Charting interactions between dolphins and people
Irish Dolphins - Interactions between dolphins and people.  Including Fungie the Dingle Dolphin
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  1. Do you organise tours or trips to swim with the dolphin?
  2. How do I go about swimming with Fungie then?
  3. Will he heal my ME/ MS/ chronic depression / etc?
  4. You say that the commercial dolphin boats make it impossible to swim with the dolphin. How can we avoid them?
  5. Why does the dolphin stay in Dingle?
  6. What’s so special about Fungie anyway?
  7. How do you make him jump like that?!
  8. How did the dolphin get landed with the name ‘Fungie’?

Do you organise tours or trips to swim with the dolphin?

No. The only packages currently available locally are through Brosnan’s wet-suit hire (formerly Flannery's) in Cooleen, Dingle.
If you travel independently, you obviously need to take responsibility for your own needs including safety. However, the main dangers to avoid are (1) motor boats, especially fishing boats and dolphin tour boats. These guys are not looking for heads in the water and they don't give a s--- about the 6 knot speed limit either!
(2) the tidal current running through the narrow channel which forms the entrance to Dingle harbour, which is strong enough to sweep you out to sea if you're not paying attention - but you shouldn't be swimming here anyway - see above! You can hire wetsuits and snorkelling gear from Brosnan’s without necessarily going on the boat trips: phone 0669151146 or email

You can also hire the gear you need from a friendly Belgian called Eric at the Dingle Dive centre in the Marina buildings (2008).

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How do I go about swimming with Fungie?

Swimming with a wild dolphin is never a situation you can control or predict. Some of the variables involved include the weather, the sea conditions, the presence or absence of boats and/or other people, and above all the dolphin's own mood or inclinations. At the end of the day it is up to you and the dolphin; come with excitement and expectancy by all means, but not with any particular expectations!

Flannery’s, the chief dolphin boat operators, run a 2 hour ‘dolphinswim’ package throughout the season in collaboration with Brosnans wet-suit hire (€35 in 2004). Customers are taken out on an early morning boat trip, 20 at a time, and supplied with all the necessary wetsuits and snorkelling gear. Generally the ‘mother ship’ anchors up in calm waters off Sláidín beach. The boat operators do their best to attract the dolphin to the boat, using a small and noisy ‘catcher boat’ with an outboard engine which zooms around in circles until the dolphin comes over, and dipping paddles into the water. Once in the water, punters are marshalled around the boat and have a good chance of seeing the dolphin underwater as the crew try to keep the dolphin interested. It’s certainly a thrill just to see the dolphin in this way, as he looks quite different underwater (bigger than you expect, for example!) and you can really appreciate his graceful and effortless movements. For those who are nervous about swimming in the open sea, this is also a good opportunity to be in a group situation with excellent safety cover. We recommend taking one of these dolphinswim trips if it is your first time out with a ‘friendly’ dolphin or your first time using wetsuits, fins, masks and snorkels.

However, there is no opportunity within the framework of the organised trips to develop any personal contact with the dolphin, as swimmers are not encouraged to swim freely around and especially are not allowed to duck dive.

Those ‘in the know’ therefore avoid all of the dolphin boat trips and try to find a quiet time when they can interact with the dolphin relatively undisturbed. There is generally little point in attempting to encounter the Dingle dolphin when there are boats out in the harbour. The dolphin is still readily attracted to or distracted by any kind of boat and when the tourist boats are out it is particularly dangerous to swim out into the channel. (The exception to this is that a few local boat users do actually co-operate with swimmers and visitors by deliberately bringing the dolphin in to Sláidín, when he is willing, so that everyone can get close to him and have good views. Best time for this is usually Sunday afternoon - look out for a Laser sailing dinghy especially!) Note that the busy boat traffic from May through September means that this time of the year is generally the least promising as far as seeing the dolphin is concerned. At the same time, the water is too cold for comfort for most people in late winter and early spring (<10°C in January), seas are often rough and wind chill can be severe, so hardly anyone tried swimming between Christmas and Easter. The best time of the year therefore tends to be from October to the end of December.

There are no regular swimmers since about 2004 (and there were very few in the preceeding 5 or 10 years, either) but when the last swimmers were still going out, they were mostly not using masks and snorkels any more as their interaction was almost entirely on or above the surface. Instead they were using boogie boards (small polystyrene body boards), which support the front of their torso above the water, and this can occasionally still draw the dolphin over to you on the right day. If the dolphin does approach you, the favoured technique is to angle the board and kick with your legs so that you spin around in a tight circle. If he approves your style and tempo the dolphin, may spin around with you. If you really hit the spot (and nobody really knows what this means!), the dolphin may get excited enough to start leaping out of the water - and even over your head (It happened once in 2007 that we know of).
Because of the high energy, fast moving style of this technique, thinner wetsuits such as surfers use are favoured, and a neoprene hood is not necessary if you don’t want to go underwater, though a woollen hat is a good idea in winter.

As for time of day, the dolphins doesn’t have any known preferences and we have even swum with him in the middle of the night in a warm summer when there were too many boats out all through the day. Generally the early morning and evening would be the quietest times as regards boat traffic.

Despite the above recommendations it is important to realise that there are no hard and fast rules for meeting the dolphin and you are welcome to try any different behaviour and different times of the day or year - you might get lucky! (And if you do, please tell us!)

See also our articles “Swimming with dolphins” and “What to wear when meeting a wild dolphin”.

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Will he heal my ME/ MS/ chronic depression / etc?

Lots of sick people came out to be healed by the Dingle dolphin in the early 1990’s, inspired in particular by the ideas of English dolphin enthusiast Horace Dobbs and the associated media coverage. We are not aware of a single person who was actually cured of anything as a result of meeting the dolphin. However, swimming is good for you, seeing a dolphin is exciting and having a good time can surely only help you get better from an illness. As part of a therapeutic programme, why not include swimming with a dolphin, so long as you can leave any expectations behind you. But don’t underestimate the practical difficulties as this is the Atlantic Ocean and Fungie is a wild creature with his own will.

In general we would say that the dolphin tends to interact most with people who are energetic and good swimmers, but he does have the ability to make most people feel as though they have had a unique and personal encounter.

N.B. We do not recommend swimming with dolphins as a substitute for professional therapy.

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You say that the commercial dolphin boats make it impossible to swim with the dolphin. How can we avoid them?

You can’t, ultimately, as they will go out whenever they have customers, even with half a dozen punters in winter. But in the summer season, up to 12 boats will be out all day from 7am to dusk, while in winter there may be only one trip a day, or none at all if the weather is bad. In the shoulder seasons, it depends entirely on demand and will be something in between those extremes. So your best chance of a bit of peace in Dingle harbour is the worst weather conditions and either early morning or late afternoon. One possibility which was popular amongst the remaining local swimmers in the mid-1990s was to go down to the beach an hour or so before dusk in the months leading up to Christmas, when it’s getting colder, but usually not as bad as in the late winter. Some days there will be the odd boat still out and you have wasted a trip, other days it’ll be OK and you can get to see the dolphin.

Why does the dolphin stay in Dingle?

1. Dolphins eat fish, of course. Fungie probably needs about 30kg a day just to tick over. The entire mass of tidal water in Dingle harbour empties into the sea and refills twice a day through a very narrow channel. This water carries fish with it, but no nets can be set here and even seabirds find it hard to hunt in the churned-up waters. So the dolphin, equipped with state of the art sonar and a turn of speed which leaves Atlantic salmon standing, has all the fish moving in and out of the harbour to himself. If it wasn’t for the rich pickings available here, he would not have been able to live comfortably within such a small area and to spend most of his days playing around. Many ‘resident’ dolphins have lived at the mouth of a river or tidal basin, perhaps for this one simple reason.
2. Fungie loves boats and he has a constant supply of them coming in and out of the harbour here
3. Or as the late lighthouse keeper Paddy Ferriter put it: “How would I know?”

We are open to other suggestions!

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What’s so special about Fungie anyway?

1. He’s an interactive dolphin. 99.9% of dolphins live in social groups and range over huge areas. They do not stick around in one place on their own and they do not associate with humans, apart from bow-riding boats.
2. The range of interactions Fungie has exhibited over the years is unsurpassed by that of any other interactive dolphin (see history and first interactions)
3. The length of his stay in one place (currently 24 years) and his history of interactive behaviour is by far the longest of any dolphin or other cetacean on record, anywhere in the world.
4. Fungie is the top free-living cetacean tourist attraction in the world. The number of people who have come to see him is unknown but must reach the hundreds of thousands and is certainly a world record for a single wild animal of any sort. The economic impact he has had on Dingle is similarly staggering and although again hard to quantify has been estimated at over €10 million including indirect benefits.

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How do you make him jump like that?!

Tickle him with a guillemot’s feather between the fourth and fifth ribs on the right hand side.
No, seriously, we don’t ‘make him jump’ at all. He jumps when he feels like it and there is no secret trick!

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How did the dolphin get landed with the name ‘Fungie’?

In the early days one of the Dingle fishermen was teased by his mates for taking an interest in the dolphin, at a time when it was definitely not cool to do so. He was also being teased for trying to grow a beard, which resulted in the nickname ‘Fungus’. Hence the dolphin was ‘Fungus’s dolphin’ and in time the name got transferred from man to dolphin and abbreviated.

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Back to main Fungie Page
Date Posted: 18/12/2001
Date Edited: 31/07/2009

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