Margaret River Region, the home of the Bottlenose Dolphin
The Ngari Capes Marine Park is home to a diverse range of marine species and ones we regularly see on our Jet Boat tours are the Bottlenose dolphin or Common Bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus). This marine park is located within the Margaret River Region and covers some of the most stunning coastline anywhere in the world from Busselton in the north down to Augusta in the south. It encompasses the beautiful small coastal towns of Dunsborough, Eagle Bay, Yallingup, Gracetown and Prevally in Western Australia. These mammals can often be seen from the shore playing in the waves with the surfers.
For a much closer encounter, come dolphin watching on the Jet Adventures Wilderness Cruise onboard the Exhilarator jet boat.
These dolphins are actually a type of whale and belong to the group known as ‘toothed whales’. There are many other toothed whales in the Ngari Capes Marine Park, however, the Bottlenose Dolphins are the most commonly sighted. The other toothed whales that are prevalent in the marine park are the Killer Whales, Long and short finned pilot whales and also the Sperm whales.
The Bottlenose Dolphins tend to live around the west side of the Cape between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin in the Spring to Autumn and then as their food source increases in Geographe Bay in the cooler months they tend to be much more prevalent in the Bay from early Autumn to late Spring. They are commonly sighted feeding on the Western Australian Salmon (Ngari) as well as Herring, Skippy and Squid which are all in plentiful supply in the bay at this time of year.
The Bottlenose Dolphin Mammal Lifestyle
This beautiful species are air breathing mammals so, even though they have adapted to the marine environment, they still must come to the surface to breathe through the blowhole on top of their heads. Bottlenose dolphins are sleek and streamlined and can travel at speeds of up to 35 kilometres per hour. They have a prominent dorsal fin, which can be seen slicing through the water. Bottlenose dolphins vary in size, shape and colour depending on where they are found. In general, dolphins have a dark grey back and a light grey belly. This helps to camouflage the animal so when potential predators (such as killer whales or sharks) look up from the deep, the light grey belly blends in with bright surface waters. When seen from above, the grey back blends in with the deep dark waters below. Bottlenose dolphin calves weigh around 15-30 kilograms at birth and around 70-130 centimetres long. They grow up to seven times their original body weight in their first year. An adult will reach 2-4 metres and weigh between 150-650 kilograms. Bottlenose dolphins can live to over 30 years of age.
Bottlenose Dolphin Diet
Bottlenose dolphins eat around 15 kilograms of food per day, consisting of a wide variety of fish, squid and octopuses. The offshore form may be able to dive to depths of more than 600 metres to catch food. Dolphins use echolocation for hunting and navigating. The clicking sounds they make travel through the water, hitting objects up to 200 metres in front and echoing back to the dolphin, which allows them to work out the size, shape, speed, distance and direction of their prey. Working together as a group, dolphins can trap schools of fish or squid by rounding them up and diving into the middle to feed, swallowing their food whole and head first. Natural predators include killer whales and sharks such as tiger sharks and dusky sharks. Other risks include entanglement in fishing nets (trawling, drift and gill nets), habitat destruction and degradation, pollution (organochlorines), disease (Morbillivirus) and illegal killing of dolphins. In some parts of the world bottlenose dolphins are killed for food. It is also possible that the dolphins’ key prey species are being fished out, thus reducing the amount of food available to them.
Bottlenose Dolphin Social Life
Bottlenose dolphins are very social animals that live together in pods. Inshore pods may have around 12 members and offshore pods may number in the hundreds. Within the pod there is a strong sense of unity or bonding, with lots of interaction between the dolphins in the group (touching, chasing, making noises etc). Bottlenose dolphins are highly active and are frequently seen tail slapping, riding on bow waves created by boats, surfing waves or leaping playfully into the air. They will chase one another, roll over each other and carry objects such as seaweed. Dolphins have many partners over a lifetime and mate all year round. Females begin to breed from about six years of age, and have a calf every 2-3 years. Calves are born throughout the year, although most are born in spring and summer after a gestation period of 12 months. Calves are born tail first so that they do not drown and their mother quickly pushes them up to the surface for their first breath. Calves suckle their mother’s milk for up to 18 months, although they begin eating fish at about six months of age and remain with their mother for about six years.
Come Experience the Bottlenose with Jet Adventures!
These mammals are the most beautiful up close and personal! Jet Adventures offers unique, small group ocean tours and thrill rides in Dunsborough and Busselton where Bottlenose Dolphins are often spotted. For a personal encounter with these magnificent mammals, come dolphin watching on the Wilderness Cruise in Dunsborough and Busselton in Western Australia.