Over summer we finally did something I have been meaning to do for years – we took a dolphin cruise on Port Phillip Bay. Not, you understand, that we cruised on a dolphin. But we did step aboard the delightful Polperro in search of dolphins, seals and gannets.
Having nobly dragged ourselves out of bed in order to meet at the Sorrento pier at 7:45am (ouch!) we were greeted by Jess and Tom, both of whom gave us the feeling that we were the very guests that had been waiting to meet their whole lives. This is a rare and spectacular gift, and a wonderful way to start the day. The rapport was helped along by the fact that Jess also works at our favourite Sorrento institution, The Smokehouse, and she recognised us from our many forays there. Jess and Tom had quickly memorised the names of the 15 or so people on board. Those who were taking the swim option were kitted out with wetsuits, and the Polperro set off.
The cruise was obviously brilliantly setup for the swimmers, but although we were only observing on this trip we never felt left out for a moment. Jess settled us at the bow and made the kids feel incredibly important, telling us that we had the best seats in the house, and that it was our responsibility to spot the dolphins and seals. She was instantly adopted by our girls, who hung on her every word, and despite Jess’s key role of joining the swimmers in the water, both to guide them and keep them safe, she spent a lot of time with us, telling us everything that goes on in the bay, and a lot about the Polperro as well.
Tom also spent a lot of time hanging out with us over the 3 hour tour, telling us all about the gannets and their chicks that we saw, and explaining the various behaviours that we saw. By the end of the cruise we knew that Tom was about to study vet science at James Cook University, and he is clearly well suited to the role. As we lingered around the seals collected on Chinaman’s Hat, Tom spent considerable time in the water trying to free one of the young seals from some fishing line he was tangled in. The Polperro reports any animals in trouble to the Department of Sustainability and the Environment, and also Melbourne Zoo, in the hope that someone will have the resources to help solve the problems, but there are never enough funds for DSE or the Zoo to do the job justice.
Meanwhile another crew member, Ben, took great care of us, distributing hot drinks with a liberal hand, providing freshly baked scones, and telling us more about the animals and the local area. We had a fabulous view of cavorting seals and gannet chicks, but sadly the dolphins didn’t come out to play on this particular day – probably scared off by some visiting Killer Whales seen in the area the day before. It is a tribute to the friendly professionalism of everyone on board the Polperro that even though we never saw the star attractions the trip was still the highlight of our holidays.
The perfect end to our day was the obligatory visit to the Smokehouse, where we received the same warm welcome, amazing service and magnificent food that we always do. The thing that links the Polperro and the Smokehouse is how pleased they are to see you. They greet you like long lost friends, and make it clear that they will do everything humanly possible to make sure you have a fabulous time with them. As customers, your happiness matters intensely to them, and that feeling comes across loud and clear. I can’t imagine visiting either the Smokehouse or the Polperro and not leaving happy.
Dolphins or no dolphins, I’d travel a long way for that feeling.