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AUSTRALIA

VOLUNTEER WITH DOLPHINS IN BUNBURY
Category:
Volunteering, gap year and career break in Australia

Up close and personal with wild Dolphins! Contribute to the well-being of dolphins in an idyllic setting at a non-profit Centre committed to dolphin research, education, conservation and tourism. 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 project runs from 1 October to 31 May every year.


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Start Dates The project runs from 1 October to 31 May every year. Projects start every Thursday, from beginning of October to the end of May – you can choose your start and finish dates within this period.
Duration From 6 weeks (minimum length) to 12 weeks, subject to visa requirements
Requirements Minimum age 18, no qualifications necessary (just a good dose of enthusiasm).
What's included
  • Arranging your Programme
  • Full pre-departure support and assistance
  • Payment Protection Insurance
  • Your first night’s accommodation in Perth
  • Coach Ticket to Bunbury
  • Accommodation in Bunbury
  • local in-country team support and backup
  • 24-hr emergency support.
What's not included
  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Cost of Visas (if a visa is required)
  • Airport pickup and return (but we can arrange this for you)
  • Food
  • Daily transport to and from your project
  • Return coach to Perth  (but we can arrange this for you)
Who can do this Project? All projects are open to all nationalities.

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PROGRAMME CONTENT

You'll meet people from all around the world, not to mention the dolphins! Apart from being in the water with the dolphins, you'll spend about 80% of your day talking and answering questions from people who come down to the beach to see the dolphins, thus educating them about  the dolphins. You'll talk about their characteristics and making the visitors aware of how crucial it is to conserve these wonderful animals.

Some of the work tasks and responsibilities you may be involved with include:

  • 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 assisting 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.
  • Tour guiding through the Interpretive Centre for the general public, tour groups and school students.

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

You may also  involved in depends on what is available at the time of your placement.

Training:
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.

Staff members attend monthly meetings, as well as regular video and BBQ nights, which you'll be invited to attend. 

Hours of duty and Work Schedule
This project is a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of 12 weeks. You’ll work between 20-40 hours a week, with weekends off. 

Start Dates:
Project start dates are listed below, however you will need to arrive on the Thursday prior to the start date in order to have your induction and transfer down to the project site in time to begin work on the Monday:

2016
Monday 4 April 2016
Monday 11 April 2016
Monday 18 April 2016
Monday 25 April 2016
Monday 9 May 2016
Monday 3rd October 2016
Monday 17th October 2016
Monday 7th November 2016
Monday 21st November 2016
Monday 5th December 2016
Monday 19th December 2016

2017
Monday 2nd January 2017
Monday 16th January 2017
Monday 30th January 2017
Monday 13th February 2017
Monday 27th February 2017
Monday 13th March 2017
Monday 27th March 2017
Monday 10th April 2017
Monday 24th April 2017
Monday 8th May 2017
Monday 2nd October 2017
Monday 16th October 2017
Monday 30th October 2017
Monday 13th November 2017
Monday 27th November 2017
Monday 11th December 2017

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.

"My major role was to pass on information to the visitors about the dolphins and their environment and to ensure every level of dolphin – human interaction was managed in a safe and appropriate way. This was particularly important during the dolphin swim tours where I was assigned the position of swim tour guide and was responsible for the safety of all visitors while snorkelling with dolphins out in the ocean.

In addition to these regular volunteer duties, I also participated as a research volunteer. Working alongside researchers from Murdoch University, part of my role was to collect survey and photographic data along with various other geographical and weather related details. This information provides a solid baseline source of information on the dolphin’s general group densities, movements and site preferences and how they vary over time.

It was a tremendous experience for me to work with the Center, I will take the skills I've learned into my next endeavours and the joyful memories will stay with me always!"


Bunbury

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ACCOMMODATION IN BUNBURY

You'll live in a backpackers conveniently located in the heart of the town. We team up with two different hostels that are very similar in the facilities they provide and in their excellent location that is close to everything! You'll have the beach, the City Centre and lots of other attractions all within two minutes walk and you’ll be able to explore the nearby forests, national parks, beautiful waterways, historic towns, many vineyards and the incredibly beautiful coast-line on your days off.

In the town there is a colourful street of sidewalk cafes called the "Cappuccino Strip" that buzzes all day. There are lots 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, as well as atmospheric historic pubs, ensure the town hums. There are also plenty of Entertainment Centres, Art Galleries and cinemas.

FOOD

Is not included in this project so you should budget for meals. We feel that a good guide would be a weekly budget of around AUD$70 - $100.

You'll stay in a dorm room with access to many facilities in the Backpackers. There is a kitchen where you can cook and an excellent BBQ and outdoor area that is very popular. Other facilities that you'll have free use of include a pool table, table tennis, board games, sporting equipment and off-street parking. you'll also be given a unique Visitor's Guide and you'll have free access to tea and coffee.

There are fast-speed internet facilities at the Backpackers which you can use for a nominal charge.

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FLYING INTO AUSTRALIA

You will fly into Perth airport (Perth is the capital city of Western Australia), where you'll most likely stay overnight.

You will be met by us the following day and given an orientation.  After the orientation you will be taken to the Esplanade bus station, located in the Central Business District, where you will be transferred onto a South West coach. The drive down to the project location takes 2-3 hours, mostly along the coastal road and you'll be driving through some beautiful land- and seascapes.

PROJECT LOCATION

This programme is located in the stunning south west coast in 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. It lies about 2½ hrs drive south of Perth.

Described as the real Australia. It is located on a spectacular peninsular surrounded by blue waters of the Indian Ocean, a bay and an inlet. A vibrant port city with a strong maritime history, the area is renowned for its quality lifestyle and unique blend of nature surrounds and top quality facilities.

The area 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.

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

CLIMATE

The area 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.

Accommodation in Perth while volunteering

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The Centre is a unique place. It is the only site in Australia which can offer shore-based and boat-based swim tour interaction with wild dolphins as well as dolphin watching tours 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 Inlet (directly south of the 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. From this work came the establishment of the Interaction Zone in 1990 and the Centre itself in 1994 to allow tourists 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.

ABOUT THE DOLPHINS OF KOOMBANA BAY

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Bottlenose dolphins, like all whales and dolphins, are warm blooded mammals. They breathe air and the females give birth to live young.
    The Gestation period for a female is 12 months and she will nurse her calf for 2-3 years. The mother will always wean her calf before giving birth to another. Therefore she is able to calve every 3-4 years.

  • Calves weigh approximately 30 kgs at birth (0.5 to 0.9 metres in length) and can grow to seven times their body weight in the first year. This is possible due to the very fatty milk fed by their mother.

  • The weight of Bottlenose dolphins will vary from 110 kilos to 400 kilos. Their length can range from 1.5 to 4 meters.

  • It is estimated that wild Bottlenose dolphins can live for 35-45 years. This is longer than the previously thought 25-35 years. However life expectancy of dolphins is hard to measure as they live so much of their lives out of human view.

  • Dolphins are sexually active all year round, although mating season in Koombana Bay takes place in the spring and summer months.

  • A female dolphin will mate with many different males. Males will compete aggressively for access to females that are sexually receptive (in oestrus).
    The best way to determine whether a dolphin is male or female is to look on the underside of the dolphin. The female has two mammary slits either side of her genital slit.



Perth at night

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