I touched a dolphin @ Yehliu Ocean World, Taiwan

Dolphin Show

Yup, I got an opportunity to pet a dolphin in Yehliu Ocean World in Taipei, Taiwan. I actually did it twice, once in front of the crowd and the other time during a behind-the-scenes tour. It was a remarkable experience, dolphins are a lot more intelligent than cats and dogs, and they’re one of the few creatures in the world which are self-aware (like us).

Sea Lions

The show started with sea lions. This is a male and female pair trained to perform various tricks.

They can even play basketball!

Sea Lion Show

They called for volunteers to come on stage and I was the first to offer myself.

Sea Lion Tricks

I got a peck on the cheek from the sea lion for my trouble. :D

Sea Lion Kiss

It felt very nice.

Russian Clowns

The show at Yehliu Ocean World also incorporated clowns (a Russian duo) and synchronized swimmers.

Russian Swimsuit Girls

There was a man who remained resolutely immobile throughout the entire show, even when the sea lions and dolphins came on stage but excitedly clicked away with his smartphone the moment the Russian girls in their swimsuits came on stage. He nearly fell off his seat in his excitement, which I found puzzling. I wonder how his wife (who was sitting beside him) felt about that. smirk

Yehliu Ocean World

The dolphin show was the highlight of the session.

Dolphin

They asked for a volunteer from the crowd to come on stage and interact with the dolphins. Naturally, I was the first to put my hand up (again).

Bottlenose Dolphin

There is a floor mat with disinfectant which you need to step on before you can go on the stage. You have to use liquid hand sanitizer before you can touch the dolphins too. I was also told that dolphins do not have good eyesight (which makes sense considering they use sonar to communicate) so I have to exaggerate my movements.

Fun With Dolphins

I was trained to use my hands to direct the two dolphins to jump – it was quite an unforgettable affair!

Jumping Dolphin

The dolphins are capable of flinging themselves a remarkable distance up from the water.

Kissing Dolphin

One of the dolphins even allowed me to kiss her (!!!).

Dolphins Up Close

I was taught to bring her up using my hands and she used her flippers to balance herself while I came over on her right flank and nuzzled up against her side. She felt wet and smooth and slippery.

I felt very privileged to be part of the dolphin show.

Dolphin Training

We also got a backstage tour after everyone had left. I realized that I shouldn’t have volunteered for the dolphin show since we got *another* chance to touch the dolphins. I didn’t know or I would have let someone else in the audience have the opportunity.

Feeding Dolphins

The practice training session was going on and we were beside the dolphin trainers while they worked.

Dolphins

It was a wonderful chance to see how the dolphins and trainers interacted up close.

Dolphin Food

We also saw the frozen fish food storage where the dolphins are fed frozen fish as a treat during summer. This is also a backdoor for their medication – apparently dolphins don’t like taking pills and thus vitamins, supplements and meds are inserted into the body cavity of small fish before being fed to the dolphins.

Dolphin Pharmacy

The guide also led us through the secure on-site pharmacy. You’re lucky I don’t read Chinese. Haha.

Dolphin Anatomy

One of the trainers even gave us a detailed dolphin anatomy lesson.

Training Dolphin

All the dolphins here are bottlenose dolphins – the ones you’ll normally associate with the word “dolphin”.

That’s how the dolphin show is done. It’s very interesting stuff!

Dolphin Kiss

I managed to get a photo taken up close by the Yehliu Ocean World photographer while I was hugging the dolphin. :)

Dolphins, Adelaide Hills and the beauty of South Australia

Wine Tasting South Australia

I was first introduced to the charms of South Australia when I was studying in Australia. I was based in Melbourne then and Adelaide was just a short 8 hour drive away. I didn’t think there was much to do there at first, but I was seduced by the sheer beauty of South Australia and loved it so much that I went back again 3 years ago.

Barossa Valley

I love food and wine and the latter is very abundant here. South Australia is home to Penfold’s and Jacob’s Creek! You can have wine tastings all day long and even if you’re not studying to become a Master Sommelier – if you truly are a foodie, you’ll love wine country. That alone is worth a trip here.

Wine Tour South Australia

I shall not bore you with details like how Adelaide has free transportation throughout the city – let that be a pleasant surprise when you come here. Chances are, you’re not going to stay in the CBD much anyway – most of the attractions are just a short distance away and I sure hope you didn’t come to South Australia to shop (nothing wrong with that, there’s just better things to do).

South Australia

Like I said earlier, you’ll not be disappointed with what South Australia has to offer in terms of wine tours. There are 18 wine regions in the state alone! Yup, I got that figure from a brochure but you have to admit it’s pretty amazing. I’ve been to wine tours and tastings in Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, and Barossa. The Barossa Valley is said to have the world’s best Shiraz. Make sure to take some time to cycle along the Riesling Trail at Clare Valley, it’s truly a wine lover’s paradise and it’s the best way to get to the next flight of wines!

South Australia View

Of course, there are other things to do besides wine tours. Adelaide has a warmth and “smaller city” vibe which you can feel from the locals. People are generally less hurried and more helpful. I have a lot of friends who loved it so much that they stayed on and started families there. It’s also home to the World’s Biggest Rocking Horse! :)

World Biggest Rocking Horse

I’m not kidding, you can actually climb up and enjoy the fantastic view from the Horse’s head. I was told that in the past, the Horse was used as a lookout by the local South Australian Country Fire Service! It’s located in Adelaide Hills and is also home to The Toy Factory (largest in Australia) and a park and picnic area which have animals from kangaroos and wallabies to alpacas (the ones that look like llamas) to emus.

I also visited Hahndorf, a small town in the Adelaide Hills region. It’s a very beautiful place which has a strong German heritage – someone asked me at a dinner recently about my favorite place in South Australia and I had to struggle to remember the name because it’s so unusual.

There are a lot of restaurants serving German food in Hahndorf and if you love architecture, the fachwerk timber construction and the old heritage buildings would make this place a priority on your itinerary. It’s the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia and art and culture enthusiasts would be spoiled by the museums and galleries in Hahndorf.

Horse Drawn Tram Tickets

Victor Harbor is another beautiful destination I wholeheartedly recommend in South Australia. It has some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen in Australia. There’s something for everyone too – The Horsedrawn Tram takes passengers from the mainland using the wooden causeway to Granite Island every 20 minutes.

Victor Harbor Tram

Granite Island is where you can immerse yourself with a bit of nature and get some exercise done at the same time!

Kaiki Walk

I highly recommend you take the time to wear comfortable shoes and walk around the island – it’s worth your time and effort! The Kaiki Walk circumventing Granite Island take about 40 minutes and the various lookouts provide for beautiful scenes. Be sure to pack warm weather gear if you’re going in autumn though.

Victor Harbor Horsedrawn Tram

Eyre Peninsula is where nature aficionados would want to be – there’s everything from wildlife parks where you can see animals in their native environment. This is where I went swimming with the dolphins! It’s a really interesting once-in-a-lifetime experience that just cost AUD 150 (at the time). You can also spot sea lions! The dolphins are friendly and would come up and rub against you – this is perfectly normal behavior so don’t freak out. Dolphins are very social creatures and it was one of the highlights of my trip. Anyone can go – even if you can’t swim, since the provided wetsuits are naturally buoyant! It was a dream come true for me and my only regret is not having a waterproof camera. I strongly suggest you invest in one (even the disposable ones) if you go.

Dolphin Cruise

South Australia is also home to the popular Port River Dolphin Cruises. There are a few operators departing from this location and the best thing is that it’s just 20 minutes away from Adelaide CBD. You’re also guaranteed a dolphin sighting! I managed to see several pods of dolphins swim right up to our ship!

Dolphin Pod

The dolphins are very friendly and they’ll actually break the surf to try and be close to you. I loved the experience and I’m sure you’ll be charmed by our mammalian friends in the sea too!

Dolphins

South Australia is an often overlooked destination but to both the new and seasoned traveller it can offer up a lot of exciting experiences. There are direct flights to Adelaide from Kuala Lumpur and the best thing about the city is that it’s compact, with most attractions within close proximity of the CBD. Visit southaustralia.com for more details! Your Malaysian driving licence is valid in Australia too!

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