Queensland’s spectacular Moreton Bay is home to a vast array of marine plant and animal life, including over 500 indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins. Each evening, as the sun begins to set, a small pod of these dolphins makes their way to the coast of Moreton Island to congregate at the Tangalooma jetty. For over a decade, Tangalooma Island Resort has been famous for this nightly migration. Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the shores of Moreton Island for the rare opportunity to hand feed these majestic marine mammals. But how did Tangalooma’s wild dolphin feeding program begin?
In 1986, resort owners Betty and Brian Osborne noticed that one particular dolphin female would frequent the island, hanging out beneath the Tangalooma jetty to feed on scraps thrown back by the fishermen. Brian and Betty nicknamed her ‘Beauty’ and she soon became popular with resort guests who would come from far and wide to watch the nightly ritual. Concerned about the quality of the fisherman’s rejected scraps of food, Betty and Brian soon decided to leave out a bucket of fresh fish for the guests to throw instead.
Betty was particularly fascinated by Beauty’s behaviour and in 1992, decided it was time to try hand feeding the dolphin in the water. Betty and a few of the resort staff began the patient process of coaxing Beauty into shallower waters where they could hand feed her fresh fish. Years passed and Beauty was joined by a number of other dolphins, many of them direct descendants. The night time feedings became a regular event and the dolphins soon became comfortable with the presence of the Tangalooma staff.
Later that year, Dolphin Care Protocols were established and approved by the Marine Park Authority, allowing resort guests to begin hand feeding the animals in the water. In the following years, better lighting and viewing platforms were installed that allowed visitors to watch the feeding from the comfort of the jetty. The Dolphin Education Centre was established and the Tangalooma Research Program was set up to help fund Marine Research.
Today, up to 11 dolphins frequent the shores of Tangalooma island resort, hunting, surfing and interacting with resort guests. A new jetty and grandstand has been built and the Marine Education Program continues to provide free programs to all South East Queensland Schools.
Guests from all over the world visit Tangalooma Island Resort every year and thousands have shared the unforgettable experience of hand feeding these amazing creatures. If you would like to know more about Tangalooma’s wild dolphin feeding program, or if you would like to book a dolphin experience tour, contact the staff at Tangalooma Island Resort today.