Pose patiently against the pastel skyline
Wait quietly in the silver dawn
To meet and greet dolphins
The crowd wanders down to the shoreline an hour or more in advance; dolphins at Monkey Mia will arrive in their own good time around dawn, in response to years of hand-feeding by approved guides. These days, the wild creatures can only be fed a couple of times a day, a certain number of fish per mammal, and only for a short period. Parks and wildlife guidelines and protocol aim to ensure the dolphins are not over-fed, handled or touched; eager onlookers are encouraged to keep to the shallows and keep hands out of the water.
The line across the beach is soon three-deep – four, five and more – as the minutes tick by. Guides arrive carrying buckets of fish, and space themselves in the water facing the crowd, much as security guards do at a major sporting event. But this is a quiet communal happening – apart from one megaphoned guide giving instruction and information –not the place for loud voices or boisterous movements. People are polite and mannered, adhering to directions even though most do not have first hand access to the water’s edge. I have been waiting for some time – my first visit to Monkey Mia – and manage to secure a front row position; it is soon under threat by taller folk with broader shoulders and smaller children who squeeze between bodies to get a better view.
But patience and quiet perseverance pays off; as the dolphins slip into position – friendly and familiar with the guides’ behaviour – I am selected to hand feed the one closest to me. It is quite a thrill; so much so, I accidentally drop the fish into the dolphin’s mouth instead of waiting for it to be taken, as instructed. Then I step aside, back through the ranks, so others can move forward and be closer to the action whilst this first daily feeding session continues.
There is something magical about early morning light on water. Onlookers are silhouetted against the sky’s subtle palette, cameras at the ready to take photographs from different angles with alternate perspectives, whether close-up or distance shots. I remain at the beach long after the guides have left, watching the dolphins play in the shallows and follow each other further out to sea. Then I sit even longer, waiting for the next marine meeting, which is at the whim of the wild dolphins and their business at hand; bright sunshine, blue sky, silvery-grey forms slipping through aqua-marine waters …
But it is this silver dawn cameo I recall when I reflect on the dolphins of Monkey Mia.