Coffs Harbour’s Pet Porpoise Pool is an institution on Coffs Coast that has seen off the bad times. Australian Traveller magazine rates the sea animal attractions.

The first thing you do when you enter Coffs Harbour’s Pet Porpoise Pool is get a photo with a seal and a dolphin. It’s free and part of your admission. They do try and sting you to buy a photo, but at the end of the day you’re more than happy to.

“It’s all about LOVE here at the Pet Porposie Pool,” screams Kimberley, who, after my very fishy seal and dolphin kiss, kicks off the afternon show. And it’s a labour of love for all involved.

The Pet Porpoise Pool is a throwback from the ’50s when dolphins were still considered porpoises and catching wild dolphins and sticking them in a small pool was acceptable. Today it’s a very diferent story.

All the animals at the Pool have either been rescued or raised in captivity. Pearl, an endangered NZ fur seal, was found running on a beach being chased by dogs with a fishhook through her eye. Rescued and rehabilitated, Pearl is not fit to return to the wild as she’s blind in one eye and is now a performer in the show. Bucky, the 36-year-old performing dolphin, was found about to die on an Oyster lease in the Tweed River. Authorities had saved Bucky from that particular lease several times before and decided that, as he was such a creature of habit, he was best off in a lease-free pool.

The Pet Porpoise Pool actually tries to return all rescued animals to the wild and returns probably one or two mammals a year.

The size of the pools is rather small and they’d dearly love to expand the grounds – council permitting. The animals do have the run of the place. Every morning the keepers open the entire enclosure for the animals to wander where they like for two hours before the crowds arrive. This means you have the seals and the dolphins all frolicking together. The animal trainers also take great care to make sure their aimals are stimulated and everything’s a game for them. The trainers are sooo involved in their animals – they’re known to turn up and check in on their charges even on their days off.

But back to Kimberley and the show. It has all the requisite gags. Solomon the huge seal sneezes on an unsuspecting member of the audience. The dolphins play football and dive through hoops. Bucky is said to be the first dolphin to balance a ball on his nose in the world.

Upon reflection it’s the enthusiasm that the dolphins themselves show that makes me feel that the animal lover in me can actually recommend this place to people as one of Australia’s best up close and personal sea animal experiences. The animals seem genuinely happy and there seems to be a great deal of care for all involved.

The AT Verdict
The place is old and definitely needs work done – it could be made retro cool very, very quickly. However, the enthusiasm of all the staff and animals makes it a surprisingly fantastic couple of hours.
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