Dolphin Safari history
The story began back in 1969 when Dolphin Safari was originally formed by Mike Lawrence, a retired pilot. Operating from Marina Bay, Mike even published a handbook and guide to try and explain to people what wild dolphin watching is all about. See an old photo of the original catamaran dolphin boat when Prince Charles and Princess Diana came to visit the Rock on their honeymoon on The Royal Yacht Britannia below, see the little Dolphin Safari boat in the bottom left corner, that’s us!
In 1995 he retired and sold the business to one of the current owners, Tim Montgomery, who was joined a year later by Conchy Lopez. Conchy had been focusing on whale watching experiences in Spain. During the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s Mike operated in the summer months, running the business as more of a hobby, using the little catamaran Sea Marauder.
When Tim first bought the business he set about adjusting Sea Marauder to have a fly bridge, larger railings and suitable seating as the image below shows. Their passenger capacity in those days was for 12 to give the customer an intimate experience with the dolphins.
However regulations changed and stated that a commercial passenger vessel had to be at least 40 feet long, so the little boat had to go, enter Goldfin. Although the little catamaran had done an excellent job, Tim and Conchy wanted something that was specially built for dolphin watching and they commissioned Goldfin to be built with her new state of the art trihedral hull. They needed a boat that was not only stable, but also able to maneuver with the dolphins. Being a much larger boat Goldfin carries a maximum of 25 passengers, she could carry more but as a company Safari will not do that.
During the late 90’s other people saw the success of Tim and Conchy and misunderstood the love of dolphin watching, other dolphin boats started to appear, mostly carrying much larger groups than the 25 on Goldfin, and no doubt making a lot of money, but Tim and Conchy stood by the original belief with which Safari was established, that it is a quality, intimate experience. It is not nice to cram passengers in like cattle and they refused to do that, so The Original Dolphin Safari continued in amongst a sea of giants.
But as testimony to what they have worked for and achieved, and what Mike Lawrence set out to establish over 47 years ago, Safari survived in that sea of giants thanks to one major factor, that they have customers and visitors that came as children years ago, and now come with their children and even grandchildren to visit the Original Dolphin Safari, because they know they will be treated like a person and not cattle or a number, and they have the best chance to see the dolphins. And although many things can kill a business, nothing can kill that loyalty and devotion that the international following of fans and supporters give to Dolphin Safari and we all thank those supporters.