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Moreton Island's Dolphins

By: Ben Hall
Photography by Ben Hall

It’s only a stone’s throw away from Brisbane, and a haven for lovers of the great outdoors and wild dolphins. Here’s why.


There are few things which would drag us away from a comfy chair, a cold beer, and a   private balcony overlooking the ocean at sunset, but the small crowd gathering on the pier below indicated that the evening’s entertainment was about to commence. As the last flashes of pink-orange light melted into the horizon, people took their places on the wooden benches, cameras in hand. Excitement and anticipation fused with the balmy night air, and aside from the gentle lapping of water on the beach, everything was quiet. Something special was about to happen.


We had gathered to see some of the marine world’s most popular and engaging animals up close and personal - bottlenose dolphins. At this idyllic spot, dolphin feeding was a nightly show, the only question mark being how many would show up. According to a blackboard on the beach, only two of the “regulars” had visited the previous night, but as the floodlights were illuminated, as if on cue, a single dolphin meandered into the crystal clear shallows, its dorsal fin slicing silently through the water’s surface. And to the delight everyone, it was quickly followed by five more.


A Huge Wilderness


You could be forgiven for thinking we were in some exotic tropical outpost such as Tahiti or Fiji, but the neon lights twinkling on the not-too-distant horizon belonged to Brisbane’s city skyline. Our home for a couple of nights was Moreton Island, one of the world’s largest sand islands located in the quiet northern reaches of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay. Although people from southeast Queensland have enjoyed Moreton’s beauty and natural attractions for years, much of the rest of Australia barely knows it exists. From Brisbane, it’s just over an hour away by boat, making it perfect for an adventure-packed day trip, or a relaxing long weekend.


Moreton Island is also of considerable environmental interest. A huge wilderness, it is a rare example of a relatively untouched sand island with a laundry list of natural features including perched lakes, wetlands, isolated beaches, and towering sand dunes. But it’s also a haven for marine life including dugong, turtles and bottlenose dolphins. If you’re staying on the island, the place to be is Tangalooma Island Resort, once the Southern Hemisphere’s largest whaling station. It has a variety of accommodations to suit all budgets, and is also the only place on the island outside of some snorkelling spots, where you can get up-close-and-personal with the dolphins. 


The resort has a Marine Research and Education Centre on site, lead by a team of marine biologists who give lectures, lead eco-cruises, and manage the nightly dolphin feedings. As these animals are wild, however, the feeding is strictly controlled. The two main rules are no flash photography and no touching, even if they prod or bump you - which they do, in hope of getting extra rations. When the dolphins arrived, those who had signed up and paid a fee to feed them assembled in lines on the beach, and waited their turn. Then, one-by-one, they waded into to the water accompanied by one of the biologists, and held a single fish out in the water to be taken.


Moreton On Four Wheels


Although Moreton is a haven for scuba divers and snorkellers, there’s plenty to keep landlubbers occupied. As it’s a sand island with no sealed roads, you will need a four wheel drive if you want to go exploring; they’re the only vehicles allowed on the island, and a permit is required to drive one. But you can bring your own over on a vehicle ferry, or book a four wheel drive tour with one of several tour operators servicing the island. 


If you decided to venture out on your own, there’s plenty to see and do. Towards the northern end of the island, the freshwater lake of Blue Lagoon offers a host of bird life and wildflowers during spring, as well as an exquisite year-round coastal forest with walking tracks. Nearby, at Cape Moreton, the oldest lighthouse in Queensland offers breathtaking views of Flinder’s Reef. Other options include enjoying pristine isolated beaches, whale watching between June and November, exploring Honeymoon Bay Beach and swimming the Champagne Pools. Or you can visit ‘Yellow Patch’ to photograph the rock pools and headland, and take a drive along the isolated east coast to go sand boarding on the famous desert dunes.




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For luxe-for-less holidays to Moreton Island or Queensland visit our sister website, www.luxuryholidaybargains.com.au.


Stradbroke Ferries (www.moreton-island.com) operates a vehicle barge from Scarborough to Bulwer on Moreton Island, and Micat (www.moretonventure.com) operates a vehicle catamaran service from the Port of Brisbane to Tangalooma Island Resort.


Tangalooma Island Resort (www.tangalooma.com) has accommodations including units, two-level family villas, hotel rooms, and the Deep Blue beachfront luxury apartments. Dolphin feeding is included in the room rate.



For information on tours visit www.moretonbayislands.com.au.






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