Port Stephens Harbour is 2.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour and is home to between 90 and 120 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins year round (Port Stephens has the largest resident population of dolphins in Australia). This makes Port Stephens one of the most popular places in the world for dolphin watching.
The Port Stephens dolphins are divided into two distinct communities. The ‘Easties,’ and the ‘Westies.’ The ‘Easties,’ are the larger community that live in the eastern section of the Port. The eastern population are very social and change their associations regularly. The ‘Westies,’ are a smaller population that have fewer, but stronger, associations with each other. The two groups also have distinct genetic differences, suggesting that there is very little interbreeding. It is also interesting to note that males tend to have alliances with other males and females with other females.
Port Stephens most recognised dolphins include ‘The Beatles,’ a group of four males who are usually seen together (nicknamed John, Paul, George and Ringo), ‘Nicky’ who has a ragged dorsal fin with a cut out section and was first sighted in 1998, ‘Feathers’ who has a ragged section of dorsal fin and ‘Flopper,’ who has a floppy fin and has been seen with shark bites in both 2006 and 2008 (but is still going strong).
And, don’t forget about the Oceanic Dolphins that frequent the waters off Port Stephens. These dolphins are smaller and faster than the bottlenose dolphins, but also travel in pods of up to 100 and seem to like hanging out with the migrating whales!
Dolphins can often be seen from the shore around the Port, but the best way to be guaranteed a dolphin sighting is to join one of the daily dolphin watch cruises. Sighting rates are 99% and you get a free return cruise if you don’t see a dolphin.
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