“My biggest fear as a kid was being sucked out to sea through the river mouth at Vivonne Bay. We used to have a big old double-ended whaling boat we called ‘Noah’ down there and it used to be sunk in the river and we had to pull it up each year. I had this fear of getting sucked out of the river into the ocean. As soon as we got near that ocean, we kids would just row, row, row like crazy with the three sets of ores on there. As kids, we would spend the whole day in that boat rowing the length of the river and go exploring.
I am a born and bred islander; I’ve been here for a while. We lived up at the seafront right at the top corner of Buller St and Esplanade, that’s where we grew up and holidays was Vivonne bay for a couple of weeks a year.
As a kid, you would just disappear for the whole day and come back at tea time, go to bed and do it again the next day; typical country lifestyle.
I was passionate about the seas. As kids, we were just attracted to it the whole time. If we weren’t in the sea, we weren’t too far away from it. I’ve Spend most of my life on the sea; it always has a strong connection for me & a sense of calm
I first worked on a couple of properties after school, and then I got into fishing. It was the start of my fishing career which I did for about 20 years, I guess. I worked in the commercial cray fishing industry out of Vivonne, starting as a deckhand, later on with a skipper certificate and then got tired of it in the end, the same old grind and decided to get into tourism.
We did a working holiday lap around Australia. It was meant to be for a year and ended up travelling for six. It was hard to snap out of but the want for the sea and coast was overpowering. On the island, you can pretty much go swimming anywhere within reason and it is safe and crystal clear. We struggled to find as good a place as KI on our travels.
15 years ago, we went on a holiday to Noosa and saw these boats operating up there. They were 7.3metre rigid inflatable boats, basically a thrill boat scenario. Brought a boat from the Gold Coast, set up Kangaroo Island Marine Tours and offered up that thrill boat ride as well as sightseeing. Flat out with jumps and tight turns which was really hard work—on us and the boat and engine too—so I decided we drop the thrill boats and stuck with what we still do, taking people wild dolphin swimming.
Sometimes we get soaking wet before we even get there, but I still love what we do. We tell the guests that it’s a wild experience and to share it with the wild. They are walking away with a unique experience, and when we get back, people’s eyes are really open, they are looking around. We tell them that it’s the dolphin’s call, it’s all natural. We know all of our dolphins by name.
We take you into their relaxation area—the dolphin’s lounge room—they are expecting to be reasonably quiet and undisturbed, that is why we are using a jet boat as it’s got more of a sympathetic, acoustic pattern in the water.
We have to be super respectful when we enter their relaxation area. Once you give people that insight, it just blows them away. How the dolphins are having a chew on a pufferfish and getting a bit stoned. They are nudging them out of the sand, mouthing them until the pufferfish releases the neurotoxin which gives them a natural high, it’s part of their relaxation. Pufferfish toxin is only dangerous to us land-bearers especially dogs, but not to animals in the sea. That is probably the key thing that I enjoy, the whole thing is about education and awareness and giving visitors a truly unique wildlife experience they will cherish for life.”