AUSTRALIA: Hands on Conservation Volunteering with Dolphins!

Company : Travellers Worldwide
Activities: Dolphin Watching Tours / Marine Conservation Volunteer / Summer Volunteer Programs / Animal Volunteer Projects / Conservation Volunteer Projects / Wildlife Tours
Country: Australia
Location : Bunbury
Duration: 6 weeks to 3 months
Approx Costs: 2000 to 3000+ £ Pound (UK)

Get up close and personal with dolphins on a paradise beach in Western Australia. How good is that?!

This fascinating and very worthwhile project give you high levels of personal satisfaction and you'll contribute to the well-being of dolphins, in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia! The sheer size, amazing natural wealth, awesome scenery and huge variety of plant and animal life make Australia an essential destination for anyone with a passion for nature and wildlife.

Your project is based at a non-profit Centre in Bunbury committed to dolphin research, education and conservation. Facing Koombana Bay to the North, the Centre enables people to interact with Bottlenose dolphins in a variety of ways. There are up to 100 dolphins living in the Bay and groups of them regularly visit the shallow waters in front of the Centre. The Centre was opened in 1994, and is the first Centre in Australia dedicated entirely to dolphin research.

Being a volunteer at the Centre can be a wonderful experience, you meet people from all around the world, not to mention the dolphins! However, your time as a volunteer will involve a lot more than being in the water with the dolphins. Talking and answering questions is a very important part of your role. Eighty percent of your day will involve talking to people who come down to the beach to see the dolphins, thus educating them about their characteristics and making them aware of how crucial it is to conserve these wonderful animals.

Here are some of the tasks you may be involved with:
• Talking to visitors on the beach - explaining what the Dolphin Centre does.
• Assisting to coordinate the Interaction Zone when dolphins visit.
• Managing the front entrance and Dolphin Room area.
• Participating in ’’Coastcare” activities and assist with current research projects.
• Assisting with the research program, recording observations in the bay and monitoring dolphin visits to the zone.
• Inputting the research data into databases for analysis
• General maintenance and cleaning.
• Guide groups through the Interpretive Centre for the general public and school students.

The work that you'll be involved in depends on what is available at the time of your placement.

The Centre is a unique place. It is the only site in Australia which can offer shore-based and boat-based swim interaction with wild dolphins as well as dolphin watching excursions and a fascinating and educational Interpretive Centre.

During the mid 1960’s, a local resident, began feeding the dolphins from a small jetty near her home on the Leschenault Inlet (directly south of the Discovery Centre). Unfortunately, she passed away in the early 70's ceasing any regular feeding of the dolphins she befriended. Some dolphins continued to be fed by the public from areas nearby. However, it wasn't until 1989 that a dolphin specialist was hired by a newly established Dolphin Trust to continue this tradition and began feeding and studying the local dolphins of Koombana Bay. From this work came the establishment of the Interaction Zone in 1990 and the Centre itself in 1994 to allow people and members of the community to interact, understand and enjoy the group of five to six dolphins that regularly visit this Zone.

It is not clear why the dolphins continue to visit the Zone today. However research does suggest that the small amount of food they receive as a reward for their visit is not the only attraction. There are many dolphins that visit the Zone regularly that do not receive any fish and many of them stay for extended periods of time for interaction with the human visitors. Sick and injured dolphins also treat the beach as a haven, with some repeatedly visiting during periods of illness or injury.

You'll learn a great deal through the training course which covers a wide range of issues and skills and includes presentations from a selection of guest speakers relevant to the operation of the Centre. Regular volunteer meetings are held to ensure you are kept up-to-date with the latest issues regarding marine mammal management and the operations of the Centre. After having completed a minimum of 20 hours training, you'll receive an official Volunteer T-Shirt which will identify you to the public as a trained representative of the Centre.

The Centre relies on the assistance of volunteers to advise visitors on the operations and ethos of the Centre, help manage the dolphin interaction program, actively participate in their research program and act as a guide. Staff members attend monthly meetings, as well as regular video and BBQ nights, which you'll be invited to attend. By volunteering, you will achieve a great sense of satisfaction knowing that you are assisting in a worthwhile project to increase public awareness about dolphins and other marine life.

Hours of Duty and Work Schedule
This project requires you to commit for a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks. You will work 5 days a week, around 8 hours per day. This placement is definitely for animal loving enthusiasts who are willing to work hard and aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty - the rewards are well worth it! Whilst volunteering is rewarding in itself, time spent at a project such as this is an excellent springboard for traveling around Australia. Meeting other volunteers from around the world, and listening to their stories and recommendations can give you the confidence to travel and experience more.

Dolphins and whales belong to the order Cetacea. The order Cetacea is broken down into two different groups or sub orders - baleen whales (Mysticeti) and toothed whales (Odontoceti). Dolphins are small toothed whales (Odontocetes) and belong to the family Delphinidae. There are approximately 30 species within this family. The Koombana Bay dolphins are Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). They have beaks that are short, usually only 7-8 cm long, wide and rounded, with a lower jaw which protrudes conspicuously beyond the upper. The line of the mouth is soft and curves upwards at the back to give this species its familiar, faintly amused facial expression. Bottlenose dolphins can stay underwater for 8-10 minutes, however the average “down time” is 2 or 3 minutes. When a dolphin dives the blowhole shuts completely, otherwise their lungs would fill with water and they would drown.

This programme is located in Bunbury, the third largest city in Western Australia. The city is small but a major commercial centre in Western Australia and acts as a hub to the local area. Bunbury is about 2½ hrs drive south of Perth on the South West coast of WA. Bunbury markets itself as the real Australia. It is located on a spectacular peninsular surrounded by blue waters of the Indian Ocean, Koombana Bay and the Leschenault Inlet. A vibrant port city with a strong maritime history, Bunbury is renowned for its quality lifestyle and unique blend of nature surrounds and top quality facilities.

Bunbury's other features include Western Australia's southern-most mangroves, rare basaltic rock and nearby Tuart Forest. A colourful "cappuccino strip" of sidewalk cafes and a variety of waterside dining options offer numerous opportunities to taste the wonders of the local produce. These cafes and the award-winning restaurants and historic pubs ensure the atmosphere hums! Bunbury is surrounded by forests, national parks, beautiful waterways, historic towns and hundreds of vineyards, not to mention the incredible coast-line.

• Population: 57,744
• Established: 1836
• Location: 180km south of Perth (the capital city of Western Australia)

Bunbury has a Mediterranean climate with warm to hot summers and cool winters. Rainfall is received in the form of cold-fronts during winter but the weather is rather pleasant for the rest of the year. In summer (December to February), the average maximum temperature is 28°C with an average minimum temperature of 14°C. In winter (June to August), the average maximum temperature is 19°C with an average minimum temperature of 9°C.

• You should be a hands-on person who loves the outdoors.
• You should be in good health and reasonably fit and able to work in a team.
• You should be prepared for some hard physical work, especially during the summer time when it can get extremely hot.
• You should be willing to get stuck in and get your hands dirty.
• Also flexible and be prepared to move around the City and go wherever you're needed.
• You should also be fluent in English and enjoy talking to people.
• Very Important - you will need to use your initiative and be very proactive, be patient and determined.
• Like most conservation work, there are spiders and snakes in some locations, so you should reconsider this project if you have a fear of these.
• Lastly, self-reliance and independence will help you make the most of this wonderful opportunity!

► If you’d like more information about this or any of our projects, please email or call us!
► If you’d like to apply for this project, please go to our website and complete the application form. As soon as we receive it, we’ll liaise with you and then start making your travel adventure happen.
► It’s as easy as that.

Start Dates

Flexible start and finish dates you choose. Our placements are flexible and can be tailored to match your preferences. For availability please contact the office.

Costs / Benefits

Costs vary depending on length of placement, but starts at £1,995 for 6 weeks. You can participate for up to 12 weeks or longer, subject to visa requirements.

Included is full support from the moment of booking and throughout your placement to your return home. There are support staff 24/7 in all our destinations worldwide and a 24 hour emergency international telephone line direct to the Head Office. Accommodation is provided (whether a rented house, a hotel/hostel, homestay, apartment or flat).

You’ll be met at the nearest airport on your arrival by our in-country manager who will take you to your accommodation and give you a full induction into the area. He/she will also be on call 24/7 and you’ll see them frequently.

Pre-departure you’ll receive comprehensive information about every aspect of your placement and necessary preparations, ranging from what to pack, to visa information, to what to do on your weekend travel in the country. Your safety, well being and happiness throughout your placement are our primary concerns and we will keep in touch with you throughout. International flights not included.


No qualifications or previous experience are necessary, just a good dose of enthusiasm! Everyone is welcome on a Travellers programme, whether gap year, undergraduate, on a career break - or even retired! From 17 years old upwards, and all nationalities. This placement would suit anyone who wants to make a real difference, wants first-hand experience of a different culture and has initiative.

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