Looking for a priceless experience in South Australia? Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures (KIMA) is the place for you! Established more than 13 years ago, KIMA is the pioneer of marine tourism in South Australia. It is also the first company to take tourists and locals on coastal adventures all around Kangaroo Island, specializing in wild dolphin swims.
Located on the North Coast of Kangaroo Island, KIMA is the only company that guarantees a dolphin swim in the wild. You’ll be able to join the dolphins in the waters that they call home for a one-of-a-kind experience. A day with KIMA and these incredible creatures will bring you so many amazing memories that will last a lifetime!
Everything you need to know before swimming with dolphins off Kangaroo Island.
How was Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures started?
KIMA was started by me, Andrew Neighbour, in 2004, after having fished the local waters as a cray fisherman for some 20 years.
Tell us a little bit about your story and how you started working with marine life?
I have always been involved in and around the sea and all I ever wanted was to go fishing and work in the marine industry, so I guess there’s the passion. I fished for 20 or so years and was based on the south coast/Vivonne bay. Also, with a passion for photography and natural art, I have witnessed some amazing sights of the ocean in my time — from killer whales breaching all around us off the continental shelf to escaping a burning vessel just in the nick of time.
What kind of tours does Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures offer?
KIMA offer wild dolphin swims off the coast of Kangaroo Island with some of our wild dolphin pods. Often referred to as the best wild dolphin swim experience anywhere in the world, we operate jet boats that have a more sympathetic acoustic pattern in the water, which means no nasty props, and a safer experience for our marine mammals and our human guests. KIMA also offer private charters to cater for corporate groups, special interest groups, dive charters, government agencies or just families who want that intimate private experience.
Where does Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures take you to swim with dolphins? How far is it from Kangaroo Island?
KIMA operates mostly on the sheltered north coast out of Emu Bay. The sea is much kinder on the north side and allows us to utilize 160 kilometers of protected coastline which in summer protects us from the summer south easterly winds. ‘Super pods’ of dolphins gather on the north coast, not far from Emu Bay, in a couple of areas we call a ‘dolphins lounge room’ or ‘dolphins relaxation area’. While all the large pods of dolphins gather on the north coast, there are smaller pods scattered around.
Can you tell us a little bit about dolphins and their species in general?
Theses dolphins are called bottlenose dolphins. They are an inshore species and unlike the common dolphins who tend to frequent more offshore areas. The common dolphin generally does not like to interact with us in the water but is happy to ride in our wake.
Do you work with any organizations that protect dolphins in the wild?
We work with Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch, a volunteer based citizen science program group that monitors our dolphin pods both on our boat and on land. We have been working with KI Dolphin Watch for 13 years, monitoring and ensuring the protection of our local dolphins as best we can. We also work with the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, the Wilderness Society and at times Greenpeace in an effort to educate and protect our unique marine environment and its inhabitants.
How would you describe the experience of swimming with dolphins?
The experience of swimming with wild dolphins is something that’s very hard to explain. Obviously it is an exciting experience, but it's way more than that. It’s emotional, it’s spiritual, it’s uplifting, it’s overwhelming, it’s calming, it’s healing and for some it’s downright scary. We have had terminally ill people onboard who have come away feeling and looking energized, which is funny because the boat’s called Energizer. We have had pregnant women who have described their baby becoming very active in the womb while dolphins vocalize all around then and become very interested in their bump. Dolphins have touched right on the spot of people with cancer, as if to say “Yep that’s the spot”. We have also done a lot of work with The Make a Wish Foundation getting terminally ill people in the water with our dolphins.
What should I expect swimming with dolphins?
You can expect a very close-up encounter. At times close enough that you could easily reach out and touch them, but something in us keeps our hands to ourselves. It’s almost as if the dolphins are saying under their breaths “Look, but don’t touch or I’ll swim off!”. We have learned that in all situations, the dolphins call the shots — after all we are swimming in their relaxation area as guests, so best manners apply.
Will the dolphins swim right next to me? Will the dolphins touch me?
Yes, the dolphins will swim right up to you for a look. They like to sound you out as individuals, so we try to get people separated as much as possible. They will even circle you at high speed sending you into a spin.
Why are dolphins such special animals?
Dolphins are such amazing animals because, like us, they are mammals and very smart. We see similar traits with dolphin pods as they go about their daily lives — moms teach the young their life skills and they even suckle warm milk.