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9 of the world's best marine encounters

Whether you’re in an underwater cage surrounded by sharks, snorkelling with sea turtles or spotting penguins on the beach, Jacinta Counihan rounds up some of the world’s amazing marine wildlife experiences.

Feed wild dolphins

Tangalooma, QLD

For a marine animal experience that little ones can enjoy, head to Tangalooma Island Resort, where you will be able to hand-feed the wild dolphins. The bottlenose dolphins swim up into the shallow waters of the beach each day at sunset, ready for their evening snack. This makes it perfect for families with young children. A Dolphin Care Team is on site to provide advice and assistance when interacting with the dolphins to ensure these much-loved creatures are safe and protected.

Swim with dolphins

Kaukoura, New Zealand

For a dolphin experience with a difference, head to the coastal town of Kaikoura on New Zealand’s South Island. Its waters are home to one of the most acrobatic dolphins of their kind. On a Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura tour, families can either watch or swim with the energetic creatures as they bound around in their natural habitat. These marine mammals occupy the waters all year round. So, whether you’re in the boat or out, you’ll be able to watch dolphins play and jump in the ocean.

Go cage swimming with sharks

Oahu, Hawaii

Swim with the magnificent yet terrifying kings of the ocean in their natural Hawaiian environment with North Shore Shark Adventures. A boat will take you about three kilometres off the coast of Oahu to where you will have the chance to get up close with hammerheads, Galapagos, sandbar and grey reef sharks from the safety of a cage. Children as young as three are allowed to swim in the cage, although they’re wecome to remain on the boat if they prefer, where they’ll have the chance to spot dolphins, Hawaiian green sea turtles and possibly even a humpback whale or two.

Swim with whale sharks

Coral Coast, WA

Give the kids the wildlife experience of a lifetime with a chance to swim next to an 18-metre-long whale shark. Get up close and personal with the gentle giants as they congregate off the Coral Coast. Here, whale sharks feed on the zooplankton that thrives in the warm waters of World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. During a Swim with the Whale Sharks tour, marine-loving kids can don snorkelling gear to join the whale sharks in the water between April and June.

“Get up close with hammerheads, Galapagos, sandbar and grey reef sharks from the safety of a cage.”

Penguin paradsise

Phillip Island, VIC

For two hours every dusk on Phillip Island, thousands of little penguins march up Summerland Beach to return to their dens after a day of fishing in the sea. By joining a Penguin Parade tour, kids get to watch the tiny critters waddle by the viewing platforms and boardwalks. Little penguins are the smallest in the world at only 30 centimetres tall. But what they lack in size they make up for in energy, swimming up to 100 kilometres each day before returning to roost each night. To see them up close, purchase an underground viewing experience as the little penguins make their way along their most popular pathway.

Whale galore

Vancouver Island, Canada

For a truly supersized marine experience, take the kids to watch the incredible killer whales (orcas) breaching at the ocean surface around Vancouver Island from the comfort of either an open or covered boat. Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria, British Columbia, takes guests on a 3.5-hour trip around the island seeking out wildlife. It has a 98 per cent success rate in sighting either an orca, humpback or minke whale, with the best time being between the months of May and October.

See polar bears play

Gold Coast, QLD

Impress your little bear fans with a behind-the-scenes tour at SeaWorld’s Polar Bear Shores where you and your family can watch the adorable marine mammals swim, interact and play. Watch Hudson, Nelson, Liya and the newest addition, cub Mishka, in the large Arctic enclosure equipped with a cascading waterfall and four-metre-deep swimming pool. Learn what makes these bears unique and see where their food is prepared. The pass gives you access to explore their dens and play areas when the polar bears are not on exhibit.

This article appeared in volume 54 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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