FUNGIE, THE DINGLE DOLPHIN
Fungie, Deilf an Daingin
In 1984, Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, first began watching a lone wild dolphin escort the town's fishing boats to and from port. By August of that year, local Ministry of Marine manager Kevin Flannery was able to officially record the dolphin as a "permanent" resident of the entrance channel and self-appointed "pilot" of the fleet.
Two years later the continuous investigations of a couple of cetacea enthusiasts, Sheila Stokes and Brian Holmes, brought them to Dingle Pier and into conversation with the seamen who were still being entertained by the dolphin. Nine months of intensive aquatic contact later, the dolphin had decided to develop from a timid but inquisitive observer of the human visitors into a playful, though mischievous, companion. It also soon became apparent that having become accustomed to them, all humans, particularly females, would be welcome. Now each and every person receives the same special preferential treatment, be they swimmers, divers, canoeists, windsurfers, or children paddling from the small adjacent beach.
The working vessels that regularly cross the dolphin's chosen territory, however, remain his main priority, and it is a rare and special privilege when he remains with a vessel during their seaward or homeward passages. On occasion he has been seen to clear the water to the height of a vessel's bridge, but usually he seems to "roll" ahead in the bow wave, appearing so quickly as to give the impression that there must be more than one.
The Dingle Dolphin -- or Fungie, the name given to him by the fishermen -- is a fully grown, possibly middle aged, male bottlenose, Tursiops Truncatus. He weighs in at around one-quarter tonne (500 lbs.) and measures in the region of four metres (13 feet). Although it is by no means unique to find these usually social, open creatures living alone in a "restricted" zone and befriending humans, it is still a relatively rare world event, and Fungie is Ireland's first recorded occurrence. From observation of (playful) body scarring it seems he does still frequently encounter other whales, dolphins or porpoises, proving perhaps he is neither true hermit nor outcast from his own kind, but rather that he is simply content with his current circumstances. No one really knows why some of these creatures suddenly take to a solitary way of life, but perhaps his persistence in maintaining it and physical conditions would at least indicate the area is a welcoming home with not too many natural dangers.
During the summer months Fungie is often seen taking fish in the harbour mouth. On several occasions he has been observed catching a fish commonly known as a "Garfish", a species which had not previously been recorded as part of a dolphin's diet. During the winter months he must travel further afield for his nourishment.
Dingle Boatmen's Association
The Boatmen's Association comprises 8 passenger boats fully licenced by the
Department of the Marine and manned by experienced and qualified crews.
The boats leave Dingle Pier at regular intervals during the day, every day, all year round (weather permitting) on a 1 hour trip to see Fungie wild and free in his natural habitat.