the Margaret River surf trip-cum-winery tour, been fortunate enough to visit the beautiful beaches peppered along the Mid West coast and traversed many of the scenic reaches of the state’s north-west.

But right in my own backyard (actually, a little further south than my own backyard), I recently stumbled upon a little gem just off the Rockingham coast – Penguin Island.

It certainly lives up to its name, although there’s more to see than just the cute little penguins, including: glass-bottom boat tours; sea lion, dolphin and penguin eco adventure cruises; surfing; snorkelling; and scenic spots for picnicking and swimming.

Possibly the island’s biggest drawcard is the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins.

And they’re genuinely wild dolphins that have developed close ties with the island’s tour operators during the past 20 years without the use of extra feeding.

This eco tourism operation has been awarded a number of state and national tourism awards in recent years.

Rockingham Wild Encounters director Terry Howson initially ran his business with just one passenger per day.

“We’re the first group, perhaps in the world, to form a relationship with groups of dolphins to actually get a swim with them without feeding them,” Mr Howson says.

“The basis is friendship and trust.”

These days, more than 85,000 visitors a year hop aboard the ferry to spend some time at the island, found 45 minutes south of Perth in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.

Some visitors are daring enough to walk across the sand bar, which stretches from the mainland to the island, as a cheaper travel alternative.

It’s a valid option for the more adventurous tourist, that is, if you don’t mind getting your feet, shorts and (depending on the tides) possibly your shoulders wet.

Just be careful when traversing the sand bar if, for instance, you miss the last ferry of the day, there are a few sinkholes when the tide rises; so be warned. I suggest you bring a towel.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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