Mandurah’s dolphins

Creatures of the Wild

learn about mandurah’s playful Dolphins

A Mandurah dolphin cruise is our region’s most popular tourist attraction. The Peel-Harvey Estuary is home to more than 100 dolphins ~ the largest resident population of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia. There are another 30 dolphins who live in the Dawesville Cut, plus hundreds more along our coastline who also occasionally visit Mandurah’s inland waterways.

What makes the experience of seeing Mandurah’s dolphins so special, is the fact they are wild creatures in their natural habitat. They are not fed. They choose to be here and come and go as they please, on their terms. We are incredibly lucky they are such naturally curious and playful animals, who are very happy to share their life with us.

To monitor the health and wellbeing of our local dolphin population, we work closely with the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project as well as the Mandurah Dolphin Rescue Group.

Read below for some fascinating dolphin facts and see our dolphin blog for the latest news about our amazing Mandurah dolphins.

Dolphin Facts

nature’s wonders of the water

Mandurah’s waterways are not only visually beautiful ~ they are loved by dolphins. They are the perfect home for dolphins due to an abundance of fish. The shallow, warm, protected water is also great for birthing. The large population of dolphins in Mandurah shows how healthy our waterways are.

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

So individual are our dolphin friends, we know them all by name! Bottlenose dolphins can live to more than 40 years of age and we have a number of dolphins in Mandurah who are older than 25. Often spotted on our dolphin cruises are Nikki, Bendy Wendy Fourteen, Bitts, Blake, Jack Daniels, Frankenstein, Twenty Two, Zero One and friends.

Dolphins live together in groups. They can have as little as 2 dolphins in their group, up to more than a thousand. Swimming in numbers offers social benefits as well as protection from predators such as sharks.

Here in Mandurah, we typically see group sizes from 2 to 15, and sometimes up to 30 on our dolphin cruise.

Our dolphins live in a fission-fusion society, which basically 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’, within this group they feed, pursue females and do everything together. Males may also venture alone for periods of time.

Females have a baby which is called a ‘calf’ every 2 to 3 years in Mandurah. The calf will stay by its mother’s side for up to 3 years and suckle her milk for the first 18 months, just like human babies do. At about 6 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. Here in Mandurah, that is usually from November to June each year.

With a 12-month pregnancy term, most calves are also born during the mating season. We regularly spot new calves on our dolphin cruise – where sightings are guaranteed with our Dolphin Promise.

Dolphins are naturally social animals, with a very playful and cheeky manner.

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 are 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 in the wake of boats, swimming around vessels and looking at people observing them.

Mandurah’s dolphins predominantly eat fish. The amount of food they eat depends on the season. During summer, water conditions are warm and they do not need to maintain a thick blubber layer, so the dolphins usually consume between 6 to 8kg per day. In winter, they do a lot of feeding to maintain a thick blubber layer for the colder conditions, consuming between 10 to 14kg a day!

Here in Mandurah we have observed some extraordinary feeding techniques, while on our dolphin cruises. Small fish, like Garfish, are caught with rapid chases. Sometimes the dolphins swim 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 may get tossed up into the air.

Dolphin Blog