In the 1950’s an injured Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin beached himself on the sand at Barnacles Cafe in the town of Tin Can Bay. The local commercial fishermen began to feed the dolphin catch from their boats, and named him Old Scarry. After recovering, the dolphin returned to the wild, and would come to the beach from time to time for a free meal. In 1991 a female brought her calf to the beach, and the local school children named the calf Mystique. Mystique continues to visit the bay, as the third generation to carry on this tradition.
The staff of the Tin Can Bay Volunteer Coast Guard manage the feedings, using only the healthiest, freshest fish for feeding the dolphins, and requiring tourists to sterilize their hands before receiving a fish. The volunteers interact with the dolphins who arrive an hour or more before the 8 AM feeding time, giving us onlookers plenty of time to take photos, and to hear the stories that the volunteers have to tell.
At 8 AM, tourists line up and one at a time offer a fish to a dolphin who accepts it politely. We arrived early to watch and photograph the activities. The following day, as we passed by Barnacles Cafe in our dinghy, no dolphins had come to be fed, and the many tourists were looking out into the bay searching for a humpback dorsal fin out in the water.
How fortunate we were to be in the right place at the right time to see these fascinating dolphins up close and to hear their story.