Code of conduct for swimming with Dusty at Fanore/Derreen
Please remember that although this is a ‘friendly’ dolphin, it is also still a wild animal in its natural environment. We don’t really understand why she is here and we cannot predict her behaviour.
The dolphin’s safety
Although the dolphin chooses human contact, she may not fully be aware of the danger this puts her into. Sensitive areas of her body which we should avoid include her eyes, ears (pin-holes behind the eyes), blowhole, fins and tail fluke.
The dolphin deserves our respect as a creature in her own right. We suggest you behave with her as you might with a person you had just met – and that means not trying to grab hold of her or to tie things around her fins (it happens!).
The dolphin often comes into very shallow water where people may interact with her. Please do not crowd her in this situation and always allow her free access back to deep water. She is very generous with her time – your turn will come!
It is an offence to injure or harass a wild dolphin!
If you ignore the recommendations above, you may find that the dolphin will be forced to move quickly to get out of the way, and in that case you or someone else may get hurt. In particular you should keep clear of her tail fluke, which can move with great force as she manoeuvres.
In recent years Dusty has also increased her tendency towards acquisitiveness when it comes to swimmers’ accessories such as cameras, boogie boards and other ‘detachable’ objects including face masks. She likes to take these things and swim off with them. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, she may bring them back, other times she will not. If she decides she wants something she will indicate by prodding either the object or your body or both with her beak. If you don’t give it to her, she has been known to become aggressive. Several people have been injured by Dusty prodding them forcefully in the belly or chest.
The clear recommendation then is not to take into the water anything she might see as a ‘toy’, unless you are prepared to lose it. If that happens, see it as the price of your admission ticket to Dusty’s world. And it always looks good on an insurance claim form to put “stolen by wild dolphin” in the ‘nature of loss or damage’ box!
If Dusty looks like she really wants something off you, it’s best to give it to her. She is much stronger than you and will take it off you just like we might take a toy off a puppy dog.
Another cause of conflict with Dusty has been the way in which some people interfere when she is involved in an interaction with someone else, even swimming right up and trying to pet her while she is in a head-to-head with a favourite. It should be simple good manners to not butt in on other people’s conversations unless invited. Often Dusty will tolerate it but sometimes she just snaps, and no wonder. Wait your turn, do something else, look at the fish, your time will come!
Swimming in the ocean
These incidents have been few and far between in relation to the number of people swimming with Dusty.
The greatest threat to your safety is not the dolphin but the process of swimming off an Atlantic shore. The shoreline here is potentially dangerous owing to the strong swells which can surge out of nowhere even on a calm day - and some rocks are very slippery when wet. The current location at Spanish Point is far less dangerous than Fanore where Dusty was from 2001 to 2004, but can still be dodgy in bad weather. If in doubt about your ability to cope with the conditions, don’t go in.
Never swim alone unless you are a very strong swimmer, and even then you should tell someone else where you are and keep an eye on your exit point. If you are getting cold or tired, get out of the water while you are still able to do so safely!
Take particular care if boats are present, as snorkellers and divers may be hard to spot in the water. Wave your arms around if you are not sure whether they have seen you, or if you are in difficulties.