Sorrento at the southern end of Port Phillip Bay, Australia, is one of the few places in the world where it's possible
to swim with wild dolphins. Here a handful of operators are licensed to run tours and compete to gain access to the animals.
Judy Muir first swam with dolphins 15 years ago. She has turned her passion into a successful eco tour business but worries
about what impact the tours may be having on the dolphins.
Judy now faces a daily dilemma - how can she introduce people to the marine environment without turning it into a theme park?
Wildlife tourism is currently one of the biggest growth industries in the world. People want to see animals in their natural habitat - but with zoo like conditions - at close range and on demand. They want to interact - to touch, pat and feed them almost as if they were pets.
Around Australia it's possible to feed and swim with wild dolphins. These tourist ventures are growing fast - but usually
the commercial developers and tourists arrive before the scientists and environmentalists - leaving the animals ripe for
Dolphin Mania tells the story of a coastal community outside Melbourne, Australia where a small number of operators - with
differing philosophies - are licensed to run dolphin swim tours. A code of practice has been established to protect the
dolphins. But these regulations are rarely policed leaving the operators to enforce the law amongst themselves.
Judy Muir and her family run the Polperro and set off twice a day from Sorrento pier. When the dolphins appear the passengers
hang onto buoy lines and squeal with delight as the mammals leap and cavort nearby. Such encounters are euphoric and research
has shown that dolphins have the ability to crash through human defenses to reach our emotional core promoting laughter and
happiness. The result can be therapeutic - particularly for those suffering from illnesses or emotional disorders.
But Judy worries about what impact the tours may be having on the animals.
The Dolphin Research Institute has found that when the tour boats approach the dolphins, their behaviour changes markedly.
They may alter direction, call out more frequently to each other or even send out a decoy dolphin to interact with the boats
while the rest swim away. On a busy day, tour boats are interacting with the dolphins every 90 seconds. No one knows what
long-term implications may result from this constant disturbance.
Judy and her son Troy now face a daily dilemma. How can they introduce people to the marine environment without turning it
into a theme park?
Dolphin Mania explores the viability of nature based tourism through the experience of a small community of tour boat