All you need to know and more!
Two and a half hours north of Sydney, tucked away in the beautiful region of Port Stephens, are the coastal villages of Anna Bay and Nelson Bay. Come stay at The Retreat, Port Stephens, in Anna Bay itself, and explore everything the region has to offer – from the 26 stunning, golden beaches to shopping, eating, and many forms of outdoor entertainment, why not go on a once in a lifetime adventure and swim with wild dolphins?
Wild Dolphin Swim – The first of its kind in the World!
In 2010, after years of planning and negotiation, the Wild Dolphin Swim was created to allow you, your friends and your family to experience swimming with dolphins in a truly unique way.
While other dolphin swims around the world are in enclosed spaces where the dolphins don’t have much of a choice, thanks to their strict compliance with Dolphin Approach Regulations, you can rest at ease knowing that the dolphins swim alongside you because they choose to.
if swimming with dolphins is on your bucket list, come on out and stay with us at The Retreat Port Stephens in Anna Bay, before heading over to Nelson Bay to hop on board Dolphin Swim Australia for your unique experience on the ONLY permitted wild dolphin swim in NSW, as featured on various national Australian television shows such as Getaway, The Living Room, Australian Geographic, Sydney and Melbourne Weekender, ABC ME, What’s Up Down Under and The Off-road Adventure Show.
The Marine Park
In 2005 the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park was established and is the largest marine park in NSW, covering 98,200 hectares of coastal and marine habitat from Cape Hawke Surf Lifesaving Club to the Birubi Point Surf Life Saving Club and the offshore waters in-between.
The marine park sports a diverse collection of marine life who live and travel the marine highways including our resident and migratory dolphins and whales. The humpback whales can be seen traveling during their annual migration to their breeding grounds. Other beautiful mammals, such as common dolphins, oceanic bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, sei whales, minke whales and pilot whales, can also be seen travelling through the pristine waters of the marine park.
While we have many species of dolphins traveling around the country, Dolphin Swim Australia takes you out onto the open ocean, just outside the tranquil waters of Port Stephens, so that you can swim with short-beaked common dolphins and common bottlenose dolphins alike.
Short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)
This is the beautifully patterned oceanic species we encounter most often. Unlike many other species of dolphin, short-beaked common dolphins are very inquisitive and energetically engage with the vessel and our in-water guests – just what you want for a wild dolphin swim!
We often think that the activity becomes more of a people watch for them, with mothers even bringing their calves in at times to see the show (much to the pure enjoyment of our guests!).
The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates)
The Common (Oceanic) Bottlenose lives only at sea and so the only way to see these majestic animals is to travel offshore. These rarely seen dolphins are a larger version of the species that resides inside the bays around Port Stephens. The smaller versions live in estuaries and close to beaches and so are regularly seen by surfers and beachgoers.
Dolphin Swim Australia offers two options for those wanting to see the dolphins which makes this 5-hour excursion a great idea for those of any age! For those that are fit and game you can take part in the Wild Dolphin Swim where you can become a part of the pod and witness true dolphin behaviour from $349. For anyone else who’s happy to just watch the dolphins from above, the Dolphin Watch starts at $80 and is suitable for all ages. Children under 5 are free and must be always accompanied by an adult.
Wild Dolphin Swim
Suitable for ages 7 to 70, this adventure sees six swimmers attached to a customised rope strung between the two bows of a 54’ (16m) catamaran and towed through the water. This is when the dolphins get really curious and can be seen darting back and forth between the bows and within a couple metres of swimmers providing a truly unique experience!
Tours currently operate on Saturdays and Sundays due to COVID-19, with extra tours running during NSW Christmas school holidays. Tours will NOT operate in unsafe conditions.
Whether you’re coming aboard to swim or watch, the tours leave from D’Albora Marina in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens before taking guests offshore to the Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park, where the swimming can begin!
Dolphin Swim Australia’s season generally runs from the beginning of October till the end of April, this can vary from year to year depending on weather conditions. While they are currently limiting tours to Saturdays and Sundays due to COVID-19 restrictions, feel free to contact them for further details on 1 300 721 358 or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By leaving early in the morning you will travel on calmer seas and interact with the dolphins after their feeding time and before their midday beauty sleeps. Since calm seas are best for a safe and comfortable experience, going out early means a lower chance of cancellation due to rough conditions.
Dock C, D’Albora Marina, Teramby Road, Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, New South Wales
6:15am to 11:00am – 4-hour tour (guests are requested to arrive at 6:15am for check-in and wetsuit fitting)
Dolphin Swim Inclusions
- All gear (wetsuit, mask, snorkel, safety harness)
- 4-hour cruise
- Educational commentary
- Tea/coffee (instant) and complimentary above-water photos which are later uploaded to the Dolphin Swim Australia Facebook page for guests to copy and/or share.
- Customised video of your experience (edited and sent out after your swim, including footage of you underwater with the dolphins!)
Dolphin Watch Inclusions
- 4-hour cruise
- Educational commentary
- Tea/coffee (instant)
- Complimentary above-water photos which are later uploaded to the Dolphin Swim Australia Facebook page for guests to copy and/or share.
What to expect
After leaving The Retreat for the day, check-in and wetsuit fitting, the boat leaves the dock and travels out through the heads of Nelson Bay towards a stunning sunrise (weather permitting, of course!). Whilst travelling out to the Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Park, guests are trained in the swim protocols, as well as being given a snorkel briefing. During the training, guests are also placed in groups of 6 (there is a limit of 24 swimmers and 12 observers on each tour).
The Swimming experience of a lifetime
Once the dolphins have been located and their behaviour monitored and found to be favourable for a swim, the first group of guests enters a net at the bow of the vessel. Attached to a marine lanyard from the safety harness each guest is wearing to a customised line that is strung between the two bows of the catamaran.
The vessel stops while the swimmers (and accompanying dive master) enter the water and it then begins to slowly move forward. The dolphins swim back and forth between the bows of the vessel, quite often within a metre of the swimmers and seemingly fascinated by the strange creatures being towed through the water behind them! You are so close to the dolphins; it is just like being a part of the pod!!
This activity is an amazing and exhilarating bucket list experience, the memory of which will stay with participants forever!
Dolphin Swim Australia Videos
Below is some amazing video footage to get a real feel of this amazing experience:
Contact the Retreat Port Stephens and book your getaway today
The Retreat Port Stephens offers laid back, affordable accommodation in natural bushland surrounds overlooking the Birubi Beach sand dunes. We would love to help you and your group plan the perfect getaway in Port Stephens, so if you’d like some advice from a local, or need help planning your group getaway itinerary, contact The Retreat, Port Stephens on (02) 4982 1244 or fill out our contact form by clicking here to have one of our friendly staff contact you.