Let me take you for a trip to Tin Can Bay, which is about a three-hour drive north of Brisbane, Queensland.Trish and I booked a visit to the Barnacles Dolphin Sanctuary. (Which is just a portioned beach next to the Barnacles cafe). It is run by volunteers under the supervision of the government of Queensland. These incredible creatures that are on the critical/vulnerable list according to Australia’s Nature Conservation Act. Many places where the public can see dolphins up close, charge huge amounts, but it was just $5 to watch or $10 to feed the dolphins. This enables families with children to have an incredible encounter.
No Alarm Needed
No alarm needed for this early morning visit. We were awakened by an early morning kookaburras
and hundreds of Lorikeets.
Meet the Family
Mystique is the alpha-male head of a pod of nine dolphins.
He decides who comes in for feeding and this may be a way of protecting the rest of the pod from the human feeding at Tin Can Bay. Back to the 1950s when a wounded male dolphin, named Scarry, came for help. The locals helped him to heal and he and his pod have been coming back for more feeds and loving encounters with humans.
Mystique arrived with his mother as a young calf and was given his name by the local school children. In 2007, Mystique was in a battle for alpha dominance and was badly wounded. To add to his misery, he was attacked by a bull shark and returned Tin Can Bay for help from his human friends. For ten days, volunteers nursed him around the clock until he recovered. Never far away was his female lover called Patch.
Feeding the Four Dolphins.
Today, March 14, 2016, Trish and I were privileged to feed Patch, while Mystique, Ella and Squirt looked on. Patch is thought to be in her mid-twenties and is estimated to weigh about 200 kg. She now has a pink skin colour as she ages.
These dolphins belong to the delphrindae family of small toothed whales, which include the Orca whale. At no time can anyone touch one of these dolphins (or any dolphin). The Queensland government imposes a fine of $8,000 AUD.
Dolphins use tools such as sponges to protect their beaks when hunting for squid on the sea floor. Mystique has also been observed retrieving a beer bottle from Snapper Creek and bringing it to shore balanced on his beak – a thank-you gift for the volunteers who arrange the feedings. While we were waiting in the water for feeding time, it was interesting to see that each dolphin had one eye shut. This enables them to sleep while still have one eye looking for predators.
Closing Thoughts: If you sit constantly in front of a television set (or other media device), you are bombarded with scenes of a world gone mad with warring factions, famines and domestic violence. These events are factual, but on our earth-walk, we need to also see the beauty of Mother Earth. People, particularly in large cities need to de-stress, whether its to escape in a good book, yoga, meditation or sports. Often it is a trip to a city park or a visit to the country that puts life in perspective. The dolphins and so many of Earth’s creatures are ending up on the endangered species list. Each of us needs to do his/her part to help the planet. The dolphins at Tin Can Bay agree.