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The Dolphins

The Mandurah Dolphins

The Mandurah Dolphins

The Mandurah Dolphins

The Mandurah Dolphins

Mandurah’s Dolphins

Our residents

Above: Two of Mandurah’s male dolphin leaping in sync © Photo Natalie Goddard

A Mandurah dolphin cruise is such a popular tourist attraction because the Peel-Harvey estuary is lucky enough to house more than 80 resident dolphins. There are another 40 or so who visit occasionally from coastal waters and of course hundreds more that can be found along our coast.

Mandurah waterways are an ideal home for dolphins due to the abundance of fish. In addition, the shallow, warm protected water is great for birthing. The large population of dolphins in the region shows how healthy our waterways are.

The dolphins that inhabit the Peel-Harvey and adjacent coastal waters are Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.

The size of an adult dolphin in Mandurah ranges from 2.3 – 2.6 metres long and they weigh up to 220kg. At birth they are approximately 1 metre in length, weighing up to 20kg.

Bottlenose dolphins can live to over 40 years of age. In fact, we have a number of dolphins in Mandurah older than 25 years that we often see on our dolphin cruise including Nikki, Bendy Wendy Fourteen, Bitts, Blake, Jack Daniels, Frankenstein, Twenty Two and Zero One.

Safety in numbers

Dolphins live together in groups. They can have as little as two dolphins in their group to over a thousand. Here in Mandurah we typically see group sizes of two to 15 and sometimes up to 30 on our dolphin cruise. Swimming in numbers offers social benefits as well as protection from predators such as sharks.

Our dolphins live in a fission-fusion society, which means that individuals come and go – groups form and break apart on a daily basis, with no matriarch or ‘dominant female’ in the group. Few dolphin species actually live in a matriarchal society (orca, pilot whales), where related individuals will stay together as a family group known as a ‘pod’.

Females are usually seen together and have a network of female friends while males usually bond closely to one other male and form a long-term partnership known as an ‘alliance’.  They will then feed, pursue females and do everything together. Males may also venture alone for periods of time.

Baby dolphins

Nikki and calfFemales have a baby (called a calf) every two to three years. The calf will stay by its mother’s side for up to three years and suckle her milk for the first 18 months, just like human babies do. At about six years of age the males will venture off from their mother and form strong bonds with other males, while the females usually continue to associate with their mother and their birth pod.

Bottlenose dolphins predominantly take part in mating when the water temperature is above 20/21 degrees and in Mandurah that is usually from November to June.

With a 12 month pregnancy term most calves are also born during the mating season. In 2017 we spotted five new calves on our dolphin cruise – Splash, Sea, Speckle, Nikaila and Andrew, on top of 10 new calves in 2016.

Playful and cheeky

Dolphins are very social animals that have a playful and cheeky manner about them. The most obvious sign of socialising between dolphins is body contact. Examples of body contact include rubbing their bodies against each other, stroking each other with their tail flukes or fins and nudging each other. Other physical socialising can include tail slapping, leaping into the air, chasing each other or throwing around objects such as seaweed and octopus in a playful manner.

They’re also social with animals outside their species. Off Mandurah’s coast they have been observed playing with whales as the whales migrate down the west coast to the Southern Ocean.

They are very curious creatures and like to socialise with humans too. We often see them on our dolphin cruise surfing on the wake of boats, swimming around vessels and looking at people observing them.

Food, glorious food

Mandurah Dolphins SalmonMandurah’s dolphins predominantly eat fish. The amount of food they eat depends on the season.  During summer water conditions, when they are warm, they usually consume between 6-8kg per day. Whereas in winter they do a lot of feeding to maintain a thick blubber layer for the colder, winter conditions, consuming between 10-14kg a day!

Here in Mandurah we have observed some extraordinary feeding techniques. Small fish, like garfish, are caught with rapid chases, sometimes the dolphin swimming belly-up (snacking) while the fish tries to escape at the surface. Salmon is usually pursued against rock walls, mullet chased in the shallows and often stunned with an impressive tail whack, while an octopus gets tossed in the air.

Stranded in the shallows

Mandurah is identified as a dolphin a stranding hotspot. The estuary is very shallow and the dolphins can get caught out by the tide. When a dolphin strands, if not attended to quickly, it can be fatal. Luckily in Mandurah we have The Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group who monitor our dolphin population and go to the aid of any dolphins in trouble.

If you see a dolphin, or any other wildlife in sick, injured or in distress, please call the WILDCARE helpline on 08 9474 9055.

The locals

Mandurah Fin Book Edition 2 2018All of our dolphins are identified by marks and notches on their dorsal fin and/or body. You can also download the Mandurah Dolphin Fin Book which outlines the key characteristics of all of our dolphins or purchase a hard copy at our Mandurah Cruises gift shop.

You can report a Mandurah Dolphin Sightings using the FREE Dolphin Watch app Available on Android – Google Play store or IOS – iTunes store

Our tour guides capture spectacular footage of our dolphins daily. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for all the latest action. Here are some popular videos:

Murray River Lunch Cruise Dolphins – 14/10/2017 – Part 2

Murray River Lunch Cruise Dolphins – 14/10/2017 – Part 1

Dolphin Island Adventure – 08/10/2017