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Being from Australia, I know there are lots of amazing things to do in Perth. After all, this city is my hometown, so I’m well acquainted with Perth’s best breweries and the top day trips in the area. However, the one thing I recommend to everyone who visits is the dolphin swim. It’s such a unique chance to swim with dolphins in the wild, and it’s all done in an ethical and sustainable way.
The best thing about this dolphin swim in Perth is that over the course of many years, the crew has built relationships with the dolphins. You can really see how much the dolphins trust the crew, and they can even tell you about each dolphin’s particular quirks and personality. It’s really heartwarming! I honestly don’t know if there’s a dolphin tour like this one anywhere else in the world.
While there are many incredible tours in Perth, this is actually the only dolphin cruise. So, if you’re thinking about doing it, I say go for it! But of course, you probably want some more info before you book. Since I had such a positive experience, I’m here to share everything you need to know about Perth’s amazing dolphin swim.
Don’t have time to read the full article? This dolphin swim in Perth shouldn’t be missed! It’s a safe and ethical way to get up close to wild bottlenose dolphins. It books up fast, so reserve a spot in advance!
1. What is the Dolphin Swim in Perth?
There’s only one dolphin swim in Perth, which is this dolphin swim in Rockingham.
Rockingham is a coastal suburb of Perth, and it’s around 45 minutes south of the city center. If you do the dolphin swim, you can drive yourself here or book a bus transfer with your tour. Pickup starts around 6:30 am, and the 6-hour tour itself begins at 8 am. After a short briefing, you’ll board the boat and head out to sea!
The Perth dolphin swim allows you to swim with wild dolphins in Cockburn Sound. It’s a very ethical way to swim with dolphins because the tour follows strict environmental rules, and the crew has a real bond with them. The dolphins aren’t trained; they just know and trust the crew and like to come and hang out with them!
The story of how the dolphin swim came to be is pretty amazing. Terry Howson, a Perth local, dedicated a whole year to following dolphins on his family’s small boat and learning all about them. Eventually, he befriended a young dolphin named Logo. As their relationship grew, other dolphins became curious about Terry and began to interact with him regularly.
This was back in the late 80s and early 90s. Since then, Terry has grown his wild dolphin swimming project and established a fantastic crew that shares his passion for marine life and ecotourism. Now, the dolphin swim in Perth is a super popular thing to do, and I can attest to how incredible this tour really is.
With your guide, you’ll get into the water, and you’ll be pulled around using a small sea scooter. Your guides will help you interact with the dolphins and tell you all about them. It feels like they’re introducing you to an old friend – which, I suppose, they are!
Since the tour involves sea scooters, you don’t need to swim. You’ll be given a wetsuit and snorkel, and then all you need to do is put your face down in the water. From here, you can watch the dolphins swimming and playing beneath the surface. It’s pretty incredible.
The dolphins you’ll be hanging out with are bottlenose dolphins, which are known for their curious and friendly nature. They’re also really cute!
2. Is the Dolphin Swim in Perth ethical?
Yes! In fact, the dolphins on this tour aren’t fed, baited, or trained to swim with the group. They do it of their own accord because the guides have built a strong rapport with these dolphins over the years. They come and greet them like friends!
The dolphins simply like to swim around in their groups and play together – there’s no other interference. There’s no exploitation going on, they simply trust the guides and feel safe around them. You get to watch them being themselves in the wild, which is so amazing to see!
3. When can you swim with dolphins in Rockingham, Perth?
This tour runs from September 1st to early June. However, the dolphin tours are subject to the weather, so exact dates do vary a little from year to year. This is because the water is too cold in the midwinter months to get in the water and enjoy a swim – even with a wetsuit on!
4. How much does the Dolphin Swim in Rockingham cost, and what is included?
There are a few different options available for the dolphin swim in Perth.
You need to have a basic swimming ability, although by no means do you need to be an especially strong swimmer. If you can’t swim or are nervous in the water, you can still do the tour as a spectator and stay on the boat. The spectator-only option costs $150 AUD if you drive yourself to the meeting point in Rockingham. It’s $190 AUD if you include bus transfers from Perth to Rockingham.
Meanwhile, if you want to swim, it costs $299 AUD per person if you drive yourself. The swimming option with bus transfers costs $339 AUD.
All ticket types include lunch, which is a gourmet platter with seafood. Even though the swim wasn’t strenuous, the excitement of it all built up quite an appetite. We were happy to enjoy a tasty meal while bonding with the other guests. There are also hot drinks along the way to keep you warm.
And if you have a swimming ticket, the price also includes your wetsuit, sea scooter, and swimming equipment. The crew will also take lots of amazing photos of your dolphin encounter, which you’ll be able to download for free from Flickr after the tour!
Related Read: Are you also visiting Sydney and looking to save some money? Check out our list of the best free and cheap things to do in Sydney, Australia.
5. Should you book the Perth Dolphin Swim in advance?
Yes, definitely. This is the only dolphin swim in Perth, and it has a fantastic reputation, so it books up. We went early in the season, and it was still completely sold out! We recommend booking as far in advance as you can to avoid disappointment.
We also highly recommend booking on Viator, because you get free cancellation up to 24 hours beforehand. This is ideal because you’re covered in case of bad weather. Plus, this means you can book way in advance without worrying about losing your money if your plans change. Seriously, we love using this site so much that we even wrote an entire blog about our experiences with Viator.
If you know your travel dates, check availability and secure your Dolphin Swim right here! Trust me, you won’t want to miss this opportunity.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
6. What happens if you don’t see dolphins?
This is pretty unlikely, which is why this dolphin swim in Perth has a sighting guarantee. This means that if you don’t spot any dolphins, you can come back any time within the same season, completely free of charge. So there’s no need to worry!
7. How can you get to Rockingham for the dolphin swim?
If you’ve got a rental car in Perth, you can drive yourself. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the meeting point in Rockingham. If you drive yourself, you can park for free all day on Harrison St. and Florence St. Make sure to meet your group by 8 am.
However, you can also book either a swimming or spectator ticket with bus transfers through Viator. You can either catch the bus at a meeting point in Perth, or they offer pickup from most central hotels. Pickup starts around 6:30 am.
8. Can you do the Dolphin Swim in Perth if you’re not a strong swimmer?
Yes! A very basic swimming ability is required, but there’s actually no real swimming involved in this tour. The dolphin swim guides use sea scooters to pull groups through the water to find the dolphins. They’re also super encouraging and great at reassuring nervous swimmers.
During the dolphin swim, you just float in your wetsuit and observe the dolphins swimming and playing. As such, you really don’t need to be Michael Phelps to enjoy this tour.
Related Read: One of our favorite land-based activities in Perth is wine tasting! Click here to read about the best wine tours in Margaret River, WA.
9. What if you just want to view the dolphins?
If you just want to view the dolphins without going on the boat, you can select the non-swimmer option on Viator. This costs $150 AUD for self-drive or $190 AUD with bus transfers. This is a great option for families whose kids aren’t super confident in the water (or just for anyone who doesn’t want to swim).
It’s worth noting, though, that there are only two spectator seats available on the boat. So, if you only want to view the dolphins, you definitely need to book your tour well in advance.
10. How close do you get to the dolphins?
You get really close to the dolphins on this tour! They swim right beside you and underneath you. It’s so magical to see them playing so close to you, and it is one of the most incredible experiences we’ve had to date. We loved every second of it.
The only thing to note is that you’re not allowed to touch the dolphins. This is because this is a super ethical tour, so it doesn’t interfere with the dolphins in any way.
11. Is it safe to swim with dolphins in Perth?
The dolphin swim in Perth is super safe. The dolphins are so friendly, and I felt totally safe the entire time. Our crew assured us that the dolphins would only swim around us and want to play, which was true! The guides really know their stuff, and you’re in good hands with them.
12. Is the Dolphin Swim suitable for children?
Yes, it’s great for kids, and they love it! However, children do need to be at least 7 years old to go on the dolphin cruise in Perth, either as swimmers or spectators. This is because the safety of the passengers and the dolphins is paramount to the crew. They want to make sure everyone on board is able to follow instructions.
13. How cold is the water?
The water can be very cold, and its temperature varies between 18-25°C (64-77°F). However, on this dolphin swimming tour, a wetsuit is provided, so you don’t feel it too much!
When we went, the water was pretty cold. Luckily, the wetsuits are nice and thick, so they do a good job of protecting you from the chilly temperatures of Cockburn Sound. There are also complimentary hot drinks onboard to help you warm up.
14. Tips for swimming with dolphins in Perth
Bring a GoPro
You’re welcome to bring your GoPro to capture footage of your Perth dolphin cruise! However, it does have to be on the shortest length if you have an extended pole. And no worries if you haven’t got one because the crew uploads photos of the trip to Flickr, which you can download for free.
Bring a towel
Towels aren’t provided, so we recommend bringing one with you. You’ll definitely want to dry off after your swim. Otherwise, you might get pretty chilly on your way back to shore!
Bring dry clothes for afterward
It’s best to have some dry clothes to change into after your dolphin swim in Rockingham. Trust me, it’s much nicer to be warm and dry as you head back to Perth.
Put sunscreen on before the swim
Once the dolphin swim gets underway, you’re in and out of the water with very little rest time. There’s hardly any time for your sunscreen to dry, so we recommend applying a high SPF before you head out.
If you get seasick, bring tablets
The water is pretty calm in Cockburn Sound, but you can still get seasick. If you’re prone to seasickness, it’s best to bring some tablets with you just in case.
15. Is the Dolphin Swim in Rockingham, Perth, worth it?
Yes, it’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Swimming with wild dolphins is incredible, and you get to see them swimming and playing so close to you. Plus, the guides are just fantastic, and their passion and enthusiasm for these creatures is infectious. I grew up in Perth, and this is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in the city – or anywhere in the world!
You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity! Click here to check availability and book your dolphin cruise today!
Other Activities to do While You’re in Perth
The dolphin swim is just one of many fun things we like doing in Perth! This city is actually Daniel’s hometown, so we know it well! As such, we’ve compiled this list of our top activities.
- Visit Penguin Island – Penguin Island is just a 45-minute drive from Perth and is home to around 1,200 wild penguins along with nature trails, beaches, and places to swim and snorkel. You’ll need to take a ferry to the island – unless you want to kayak there instead!
- Rottnest Island – If beautiful secluded beaches, lazy island life, and adorable quokkas sound like the perfect day, exploring Rottnest Island is a must! This island is actually really easy to get to, you can book a 25-minute ferry ride from Perth or take an island tour which includes biking and snorkeling for a full day of adventure.
- Drink craft beer – Craft beer fans are in luck because Perth has excellent local breweries! Our favorite is Gage Roads in Freo, where I recommend the Sleepy Giant IPA. East Perth’s Bright Tank Brewing Co has super cool decor and creative beers. To sample an even wider variety, join this Swan Valley brewing tour for a full day of beer-tasting fun!
- Go museum hopping – Perth has a variety of super interesting museums, from the Art Gallery of WA to the Perth Cultural Center. Gamers won’t want to miss The Nostalgia Box Museum, and to learn all about gold and see the world’s largest coin, take a tour of the Mint!
- Learn to surf – Perth is the ideal place for beginner surfers! We recommend Go Surf Perth for classes. If you’re a novice surfer heading out on your own, our favorite beach is Cottesloe. For a bit more of a challenge, one of the most reliable surf breaks is Trigg Beach.
- Check out an adventure park – Perth is a great destination for adrenaline junkies like me! For the only cable wakeboard park in WA, head to Perth Wake Park. If an amusement park is what you’re looking for, Adventure World has you covered. And to cool off in summer, Outback Splash is the place to be!
Where to Stay in Perth, WA
Since there are so many activities in Perth within the CBD (Central Business District), I recommend staying in the heart of the city Plus, if you purchase the dolphin cruise with transportation, they will pick you up from centrally located hotels – like the ones below! So, if you need some help narrowing down your options, these are our top picks for each budget range.
The Westin Perth – $$$
A mix of classy and contemporary, The Westin Perth is the place to stay when you’re looking for a touch of luxury. The prime location in the heart of Perth puts you within walking distance of the trendy Elizabeth Quay area as well as lots of restaurants and cafes. You can also use the hotel’s infinity pool or its signature restaurant run by iconic Australian Chef Guy Grossi.
Rooms at the Westin Perth start at around $400 AUD per night and can be booked online.
Pensione Hotel Perth – $$
A nice mid-range option, the Pensione Hotel Perth is a refurbished boutique hotel with 98 rooms. It’s close to Elizabeth Quay, major shopping centers, the Swan River, and Northbridge. You’ll feel like you’re stepping into the 1960s with restored furniture and décor from the time filling the lobby.
The staff members are really friendly, and rooms are reasonable at under $150 AUD a night. To snag this deal, reserve your stay at Pensione Hotel Perth in advance.
Hostel G Perth – $
You don’t need to pay big bucks to stay in Perth’s CBD. Hostel G Perth has dorm rooms for around $60-$70 AUD or private rooms for around $100 AUD. You’ll have a huge common area with movies on TV, a kitchen, and a great atmosphere with travelers of all ages.
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
The dolphin cruise is hands down my favorite activity in Perth! I mean, when else will you have the chance to swim alongside playful bottlenose dolphins? Plus, you can rest assured that this tour is entirely safe and ethical. And trust me, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming as seeing the connection between these guides and the wild dolphins.
If you found this guide helpful, you can read our other blogs about Australia here. As a local, I love sharing my home country with others! We’ve also traveled around the world and written about many other destinations. To get started, just click on one of the links below.