Who hasn’t dreamed of spending their days by the water splashing around with wild dolphins? In France, Marine works to protect water quality. She took a 6 month sabbatical and decided to go to Australia. In this article, she tells you about her exceptional experience as a volunteer in the Shark Bay reserve in Monkey Mia. A rather nice job, feeding the dolphins with your feet in the water!
Volunteer to work with dolphins
Located on the west coast of Australia, Monkey Mia in Shark Bay is a city renowned worldwide for its dolphins. This destination is one of the essential stops for Australian backpackers and/or travelers heading north.
Originally, it was the fishermen of the bay who used to give dolphins fish waste. Since the 1960s, they continue to come and nibble a few small fish on the beach! It is important to specify that this practice is controlled and that the dolphins do not receive more than 10% of their daily intake. They are therefore totally free and this in order to preserve their natural instinct.
Volunteering consists of helping the rangers of the Monkey Mia reserve during the “dolphin experience” for preparing the fish and the feeding of the dolphins who come to the beach.
Volunteers must arrive the day before their first day in order to carry out the “induction” which lasts 1h/1h30. The ranger explains the tasks to be carried out during the morning. The days start at 7:30 a.m. and end around 12 p.m. It all depends on the dolphins because they are wild and come on their own.
This job is obviously unpaid, and you have to manage for housing. The Monkey Mia Dolphin Ressort campsite is located right next door. You will not have to pay the entrance to the reserve ($15 per person). In the morning, tea, coffee and a few sweet treats are available to volunteers in the fish room.
Working with dolphins: Marina’s lifelong dream
Before coming to Australia, I had already heard about Shark Bay. Since I was a child, dolphins have fascinated me. I’ve read dozens of books about the sly sea creatures. One of them was about a scientist watching the social behaviour of dolphins in Monkey Mia. So I decided to go to Monkey Mia one day. And it happened. Two months before flying to Australia, I emailed the Shark Bay Reserve and asked if I could volunteer there. I received the answer not long after.
My daily tasks
One day prior to starting the job, we had to go in for an introduction, which lasted about an hour. One of the staff members explained to us the tasks we had to do in the morning. Work was from 7:30 to 12 o’clock.
We were four volunteers altogether. We opened the office, did a bit of cleaning, opened the beach, and answered tourists’ questions.
One of my favourite jobs was to assist permanent employees with the so-called “Dolphin Experience”. This included preparing food and feeding fish to the dolphins that came to the beach.
Feeding the dolphins
When the dolphins arrived at the beach, we had 25 minutes to prepare the fish. The amount of fish had to be weighed for each dolphin individually.
Then the feeding started. The permanent workers told tourists the story about Monkey Mia – while we chose people to feed the dolphins. We repeated this procedure three times in the morning. The feeding stopped at 12 o’clock.
It all started when a fisherman fed dolphins with fish leftovers. It is important to mention that the feeding is controlled and dolphins receive only 10 per cent of their daily intake from the reserve. They can move freely and listen to their natural instincts.
Fun Fact: When pelicans approached the feeding, we fed them with fish so they would not disturb the dolphins.
After feeding we entered all data in a list: The number of dolphins spotted, the time, their condition, etc.
At the end, we showed tourists a short video and looked at the boats in the marina, from where we could observe dolphins with binoculars.
Benefits of working with dolphins
Apart from fulfilling my lifelong dream, there were no financial benefits. But that didn’t bother me. The work was voluntary and I had a lot of fun. There was an affordable campsite next to the Shark Bay Reserve: Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. The entrance to the Shark Bay Reserve was obviously free. Volunteers also get tea, coffee, and sweet treats.
Working with dolphins was a great experience. Unfortunately I could not stay longer than 15 days (that was the maximum for volunteers). But I enjoyed every day.
I strongly recommend the volunteer work to everyone. Here are a few links: