As a Perth local, I’m constantly amazed at the incredible pristine beauty of our West Australian coastline and the huge array of marine life.
While I often see wild dolphins in the ocean, I leapt at the chance to go on the Swim with Wild Dolphins Cruise with Perth Wild Encounters.
Rockingham and the stunning Shoalwater Marine Park is located an easy 45 minutes drive south of Perth. The region is a paradise for nature lovers and in my view, this is one of the most underrated areas of Perth.
Over 200 local dolphins have made these pristine waters their home and have forged a unique bond with their human visitors.
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Perth Wild Encounters have been operating wild dolphin swims since 1989. The dolphin swim is a result of a labour of love and created mutual trust with the local dolphin population around Rockingham waters.
You can read more about how this special relationship was established in this in this lovely about us story
The unique encounters with wild dolphins experienced here is a rare opportunity to interact with these beautiful marine animals in their natural habitat and observe their normal behaviours.
What sets the dolphin swim with Perth Wild Encounters apart from other similar experiences around the world, is that the local dolphin population here has not been hand-fed.
These special encounters are only possible because of the trust developed between the animals and the team behind Wild Encounters.
Wild Encounters remains a family business. Along with the Dolphin Swim Cruise, the company also operates cruises and ferries to Penguin Island and Wildlife Tours of the Shoalwater Marine Park.
Our crew on the day was fantastic and it’s obvious that they love doing what they do.
The Rockingham dolphin swim tours operates from the jetty off Van Street. The dolphin swim tour includes hotel pickup or you can easily reach the departure point via private car.
Once on the boat, you’re kitted out with snorkel, waist-belt and wetsuit. Squeezing into the wetsuit is the toughest job of the day. After that, you’re on easy street.
The wetsuits are good quality and there’s plenty to choose from to make sure that you get your proper size. You can also bring your own but I recommend a full-suit to keep warm.
After introductions from the crew and safety demonstrations, it’s time to cast off and look for the star attraction of the day – the dolphins!
While we were cruising, the crew assigned us into four coloured coded groups. Each group is assigned a crew member who leads the group with an aqua scooter in the water.
How long it takes to find the dolphins varies from day to day.
This can take anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes. As the animals are completely wild they go about their natural business of fishing, travelling and resting.
What the dolphins will be doing changes with every tour and means that every single interaction with these Rockingham dolphins is completely unique and special.
We were lucky and found a group of beautiful dolphins in 20-minutes. Most incredibly, some of the dolphins were peacefully sleeping and completely relaxed about our presence next to them.
Once we sighted the group of dolphins, our skipper stopped the boat and we scuttled around into our groups and got ready to enter the water for our first swim with the dolphins.
The waters around Rockingham are mostly calm and sheltered and there’s no sense of being out on the big ocean. Even less-experienced swimmers felt confident to enter the water and the crew were supportive of anyone that needed extra help.
Sharks were definitely in the back of my mind as I got into the water. However, the team leaders from the crew are equipped with a shark shield. This is a long dangly cable attached to their ankle which acts as a shark deterrent and gives peace of mind.
In reality, though, the whole experience felt very safe. We were always close to an island or bay and on our second swimming spot, the water was less than 2 metres deep and crystal clear.
Once in the water, very little swimming is required. The aim is to create as little disturbance to the water surface as possible and it’s more a case of floating with dolphins rather than swimming.
This means that you don’t have to have snorkelling experience or be an experienced swimmer. It’s a very gentle exercise and accessible to almost anyone, including kids over the age of 6.
Our groups took turns going into the water. While the other team was snorkelling we had ample opportunity to get close up views of the dolphins from the boat. This was almost as good as being in the water.
The dolphins put on quite the show and circled the boat and seemed happy to take some time out of their busy day to interact with us. We also had the privilege to see a mother dolphin with her adorable calf.
We went into the water about six times and swam for a few minutes each time. It was incredible to see the dolphins swim underneath and around us while they were fishing and feeding.
After swimming with the dolphins in two different spots for more than an hour, the group of dolphins swam off into deeper water.
Our skipper made the call to let the dolphins get on with their day. We enjoyed another hour on the boat, eating our lunch and snorkelling in the very clear and shallow waters.
It was a lovely opportunity to get to know everyone on the boat a bit better and enjoy another coffee or cup of tea. We also go to try the aqua scooters which was a definite highlight for the kids in the tour group.
The tour includes good quality wetsuits, masks and snorkels. The Swim with Dolphin tour also includes a healthy lunch and tea and coffee throughout the day.
The crew also take loads of photos throughout the day. You can download these a few days after your tour.
Wear your swimsuit before you go with some easy layers over the top. This makes it easy to change in and out of the wetsuit once you’re on the boat.
Bring a towel and plenty of sun protection, as well as a jacket or hoodie on cooler days.
The Swim with Dolphin Tour in Rockingham, Perth runs from September to June. Tours are weather dependent.
Chances of sighting dolphins are very high. On the rare occasion that there is no dolphin sighting, you can rebook for another day.
Recommended age for the Rockingham dolphin swim is 6 years and above.
An alternative option is the Dolphin, Penguin and Sealion Cruise. The cruise lets you see the best of Shoalwater’s marine life without having to get wet and is suitable for smaller children. See details here.
You can easily book a tour with Viator here.
Tours can be cancelled or rescheduled 24-hours before departure.
I don’t blame you I would be worried about sharks too. I’m curious as to what this dangly cable is that works as a shark deterrent? Usually, if there are dolphins around there aren’t sharks so if they suddenly disappear is when I would get worried! I love that this is entirely a wild encounter as they aren’t hand-fed. I also like that lunch is included in the excursion!
Hi Heather, the dangly cable is a shark shield that is meant to deter sharks by emitting electrical impulses from the 2 m long cable. It’s quite common practice for professional and recreational divers to use them. It gives peace of mind and studies show that they are effective as a shark deterrent. It gives peace of mind but the water was so shallow and we were always close to the shore that sharks didn’t really cross my mind anymore once I was in the water.
Being in the water with dolphins sounds like a lot of fun. I wish I had done this when I went to Perth. My kids would have loved it. How amazing to see a mother and calf. I love that the tour provides wetsuits and equipment, as well as lunch.
The kids love this experience and seeing the mother with her calf was a definite highlight. She was very proud to show us her baby.
From your article I can sense that the tour is ethical.. because when I stated reading I did not know something of this kind existed and it could be ethical. I loved reading through your experience and swimming with dolphins does sound like fun!
Hi Ketki, I’ve done lots of tours with this tour company and regularly visit the area and know from first-hand experience that they really live up to their promise of providing an ecologically friendly experience. The founder of the company spent many years interacting with the local dolphin population. Sharing it with the public is for the wider community to have the opportunity to have this interaction with the dolphins and hopefully creates a better awareness of the importance of preserving our marine habitat.
This is going on my bucket list! I have always wanted to swim with dolphins but didn’t want to take part in a caged encounter. How cool this is a possibility!
It really is a wonderful experience. Hope you get to visit sometime soon.
When I was in Perth I definitely considered going further south to Rockingham for a day but with Rottnest Island and Fremantle I just didn’t have the time! Glad to know it’s an area for nature lovers and I’ll try to make it down next time I’m there. It’s reassuring that you don’t have to be an ardent swimmer in order to enjoy this tour. Like Heather, I’m also very intrigued by the shark shield and how it works, but I’m glad that you never felt like you were in harm’s way during your experience!
Thanks for the comment Kevin. You had some great experiences in Perth. Rottnest and Fremantle are definitely some of the highlights on a visit to Perth. Hopefully you can visit another time and I definitely recommend visiting Shoalwater Marine Park and Rockingham.
Book me in!! I would so love to do this tour… thinking now that it’s been far too long since we have been to Perth! I have swum accidentally with dolphins here in New South Wales, but very briefly, to spend more time would be wonderful.
You should definitely come west for ‘research’ purposes. So many fantastic swimming options here, including this one with the dolphins.
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Looks amazing, so there is an activity like this in Pert swimming with dolphins. The dolphins are not scared and they are very calm to humans.