Dolphin and Seal Swim Reef Snorkel Boat Tour from Sorrento
Avoid the crowds on a fast RIB boat ride and enjoy swimming with dolphins, snorkel with seals and float with weedy seadragons on the Great Southern Reef on tour with 12 guests.
Ethical Swim with Wild Dolphins and Seals Tour
Escape the Everyday in Nature
Fun, Swift and Stable RIB Boat Ride
All Snorkel Gear Inclusive Tour
Up Close and Personal Educational Experience
Only 12x Guests On Tour!
Prices pp: Child $99 (Age 8-14) Adult $119
2 Hour Tour
From Sorrento Pier, Esplanade, Sorrento VIC 3943.
All Snorkelling Equipment Included.
Details & Itinerary
- Unlike the larger tour boats, we use 6-12 passenger RIB boats, for a fast, up close and personal wildlife experience
- Highest chances of seeing wildlife with highly trained, personable, knowledgeable and fun guides
- Join an ethical wildlife tour, there’s no pursuit of dolphins, sightings and dolphin swims are not guaranteed, but when you do, you know it’s the best authentic interaction
- If you are looking for adventure, our low profile RIBs will get you closer to the action
- Wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins all provided too
- Tours conducted strictly under authorised permit conditions
FAST AND FUN RIB BOAT!
You are guaranteed to have a good time on one of our fun, swift and stable rigid inflatable boats (RIB) during a WaterMaarq tour. With no crowds, no hassle and almost no sea-sickness, enjoy a zoom across the bay from Sorrento with less time in transit and more time snorkelling to explore the most amazing marine eco system known as the Great Southern Reef, with the incredible opportunity of your life to swim with wild bottlenose dolphins and fur seals.
Enjoy exploring up to three snorkel spots with your snorkelling guide and discover the thrill of a true up close and personal interaction with marine life. You will feel safe and calm with our certified guide, soaking up knowledge and information about our local species, all the time finding out insightful tips and developing new snorkelling skills and techniques. Beginning in shallower protected waters you’ll seek out the weedy seadragon in the weedy reef habitat below. Making a second stop at the Popes Eye Marine Park you’ll quickly find yourself exploring the outer reef of the safe haven where you will be amazed by the amount of fish species and vibrance of the kelp. During the tour when dolphins appear the opportunity to enter the water and see them swimming by closely underwater will create an unforgettable life-long memory. Celebrating your new adventure into the marine world, you’ll then twist and turn swimming freely with the seals.
As Victoria’s Number One Adventure Tourism operators we are experts in taking new and beginner snorkellers from fear to fun with our marine science and outdoor education trained snorkel guides by your side, all in just a few moments in the water.
Join the award-winning WaterMaarq on a 2-hour boat tour and enjoy it for yourself. See guest reviews on TripAdvisor.
WORLD OF COLOUR
Explore the undiscovered Great Southern Reef, home to marine life only found in temperate waters. Here you’ll be surprised by the marine life you see, species of which 80% don’t exist anywhere else on Earth. You’ll get up close and personal to unique fish including blue-throat wrasse, leatherjackets, old-wives, zebra fish, stingrays, nudibranchs, boarfish, gorgonian corals and fur seals, an experience like nowhere else.
Port Phillip Bay is the best place to snorkel the extensive Great Southern Reef as it’s protected from the ocean swell, the waters are shallow and you feel comfortable at Pope’s Eye, it’s like a giant circular swimming pool, the only difference, there’s real wild fish in there!
At this Marine Park, the protected shallow waters are perfect to develop your snorkelling skills whilst seeing unique colourful fish, resting Australian Fur Seals and the beautiful birdlife that nests there, the Australasian Gannets.
The local population of bottlenose dolphins are significant to our area and it’s always an exciting moment when they choose to interact with us. They don’t always appear, but when they do we have the unique chance in life to be in the water with them, appreciating their size and the incredible look in their eyes as they swim in close range.
Visit a new world of colour on this fun boat tour from the pretty seaside town of Sorrento, near Melbourne.
The indicative 11am tour schedule is as follows:
10:35am At least 25-minutes before scheduled departure, meet at the end of Sorrento Pier where our guide will greet you and distribute your snorkelling gear
11:00am Scheduled departure time – leave the pier and zoom away from Sorrento on board our fun RIB boat
11:10am Arrive at our first destination to snorkel with the weedy seadragons
11:30am Board the boat for our transit to the Popes Eye Marine Park, looking out for dolphin sightings and an opportunity to swim with them!**
11:45am Arrive at Popes Eye Marine Park to explore the reef
12:15pm Board the boat for our quick transit to the seal haul-out platform
12:20pm Plunge on in to swim freely with the fur seals
12:45pm Board the boat for our final zoom across the bay back to Sorrento Pier
1:00pm Return at Sorrento Pier
1:05pm-1:30pm Change clothes and swap stories and photos!
**Dolphins may appear at any stage during the tour and the itinerary will be modified to optimise the wildlife swim experience
What You Should Bring
Swimwear, 2x towels in case it is cold (one for the tour, one for after), small bag with drink bottle, underwater camera, hat, sunglasses, warm clothing. We supply you with a warm wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins.
Best Things About This Snorkel Excursion
A super fun 2-hour boat ride in the southern part of Port Phillip Bay for just 10 swimmers (12 guests total). We’ll visit the absolutely amazing weedy seadragons, the species of our Victorian Marine State Emblem and then the super cool Popes Eye snorkelling spot where you will find awesome features of the Great Southern Reef, plenty of colour and fish to see. Along the way as the dolphins appear you’ll enjoy the unique opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins. Celebrating your new marine adventure, the Australian Fur Seals will delight you with the most fun you’ll ever have in the sea with a wild marine animal.
When do we arrive?
Be at the pier 25-minutes before departure. Allow plenty of time to find parking and make your way out to the end of the pier. At the pier you will dress in your wetsuit and receive your snorkelling equipment.
Where do we meet?
See the travel directions and details here. Please be aware that tours depart at the scheduled time and will not be delayed for guests arriving late, in which case tour guests will be deemed a no-show and all fees forfeited.
What does the tour involve?
Guided by your expert in-water guide, you’ll enjoy up to three snorkelling spots with a swift transit in between. Enjoy plenty of one-on-one time to ask questions and receive tips and advice about snorkelling, the local Mornington Peninsula region and the exquisite temperate marine life of our gorgeous Port Phillip Bay. Guided by your expert in-water guide, the shallow waters at the beginning help build skills and confidence easily as the reef is explored to identify weedy seadragons. The second stop Pope’s Eye provides the perfect marine park location. On the inside of the park, the shallow waters are the ideal place to snorkel with ease and comfort to see vibrant and cheeky fish like Scalyfin. On the outside, the nutrient rich waters feed kelp and an abundance of fish species, the colours will amaze you! Along the way, when dolphins appear you’ll have the opportunity to enter the water and enjoy seeing them as they swim close by underwater.
Can anyone join?
Yes, it’s perfect for new and experienced snorkellers, families and anyone who wants a first hand look at our local reef and to be surprised by the colourful life under the surface. All you need is basic swimming skills and a keen spirit for adventure.
If you prefer to stay on the boat and observe and support your friends and family whilst they swim, you can do that too!
Will I get seasick?
Our Rigid Inflatable Boats are the same as the ones the Navy, Search and Rescue, Water Police, Fisheries and Coastguard operators use around the world. We call them the rally cars of the sea because of the sure-footed, stable and capable handling they have in all kinds of conditions.
Seasickness does not happen often on a RIB boat, they are open so you feel the fresh air, and the boat sits close to the water surface. If you’re worried about seasickness, we recommend talking with your local pharmacist or doctor about the various remedies available and follow their advice for taking precautions.
How cold is the water?
The Bay waters here on the Mornington Peninsula are beautiful with sandy beaches and exposed coastal cliffs. The water is generally cleaner and clearer and in summer months reaches temperatures up to 21 degrees. Winter temperatures are as low as 8c and Late Spring/Early Autumn average is around 17c+ .
When is the best time to see dolphins?
The best time to see dolphins is when you’re out on tour! The local population of bottlenose dolphins (also referred to as Burrunan dolphins) are a geographically significant small population that reside in Port Phillip Bay. Their feeding and rest habits govern their movements, which are also influenced by the season, the time of day, the tide direction and flow, as well as the prevailing sea conditions, so the best time to see them is when they choose to interact, because it’s a genuine and authentic interaction.
Our experience and insights enable us to have the highest chance of dolphin sightings, and even though sometimes they choose not to appear, or their behaviour prevents an interaction, when they do appear you’ll know it’s the best authentic interaction you can enjoy.
Are marine wildlife sightings and encounters guaranteed?
Port Phillip Bay and the Great Southern Reef marine life and vegetation provide the most amazing opportunity to snorkel with temperate water species that 80% of which don’t exist anywhere else on Earth.
Very common species of fish such as the wrasse, leatherjacket, old wife, zebrafish and dusky morwong are features of our bay and you’ll see at least one or two species almost every time you’re in the water. Stingarees and stingrays are also sighted in highly regular fashion in the sand beds and around rocky ledges. Weedy seadragons, an incredibly popular icon of our tours are visible almost all of the time, however in some conditions they are very hard to see, because their colour, pattern, shape, movement and behaviour is their defence mechanism, they are just such masters of camouflage in their weedy reef habitat.
The bottlenose dolphins do not always appear, even though they appear quite often, because of their feeding and resting habits which influence their movements around the southern part of Port Phillip Bay, so it’s not possible to provide a sighting guarantee. At certain times of the year you might see an eel swim by as it takes off on its long journey into warmer waters up north, however this is quite rare and may only occur once or twice per year. Species like the warty prowfish have only been seen once in five years, so it’s extremely rare.
Animals such as the Australian Fur Seals are a guaranteed sighting as they haul-out onto specific locations in Port Phillip Bay to rest, so you can be confident you’ll see them.
These are all the reasons why every hour and every day is an exciting adventure in Port Phillip Bay, it’s a true wildlife experience and you never know exactly which amazing marine life interaction you’re going to have in the moment. And it’s exactly what we love about our tours and what keeps us thriving and fascinated by the waters at our doorstep. We hope you’ll appreciate and love it for these reasons too!
Featured Marine Wildlife
The Weedy Seadragon is a mesmerising feature of this tour. Their colour, body shape and movements are the perfect camouflage to become hidden in the weedy reef below. Found in kelp-covered rocky reefs from 1-50m deep, their real reputation is for the males that carry up to 250 eggs during peak breeding season (early to late summer / Nov-Feb). With only around 50 individuals existing in the local habitat, the VNPA Dragon Quest is a great initiative set to better understand the populations, because so little is known. You might even have one named after you!
In equal first place for building guest’s excitement levels are the Australian Fur Seals. Once upon a time hunted extensively for their pelt (fur), the Sealing industry almost wiped them out with only a few hundred individuals left in the population which meant the industry became unviable. Fortunately protections were put in place and nowadays these fully-protected local marine animals that can hold their breath for longer than five minutes, dive deeper than 100m and that can sleep both in the water and on land, number in their thousands and swim playfully with humans.
Everyone’s favourite is of course the bottlenose dolphin (scientific name: Tursiops truncatas) and these ever-smiling species are often affectionately referred to as Flipper due to the old television show featuring the very entertaining lead dolphin character. A protected species in our bay, WaterMaarq tours operate under strict permit conditions to provide dolphin watching and swim tours. They’re commonly seen in groups or pods from two to up to thirty individuals on tour. They’re not only incredibly smart and social animals, they’re also very fast swimmers, achieving speeds up to 40km/h. A wonderful sight on tour, their presence always brings a smile to everyone on board.
Other species to look for:
- Blue-throat wrasse – curiously begin life as female fish and change into male as they grow
- Smooth stingrays – Australia’s largest species of stingray, growing up to 4.2m long and 350kg
- Scalyfin – defensive territorial fish
- Leatherjackets – fish with rough sandpaper-like skin and beak-like teeth
- Old wives – silver and black fish that look like angel fish and are noisy
- Longsnout boarfish – endemic to Australia and identifiable by its long snout and fanned out spines
- Southern short-fin eel – rare sightings occur in Autumn as they migrate from freshwater to the open sea to breed
All Snorkelling Equipment Included
Begin with a chat about what you’re likely to see, a thorough safety briefing, and an equipment demonstration. You’ll be provided with high-quality snorkeling equipment, including a wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and fins. All you need to bring is your swimwear, a towel, and a sense of adventure.
Take the plunge and discover the underwater secrets of Port Phillip Bay on a guided snorkelling experience at Popes Eye Marine Park. Enjoy more time to explore with a small group of up to 12 guests and high-quality equipment.
World Leading Conservation at Popes Eye
The State of Victoria became a world leader in marine conservation when, after 11 years of investigation, community consultation and debate, it established a system of highly-protected marine national parks and sanctuaries in June 2002.
Marine national parks are highly protected areas that conserve unique marine habitats in their natural state, and provide an insurance policy against environmental impacts. Victoria’s marine areas include rocky reefs, sponge gardens, towering kelp forests, sandy seafloors, seagrass meadows, mangroves and saltmarsh.
Popes Eye as part of the 3580ha Port Phillip Heads Marine Park network is highly protected and reserved for conservation and protection of marine biodiversity and natural processes, maintenance of scientific reference areas and the opportunity to observe Nature in its true form. It provides a core example and the combination of outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values.
Great Southern Reef
Extending around Australia’s southern coastline is a series of reefs holding some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. The Great Southern Reef features extensive kelp seaweed forests that support many marine species that are not found anywhere else on Earth. Unique fish, sponges, crustaceans, starfish, urchins, snails, shellfish and nudibranchs, as well as world famed rock lobster and abalone. Let’s not forget the amazing weedy seadragon too!
It is a truly unique ecosystem. The kelp beds provide the ecologicial foundation to the string of rocky reefs that extend across southern Australia. Quite different to tropical coral reef, the main feature is the extensive kelp seaweed, some of which can grow up to 1-metre in length in a single day. Kelp is critical to the health of the marine life it provides home to. It’s also under threat though, warming sea temperatures and the spread of sea urchins damage the kelp and therefore the habitat and life of the fish, abalone, molluscs and seadragons that so depend on it.
2hr Dolphin and Seal Swim Reef Snorkel Boat Tour from Sorrento
The Dolphin and Seal Swim guided reef snorkelling boat tour departs from Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. It’s an easy drive from Melbourne or take the ferry from Queenscliff.
Drive yourself to Sorrento and join our 2hr RIB Boat Tour.
From Melbourne you’ll need to drive around 90 minutes south to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula (allow 2 hours in summer, sometimes longer). Once you’re in Sorrento, you should park near the ferry terminal. Make your way to the Sorrento Pier (at the end of the Esplanade).
More Transport Options
Please click here see our detailed directions and additional travel information.
Sorrento Pier address: Esplanade, Sorrento VIC 3943
Things to Bring
Make sure you dress warmly for the tour, warm jackets, hats, beanies and good footwear are recommended. Bring your own swimwear and towel. We recommend two towels, one for use during the tour and one for afterwards if you prefer. Arrive with your swimwear already on underneath your clothing to make it easier to get changed into your wetsuit before the tour at the pier. A small bag or back-pack is advised for storing your gear on the boat. And don’t forget your favourite camera!
Regular tour departure times at 11am and 2pm. Please contact us with your special requests.
2 Hours. Allow 3 hours in total to change into your gear before and after the tour.
Snorkelling and Wildlife Swim Tour
Observer (Adult non-swimmer / sightsee): $99pp
*Children (8-14) must be accompanied by an adult
Things to Know
- It is recommended that you book at least one week in advance of your preferred date to book the best time and day for your tour and avoid missing out
- Port Phillip Bay has regular changing conditions, tide and sea levels and your tour will be optimised for the best experience in line with the forecast and prevailing conditions
- Guests must be physically fit and have sufficient mobility as we snorkel swim in open water and use a ladder to enter and exit the boat
- Passengers with back, neck, shoulder or heart conditions, those who are pregnant or who have injuries/conditions that may cause a risk to their health are advised to not do these tours, or do so at their own risk
- Please arrive 25 minutes before tour departure time. Tours depart at the scheduled time and late arrivals will be deemed a no-show and all tour fees forfeited
- Dolphins often appear, but as they are wild animals do not always appear on tour, therefore dolphin sightings and swims cannot be guaranteed. Tours are conducted under strict permit conditions (available here) and must be followed for all dolphin swim and watching experiences without variation
- Tour times may be altered or cancelled due to sea conditions and we will use all reasonable endeavours to provide 24 hours notice
Click the Map for Directions
Bookings and Cancellations
Bookings are essential as places are subject to availability. Tours operate daily except Christmas Day and selected public holidays.
Full payment for your tour is required at the time of booking. 100% cancellation fee applies for no-show or cancellations within 24 hours of departure, 50% for cancellations within 48 hours of departure.