As if 2020 didn't bring about enough disaster, late in the year Dingle's famous dolphin, Fungi, disappeared, never to be seen again.
While many hope he just left the waters of Dingle to join a pod of dolphin, it is much more likely that Fungi raced beside his favorite boats as a final goodbye, then turned to the sea, leaving as mysteriously as he arrived.
Fungi was such a huge part of the Dingle Peninsula for so long, and he will remain that way for years to come.
Though you may not be able to visit Fungi (though do take a photo with his statue at the marina) you can still enjoy other wild dolphins and marine life on a boat tour or seafari from Dingle.
A little about Fungi, the Dingle Dolphin
Fungi is a wild Bottlenose Dolphin who has made his home in Dingle Harbour for over 32 years. There are plenty of thoughts on where Fungi came from and why he chose to stay in the waters near Dingle. It is said that he arrived with another dolphin, possibly a mate, who did not survive the storm that is believed to have brought them to Dingle harbour seeking safety. Is this why he stays?
Though pods of dolphins can often be seen past the mouth of the harbour, further out in Dingle Bay, and Fungi does, occasionally, join them, he has never been drawn from his adopted home of Dingle.
2 Ways to Meet Fungi
If you want to meet a dolphin it just makes sense that you'll be getting on a boat. The Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours office is easy to find… located at the pier you'll easily find the building with its distinctive sign.
Or, if you're having trouble, just look for the statue of Fungi, you'll find the tour office nearby.
Fungi Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours
Boats leave Dingle Pier at regular intervals during the day, so reservations not necessary; just step into the office and Bridget or one of the other lovely staff will get you on the next available boat. (Prefer to book ahead? Buy tickets here.)
“You'll be cruising on Suaimhneas,” we were told as we registered for our boat tour to visit Dingle's most famous resident, “that's lucky, Fungi really likes the orange boat.”
Suiamhness (sue-vah-ness) is the Irish word for tranquility. And while the waters of Dingle Bay were certainly tranquil that perfect May day of our first visit, the girls and I were excited beyond belief to ‘meet' Fungi the Dingle Dolphin.
The wait for our tour, nearly an hour, went by quickly. The girls posed with Fungi's statue and we walked along the pier, watching boats and people.
As the time for our tour neared, people began to gather near the loading platform. I worried that the boat would be so crowded we, and especially the girls, wouldn't be able to get a good spot to view Fungi, should he be in a playful mood.
I needn't have worried. While the boat was full, it wasn't crowded. I did have a small moment of panic as I realized Brenna was no longer at my side. She had found a spot at the rear corner with a group of girls who were clearly younger and more hip than I. I could hear her chattering happily with them as they all watched for Fungi.
We didn't wait long for Fungi to appear at the side of the boat. True to what we were told, he seemed to have a liking for the orange boat.
As we gazed into the sparkling water of Dingle Harbour, we could see Fungi approaching, swimming beside the boat. He would appear and then veer off , leaving us to wonder where he went. Rising from the water in the distance, often far from where we thought he would be, Fungi seemed to enjoy his watery game of ‘hide and seek'. He seemed especially happy when the boat picked up speed, racing beside us, he seemed to be grinning as he broke through the surface.
The Dingle Dolphin Boat Tour lasted an hour and even after nearly continuous sighting of Fungi, the girls wished we could have stayed with him longer. I wished for an even closer experience with this beautiful mammal who seems to have adopted people as his pod and brings such joy to everyone who sees him.
So you know: Payment for the Fungi Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours is made after the tour is finished. If you don't see Fungi you don't pay.
Up Close & Personal Early Morning RIB Tour
As I mentioned above, I left our first Fungi tour wishing for a closer experience. Though it took a few years for us to return to Dingle, when we did the first thing on my agenda was an Up Close & Personal tour on a RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat).
This small, 10 passenger boat offers the chance for Fungi to get as close as he wishes. You can even rent a wetsuit and get in the water with him- though no one on our chilly October tour opted to do so!
This RIB tour heads out before the daily boat tours begin, so the harbour is quiet as you make your way toward the bay, the sound of the RIB competing with the wind as the boat picks up speed. With no sight of Fungi as we approached the cliffs sheltering the mouth of the harbour, we left the protected waters and entered Dingle Bay, hoping the sound of the boat would draw Fungi from his morning meal.
“We haven't had any early morning boats out in a while,” our guide Colm told us as he maneuvered the small RIB between the steep cliffs and vicious looking stone jutting from the sea. Colm seemed sure Fungi would be along soon as he eased us from the still cove.
A few more turns around the mouth of the harbour and suddenly- there he was. Right next to our boat!
And there he stayed for the next hour, playing tag with our boat, swimming deep underneath and appearing on the other side, opposite where we were looking, of course!
Soon our boat was joined by a larger tour boat (from the tour mentioned above). As the boats raced each other, surging forward and dropping back, Fungi got into the game, skimming along the surging wakes and delighting everyone.
Before our two hour tour ended, Colm took us on a short Seafari, out into the waters of Dingle Bay, drawing closer to the cliff faces and giving us a short geology lesson in the formation of Ireland's famed coastline. Then it was out into the open waters where both the Blasket Islands and Skellig Islands could be seen in the distance. Here he really let the RIB show its speed and our tour ended on a rush of adrenaline as we skimmed over the tops of the ocean waves.
Interested in an Up Close Tour? Reservations are necessary and can be made via phone or email.
|TIP: Parking is plentiful at Dingle Pier. Note that parking is ‘Pay and Display' so be sure to have a few €1 and €2 coins with you!||Pin to Your
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|Want to stay in Dingle? We had a lovely stay at Dingle Skellig Hotel.
Find other Dingle hotels at Booking.com.
You'll find the shops around Dingle filled with postcards and plenty of dolphin trinkets. If you're after something a bit more distinctive, visit John Weldon Jewellers on Green Street (about a 3 minute walk from the pier) to see their gorgeous Celtic Dolphin Pendant. I was entranced when I saw Bridget's in the Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours office and had to get one of my own!