The heat of Adelaide’s summer days send people flocking to the water. The city’s beaches are a great place to start, but the prevalence of sharks in this area of Australia make me wary of swimming out too deep. Kayaking, however, is a perfect solution – you’re out in the water, but sharks are unlikely to be a problem. And if you head to Port Adelaide, not only is it easy to hire kayaks, but you’ll be sharing the water with a friendly pod of dolphins.
We went on a two-hour tour with Adventure Kayak SA who also hire out kayaks by the hour at the launching point at Garden Island boat ramp. We were promised dolphins, mangroves and shipwrecks, and our guide David delivered them all.
In search of that infamous smile
There were already dolphins to be seen swimming in the estuary as David gave us the safety briefing and taught us how to use the rudder on the two-person kayaks. Launching was straightforward and we headed directly for the dolphins – but not too close. Our guide warned us not to approach closer than 50 metres, which seemed an incredibly large distance until I realised that the dolphins were quite happy to come up to us – one swam within a metre of my kayak.
After 20 minutes or so of watching the dolphins play (they seemed to be having an incredibly good time) we paddled in the direction of the mangrove swamp. The tide was high, which meant the way was narrower than usual, we had to paddle with care to avoid being hit by the branches of the mangroves which lined the river. We pulled up in a wider patch of water while David explained the importance of mangroves to the ecosystem and economy, as well as talking about some of the fish that live among the trees. The dolphins had followed us up the estuary, and on emerging from the mangroves we saw them swimming past towards the power plant a couple of kilometres upstream.
After turning and paddling back past our starting point and under the jetty, we pulled into a group for a few minutes and rested while David told us about the dodge tide, a phenomenon that only occurs in three areas of the world – for part of the month there’s no tidal action at all. This, combined with the chemicals naturally produced by the mangroves, can put the fish into a stupor, so that they appear to be dead or sleeping; the Aboriginal name for the area means “sleeping place “
Port Adelaide, South Australia
The tour continued around the coast of the island, and soon a shipwreck came into view; we landed the kayaks on a sandspit and got out to take photos and listen to David’s explanation of how the Santiago came to be a feature of a kayak tour. There were several more boats to be seen, but we only visited one other, which had been a victim of the Depression – sold for wood when the owners went bankrupt and no-one could afford the asking price.
All that remained was to paddle back to the boat ramp – no easy task against the tide. However, the effort of paddling made our eventual arrival that much more rewarding, and we returned to the shore tired but satisfied – both by the exercise and the experience of hanging out with dolphins.