So, about a year ago, My Girlfriend Sarah and I went up to the Sunshine Coast for a bit of well deserved R&R, we were planning to do all the tourist stuff, Underwaterworld, Australia Zoo, and a lesser known attraction which was recommended to us called “the Tin Can Bay Dolphin Experience”.
The Idea behind the aforementioned experience was that tourists would take the bus up to Tincumbah, which is the Aborigine name for the area, (simplified by Xenophobic white settlers to “tin can bay”) and would feed and “interact” with the Dolphins which frequent the bay.
Sarah, like most girls, loves dolphins, and I guess I’m quite partial to our Mammalian brothers of the ocean myself, so when we saw the ad for the “Tin Can Bay Dolphin Experience” (which will be refered to from now on as: “TCBDE”) I said hey, where do we sign up?
Now, the Price for TCBDE was $100 per person, which included: the bus trip, Breakfast and coffee, TCBDE itself and a visit to a turtle lagoon on the way back. Relatively pricey, but when you look at the features of the trip, one would presume that an outlay of a hunge per person would be great value for a nice romantic day out.
When I thought about TCBDE: my visualisation would have been something like this:
The Airconditioned bus crests the rise of the hill, revealing the unrivaled beauty of tin can bay as it opens out before us, the ocean glistens in the morning sun like a thousand diamonds and the salty smell of the ocean spray permeates the air.
The bus starts its winding descent to the beachside and parks in the shadow of a huge and impressively designed facility which is built out over the shallows of the Aqua lagoon.
As Sarah and I exit the bus we are greeted by two beautiful tanned young women in specially designed revealing wetsuits, who introduce themselves as Angelique and Cassandra, and present us with matching expensive wetsuits and kiss us both on the cheek, Cassandra’s soft hands linger on my muscular shoulders, and Cassandra whispers something in Sarah’s ear and they both giggle.
Sarah and I laugh and skip gaily down to the Jetty as Angelique and Cassandra explain to us what the morning will entail, “A meet and greet with the dolphins, where you will be able to feed them fresh fish, followed by a 3 course champagne breakfast, followed up by a 2 hour dolphin swim, with acrobatics lessons and dolphin riding”
“oh here come the guys now”, giggles Angelique as we see majestic familiar shapes leap out of the water just beyond the breakers, three sleek and flawlessly smooth bottlenose dolphins propel themselves toward the Jetty, one has a red rose in its teeth (Romeo) and he tailwalks next to the Jetty and presents the rose to Sarah. “oh it looks like Romeo brought you a present Sarah!” says Cassandra as the two other dolphins leap into the air and curve their two streamlined bodies together and hang in the air for what seems like an impossible amount of time, bringing their tails and noses together to form a heart.
Nothing is as Beautiful and exciting as Tin Can bay is in my mind.
So that brings us to the reality of the TCBDE, so stand by…
Sarah and I wake up at 5:30am as the bus will be out the front of the hotel at 6, we go down to find a rusty old Bongo Van, with the Tin Can Bay Dolphin Experience logo hand painted (with questionable skill) on the back.
The awkward bird-like ginger driver Noreen welcomes us into the van, which already contains an elderly couple, Sarah and I attempt a few little jokes to break the ice, which the driver doesnt understand and the elderly couple cant hear, so we awkwardly take our seats.
The Driver explains that we need to drive a little further north to Noosa to pick up the other couple who will be joining us, which would take about 20 minutes, and then we’d be on our way…
After we picked up the young Swedish couple we found out what “on our way” actually meant: a 3 and a half hour van ride thru rural Queensland, wow I thought New Zealand had some depressing little towns! Yandina Creek makes Moerewa look like a trip to Disneyland with Scarlett Johanssen.
But I digress… After 3 and a half long hours with little more in the way of tour guide comments than the occasional “this is Yarrawarnumbool, on your right you’ll see their famous Corn Plantation”, and “You’ll notice on your right a Scarecrow that the guys dress up… at xmas, they dress it up like Santa, sometimes its standing in a paddling pool, its very funny…. Oh no… wait… it looks like they’ve taken it down”
We arrive at Tin Can Bay (“you’ll notice Bonita Street on your left, all the streets in Tin Can Bay are named after sealife”) and pull down the mainstreet, (Williams St) the day is overcast and there is a smell of Fish in the air, we drive to the Dolphin*ahem* area which turns out to be little more than an Oily boatramp, and a batch converted to a cafe next to an old Yacht club. We exit the Car and Noreen tells us to meet at the cafe (Shack) at 10:30 for Breakfast.
As Sarah and I approach the ramp we realise our ‘exclusive dolphin encounter’ is about as exclusive as ‘showing up to a boatramp at a certain time’ is exclusive, the carpark and ramp are lined with Tourists and ragtag locals, one man in his 60’s with a yellow beard and no shirt was already visibly intoxicated and was holding a can of VB he sauntered past and mentioned to Sarah he liked her top, (it was a plain white bonds singlet) so I can only assume that would loosely translate to “I like your breasts” and we made our way down.
It was now that we cottoned on that the TCBDE is a completely public dolphin experience and that the price we paid for attendance strictly covers the extensive journey north to view these… Bottlenose Dolphins?
These were Indo Pacific Dolphins, the ugliest and stupidest of all the Marine Mammalia, there they sat in the murky water, waiting for the fish they knew were coming, Scarred with Pink scabs and deep outboard motor marks, noses too long, teeth too pronounced, all droopy dorsal fins and bugged out eye’s, the kind of Dolphin you could imagine smoking a cigarette. The retarded inbred cousins of humanity’s beloved bottlenose.
As I lined up with my greasy pilchard on that dreary September morning, standing knee deep in oily water, a fine rain beginning to fall, I thought, how could this have all gone so wrong? And as the biggest one (mystique) snatched my fish thanklessly from my hand and I was told by the attendant to move along, I thought: F**k you dolphin! You got me out of bed at 5am just so I could drive 4 hours to feed your Bull Shark eaten arse? and then Mystique looked up at me from the murk with smugness in its eyes, as if to say “thanks for your patronage chief, come back back again sometime, we’re here every morning from 9am.”
The Breakfast ended up being cold thick cut toast with hardly any condiments and filter coffee, (a quick tally would have put the cost of breakfast at around $1.65 per head), and we sat trying to make awkward conversation with two people who couldnt hear us, two who didnt speak english and the driver who only muttered and hooted quietly from time to time.
We then set off, on the next leg of the mission, the “Turtle lagoon” ( those are the biggest speech marks WordPress currently offers), as we drove back thru bundaberg, the driver stopped at a general store to buy a loaf of bread to feed the turtles, (I was picturing majestic leatherbacks, impossibly green) by this point Sarah and I were finding the entire trip rather hilarious, so we were of course looking forward to seeing what new wonders the turtle zone would deliver…
We drove thru yet another small country town, the type that would have a really high suicide rate and finally pulled up to the local park, and exited the Van, and there is was, sprawled before us in all its overcast, windswept glory:
We stood there for 25 minutes feeding Ducks, Geese and a few scungey Turtles, at one point a large blue eel popped its head up and snatched a chunk of wholemeal which was the most exciting thing that happened that morning, but it didnt come back.
And then we got back in the van, barely able to contain raucous laughter (we could see the Swedish couple were in the same mind as us as there was alot of chuckling and head shaking going on) we drove for a further hour and a half back to the hotel and thanked Noreen, the whole day was almost too pathetic to really complain about, and it actually ended up being so funny that it has become a cherished memory and a story to tell…