The most famous dolphin in Ireland and probably the world is a Kerry Dolphin. Fungie has been the star attraction swimming around Dingle Bay for well on 35 years.
Fungie, a male bottlenose dolphin, appeared in the waters of Dingle in the mid-1980's. A dolphin near a harbour is not unique on the west coast of Ireland, but unlike the other dolphins Fungie seemingly has chosen to spend his life in solitude near Dingle.
Dingle Bay has become home to "Fungi", a solitary dolphin known for interacting with humans. And for single-flippered-ly kickstarting a whole industry. A Dingle attraction of his own - ever since the dolphin appeared in Dingle Bay more and more dolphin-related activities, shops and souvenirs have surfaced.
No one is quite sure of his age but he has been here for nearly 35 years and the experts say he has a lifespan of between 40 and 50 years.
He is about 13 feet in length and weighs around 250kgs. The media named him in the early years and although there is no meaning in the Irish language for the word ‘Fungie’, it does suggest he is a Fun-Guy. His easygoing manner, never shying away from humans, quickly turned him into a local treasure, pleasing children and adults alike.
People from all walks of life, from all over the world, from 2 weeks to 93 years old, have come to Dingle especially to see Fungie. Many people decide to become one with nature, and meet with Fungie in his own environment, and brave the cold waters of the harbor.
When he first came to the area, he was quite interactive and playful but in the last 15 years, he’s settled in and he’ll come close but he won’t let people touch him except those he knows really well. That’s the way he is. There’s no reason for him to keep doing it, except he enjoys doing it. Experts have said down the years it’s probably the interaction with the people that keeps him here and definite he’s a show off, without a doubt.
Initially his self-appointed job was to accompany fishing boats, but in the course of the years he lost his timidity and started to play with virtually everybody in and on the water, although it is said that he has developed a slight preference for women.
You can hop on any one of the boats that sail out to see him. The boatmen do not charge passengers if Fungi is not seen. They only collect the money after the dolphin has appeared.
The boat chugs out into the bay and there is an air of excited anticipation. At first there is no sign of any dolphin and you wonder if the trip is going to be worthwhile. But in the distance, on the far side of the bay close to the shore, a small cluster of boats indicates there is movement in the water. Suddenly, somebody shouts: "There he is!, there's Fungi, look there!" And there, for a brief moment, is the most famous dolphin in Europe, but how do you know it is Fungi, rather than some random dolphin, who just happens to be in the area?
You can tell it's him because there is a little nick on his fin which he got from a propeller 20 years ago, say the boatmen. A glance at old pictures seems to confirm this.
At first the elderly dolphin moves slowly through the water, only appearing every 15 or 20 seconds. But then, he dips, tilts, arches and twists, and then he gathers up speed and the boat rushes to follow. Suddenly he flips high out of the water, showing off his white front, and he repeats this show several times.
Some feel he is a peculiar animal in that he seems to prefer the company of humans to that of other dolphins. Is he really wild any more if he has hung around for so long, posing for all-comers?
Other dolphins come into the harbour. Sometimes he will interact with them and sometimes not.
You don`t need to get onto a boat to see Fungie. Take a walk out by the skellig hotel and along the banks. You will be able to watch him in the bay from a little beach, and from the lighthouse. The boats only go as far as this place anyway and its free to walk.
Fungie is in all aspects a free animal. Apart from scraps from the fishing boats he does not receive supplemental food and he can leave Dingle any time. In my opinion these trips are a perfect manner to get acquainted with this creature of God, or, as stated on the statue of Fungie:
At the dawning of the new millennium we celebrate Fungie the Dolphin who since 1988 has made Dingle Bay his home. His joyous and generous spirit reminds us that all Earth's creatures are connected in the great Web of Creation. Let us be caretakers.
Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours provides boat trips to see Fungie the Dingle Dolphin in Dingle Harbour, Kerry, Ireland.