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Friday, 24 January 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 3: Dolphin Sanctuary

On Christmas 2012, Jerida's parents gave me two vouchers for a guided tour of a dolphin sanctuary in Port Adelaide. It was a voucher that would last for a year, but I work on weekends and Jerida has a regular 9 to 5 job during the week, so we've never had an opportunity to use it. Some people would say that I didn't have to bring Jerida along, but most of those people have obviously never had a girlfriend. So in the last few days of December I went online and booked us a spot for the 19th of January. It meant I had to get a day off work, but hey - who needs money right?

This dolphin sanctuary was at a place called Garden Island just off Port Adelaide. We drove down there listening to an old podcast I used to record with some comedian friends which had Jerida as a guest host for that week. I was cracking up laughing because it had been so long since I'd heard it, but after the show finished Jerida said she didn't find it that funny. I got my friend Rusty to listen to an episode and he said he couldn't stop laughing. Maybe you have to be a comedian to enjoy it? Anyway...

Garden Island was absolutely beautiful. Adelaide was just coming off a heatwave, so the temperature had dropped from above 40 degrees Celsius to around the 30 mark. That meant the water was glistening like something you'd see on a postcard. All through the water there were people with Kayaks, anchored boats and thick mangroves and at one point you could walk out along the longest jetty I'd ever seen in my life.

To take the tour we had to get into two-person kayaks. There were five groups of two. All but one of them were either boyfriend and girlfriend or married. This does seem like a pretty date-y thing to do.

Once we were in the water our two guides Nick and Andrew took us around the sanctuary. They took us through all the moored yachts, they showed us a power station in the distance, and then they took us through a gap in the mangroves that we had to navigate single file. There were branches and logs sticking out everywhere and there were probably more mosquitoes than trees.

Now since this was a dolphin sanctuary, we weren't allowed to actually approach the dolphins. We had to observe them from at least 50 meters away and if they decided to come closer to the kayaks, we had to stop paddling until they moved on. If they came right up to us, we certainly weren't allowed to touch them. So the best I could do when any dolphins appeared was to grab a very awkwardly-angled shot from the tough camera clipped to my life jacket. Yes, my new camera was water proof, but if I dropped that thing where I was, I certainly wasn't going to get it back again. I tried to get the best photos I could, but it's not Seaworld - they're not going to do flips and tail-walks for you.

You can just see a dorsal fin sticking out of the water in the distance there.

Finally, they took us to a couple of shipwrecks that were around the place. The first was a big rusty iron ship called the Santiago (aren't most boats called that these days?). If I remember rightly, it was the world's first iron-hulled ship and it was built in Scotland. It was eventually retired and scuttled here. The second one wasn't as impressive a site, but had a much cooler story. It was a wooden ship that I forget the name of. It was an enormous sailing boat built by a state in America as a show of might just to prove that they could do things bigger and better than everyone else. It was built for 50 000 pounds, which back then would maybe have even been worth millions now. It had a crew of 50 people to run it. But then the Great Depression hit and the owner couldn't afford to run it. It was moored on Garden Island and it couldn't go anywhere. It was just sitting there collecting debt. Eventually once the debt reached 500 pounds, the boat was put up for auction. A lot of people turned up, but this was the Great Depression - nobody had any money to blow on giant boats with 50 employees. They couldn't even get the 500 pounds they needed to pay off the harbour master. Eventually a scrap materials company bought the boat for 50 pounds and took it apart piece by piece. So this big "screw you" to the rest of the world ended up going from 50 000 pounds to just 50 and it sits there a sorry mess today.


  1. That does sound fun! I've only been in paddle boats, and canoeing. I'd love to ride in a sail boat someday.

    It's too bad you couldn't approach actual dolphins. I understand why though.

    1. Yeah I agree. It sucked, but it was fair enough.


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