The gray dorsal fins sliced through the waves effortlessly even as our kayaks struggled against the wind and waves. The sleek dolphins living at Port River in Adelaide broke through the water near the shore and swam close to the pelicans fishing by the beach. My arms ached just thinking about trying to get closer.
But the hours of propelling myself across the river and into unprotected waters paid off at the sight of those creatures.
I worried that when I signed up for the kayaking trip just outside of Adelaide that I wouldn’t have the chance to see the dolphins, but I, and the other 23 international students with me, shouldn’t have worried.
The area we kayaked in is home to an entire dolphin sanctuary, several shipwrecks and some of the southernmost mangrove trees.
It’s a short hop away from the city and well worth it.
As we explored one minor waterway, our guides from Adventure Kayaking, a local business, brought some context to our environment.
According to the South Australian National Parks, about 40 bottlenose dolphins call the Port River home, however, we saw, at most, three or four. The dolphin sanctuary was created to preserve the dolphins from harmful human effects like pollution, storm water and garbage deposited into the water.
The mangrove trees which we cruised and laughed under were some of the most extensive in this part of Australia. They existed along much of the coastal regions but devolvement and pollution have forced Australia to work harder for the protection of these coastal trees.
And the shipwrecks are haunting, perhaps even tragic, reminders of past hardships. Ships like the Dorothy H. Sterling I saw came from America to Australia as cargo ships, but when debts went unpaid during the Great Depression, it was broken down and left in this ship graveyard, according to our guides.
The waters around Adelaide are not deep enough for the usual process of “scuttling” or destroying a ship at sea, so today there is a graveyard with more than 20 known vessels.
However, overall, I am heartened by my visit to the Port River. The care and protection lavished on the area was evident. In some ways it reminds me of rivers back in Indiana and state parks like Brown County.
I must hope, like Australia, we will work to protect our natural resources back in the United States. Not just as sources of beauty, but also so travelers can see some of the natural resources which one of our countries most famous conservationists, Theodore Roosevelt, called the “most glorious heritage a people ever received.”
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