Posted August 13, 2018 06:18:18
The small coastal community of Tin Can Bay, just two hours north of Brisbane, has a unique bond with a pod of wild dolphins unlike anywhere else in Australia.
It started with a chance encounter back in the early 1950s when a severely injured dolphin, which the locals named Scar, came into the cove and formed a friendship with the local fishermen.
"The people of Tin Can Bay cared for him for quite some time, and when he was well enough he went back out into the Southern Sandy Strait," said volunteer Bev Lambert from the Barnacles Dolphin Centre.
The fishermen believed they would never see Scar again, but he returned and brought with him other dolphins for many years until he disappeared in the 1980s.
Today the pod is led by a dolphin named Mystique, who is thought to be the grandson of Scar.
"Mystique is a third-generation feeder," Ms Lambert said.
"Just about every day he comes in, and sometimes if he's late he comes in with a flurry as if to say 'I'm here'," she said.
There are six dolphins in the pod, including two babies that are often seen feeding from their mothers.
Ms Lambert said that over the decades the Barnacles Dolphin Centre had become a popular tourist attraction, bringing thousands of people to the town every year.
"It's a one-on-one with the people and it really touches some people's hearts."
Tourists are offered a personal feeding experience, but the volunteers are careful to make sure the dolphins are not touched, or overfed.
Each feeding session, the pod is fed a maximum of three kilograms of fish, which is less than a third of their daily intake, ensuring they remain wild and keep hunting and surviving independently.
"It's a great experience. I do appreciate the fact that these are wild ones. If they were captive maybe we wouldn't have come," said Tim Floor, who is visiting from the Netherlands.
The experience is run by volunteers and educates people about the dolphins in the area.
"That's what we're trying to provide for the people is a safe haven where dolphins can come in and interact with the people, but also we're informing them about the dolphins," Ms Lambert said.
"We have Australian humpback dolphins, they don't go out into the deep ocean at all.
"They come in from the Southern Sandy Strait which is about 18 kilometres from here, and there is a community of approximately 50 Australian humpback dolphins."
Tourists travel from overseas and interstate to visit this quiet little town and its unique dolphin encounter.
"I've always loved dolphins but never been that close, it's really good," said Karina La Malfa from Sydney.
"It was wonderful. Unreal!" said another visitor.
"They're so nice. We saw them come and take the food right from your hand so it was really exciting."
"The children are just absolutely delighted to be up close and personal with these dolphins," Ms Lambert said.
"The dolphins just love the interaction with the people. That's what they come here for, not for the food but for the interaction with the people."
Topics: travel-and-tourism, tourism, marine-parks, conservation, marine-biology, animals, animals-and-nature, bundaberg-4670, maryborough-4650, hervey-bay-4655, gympie-4570, maroochydore-4558, qld, rainbow-beach-4581, tin-can-bay-4580