Magical dolphin encounters in the canals of Mandurah

Magical dolphin encounters in the canals of Mandurah

Last Updated: 26 May 2021
Emily Graham

Like the cute quokkas of Rottnest Island, the City of Mandurah has its own adorable, native mascot – the bottlenose dolphin. Mandurah’s pristine, protected estuary is home to one of the healthiest dolphin pods in the world, with a massive population of somewhere between 90 and 100 dolphins. Mandurah’s salt-water rivers and waterways expand over 134 square kilometres, providing a natural playground for both adult dolphins and their calves.

These majestic creatures of the canals are a vital part of the area’s vibrant ecosystem and have become inseparably entwined in the city’s culture. Whether you are admiring them from the banks of the Venetian-style canals or boating alongside them, here are some of the best ways to experience the magic of Mandurah's cutest residents.

Image by Mandurah Cruises

Spot babies from the banks

According to Natalie from Estuary Guardians, a not-for-profit research and rescue organisation dedicated to protecting Mandurah’s wildlife, the Autumn and Winter months are the best time to look out for new dolphin calves around Mandurah.

"During the cool months, the waters in the estuary stay warm and are protected," says Natalie. "Mandurah's dolphin calves have a survival rate of 75% to 80% in the estuary, much higher than the ocean."

One popular dolphin spotting location is Mandjar Bay, which has plenty of cafes and restaurants along the boardwalk, and water views for you to keep an eye out for playful mothers and calves. Head down to Stingray Point for panoramic views of the waterways from the picturesque pier, or bring a warming picnic blanket to spread out beneath the giant, 100-year-old fig tree as you watch the calves learn to jump.

Take advantage of the Estuary Guardians' comprehensive knowledge of the resident dolphins, with seasoned volunteers able to identify individual dolphins by their unique markings and fin shapes. You can get to know the dolphins by name and identifying characteristics using the guide on the Estuary Guardians' website, or help the dolphin research team monitor the health of Mandurah's beautiful dolphins by logging your sightings on their app. Keep an eye out for the matriarch of the estuary – Nikki – who is believed to be the oldest dolphin in the area at around 40 years old!

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Mandurah Cruises' Dolphin and Scenic Marine Cruise

Locals will tell you the best way to see Mandurah is from the water. Climb aboard Mandurah Cruises' Scenic Dolphin Marine Cruise to get up close and personal with the jewels of the estuary in their own homes. Along the way, passengers will encounter other marine life such as majestic pelicans and osprey. Have the opportunity to meet some of these remarkable sea critters in person as specialised guides bring blue manna crab and crayfish aboard for passengers to marvel at.

The Mandurah Cruises company works closely with Estuary Guardians to protect and promote the wonders of the dolphin population in Mandurah, and your knowledgeable tour guides provide live commentary on the native life and sites of Mandurah.

Departing from Mandjar Bay, tours are around 90 minutes and are suitable for even the queasiest of seafarers as the calm, warmer waters of the canals are more protected from wind and swells than the ocean. Jump aboard the 11.30am departure and you can enjoy a delicious fish & chip lunch from WA institution Cicerello’s or local favourite, Catch 22 Restaurant, for just $12.50 extra.

There's no feeling comparable to a sea breeze on your cheeks, so head upstairs to the open-air deck with a warming, complimentary cuppa while you watch dolphins jump beside the boat. If you would prefer to enjoy the salt waters of Mandurah from indoors, the lower deck is surrounded on all sides with windows for a protected ride that won’t obscure views of the gorgeous scenery. Passengers are also welcome to wander from their seats to the bow of the boat to get a closer look at the dolphins that like to surf beneath the boats (provided that you keep a firm grip of the safety railings at all time).

Check out more tours with Mandurah Cruises here.

Eco BBQ Boats

Go on your own self guided tour of the marina in an electric eco BBQ boat. No skippers licence is required to drive these German-engineered vessels, which are easy to manoeuvre and can hold up to 10 passengers at a time. Undergo a quick induction with one of the friendly experts at Eco BBQ Boats before setting off on a more intimate cruise with friends around the venetian-style canals. The round shape of these boats make for the perfect social outing with friends as you enjoy 360 degree views of dolphins.

The centres of these boats can be transformed into warming, charcoal barbecues, so cook up a feast, toast marshmallows or enjoy a chef-made grazing platter as you sail alongside the dolphins.

Skip the noisy diesel engines and enjoy peaceful ride through the waterways in a quiet and subdued electric BBQ boat. These BBQ boats are a great way to meet some dolphin pals, as their quietness and unobtrusive propellers are more likely to attract dolphins. See them play beside these unthreatening vessels and even get close enough to take a selfie when they pop their heads up to say hello.

Book your eco BBQ boat here.

Image by Salt and Bush Eco Tours

Salt and Bush Kayaking Tour

Paddle in the tranquility of the Serpentine river with Salt and Bush Eco Tours and you might just see a dolphin along the way. Western Bottlenose dolphins can be found kilometres from the ocean up the Serpentine and Murray rivers, where the waters are warm, calm and protected. Reconnect with nature and feel at one with the river's amazing residents as tour guide duo, Sebastian and Jamie, share stories about Mandurah's history and wildlife.

Image by Salt and Bush Eco Tours

Although these tours launch only a few minutes drive from the city, you'll be captivated by the sense of wilderness as you paddle alongside dolphins.The low-impact peddle kayaks are a dream to use no matter your fitness level, and curious dolphins are not afraid to approach kayakers as they surf alongside you. Nothing is more magical than drifting down the river with Flipper by your side, and the sun setting on the horizon.

Book in your next adventure with nature here.

Header image by Estuary Guardians

More tours to add to you itinerary in Mandurah

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Dolphin Tours

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