Terry Howson grew up surfing, sailing and swimming on the waters and beaches of Rockingham. In 1989, at the age of 23, he set out to pursue his dream of swimming with the local wild dolphins.
Terry dedicated 12 months to learn as much about the dolphins as he could. Seven days a week, 10 hours a day he followed them on his family’s small boat, observing their habits and behaviours. Many months later his determination finally paid off with his first in water encounter with a curious young female dolphin, who he now knows as Logo. As time went on Terry’s interactions with Logo became more frequent as her trust in his friendship strengthened. Gradually, other dolphins became curious of the new visitor and started to interact on a regular basis.
Terry set out to establish a dolphin swim project, unlike any other in the world. The idea was to offer a truly wild dolphin encounter. He believed the dolphins should not be fed by humans or taken out of their natural environment to ensure natural behaviours and independence was conserved. He also believed learning how to fit into the dolphin’s way of life rather than trying to make them conform to ours was the only way to truly present a wild dolphin experience. This operation was christened ‘Rockingham Dolphins’ and it was a ‘one man show’ with Terry skippering, tour guiding, taking bookings, doing the marketing and the maintenance.
As word of mouth grew, Terry focused on improving and growing the business into the successful company that it is today. This dedication to excellence was recognized by the Industry in 2001 when Rockingham Dolphins won the ecotourism category of the Western Australian Tourism Awards. After subsequent wins in 2002 & 2003 Rockingham Dolphins followed up in 2004 with a National Ecotourism Award and by being inducted into the WA Tourism Hall of Fame.
Since then Terry has continued to develop other local ecotourism opportunities with the formation of Rockingham Wild Encounters (RWE), a partnership with long term employee Aaron Heath founded in 2005. RWE operates the Penguin Island ferry service and cruises that showcase the local marine wildlife and scenic highlights of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. RWE now operates 4 boats, an extensive gift and homewares store, Pengos Café and services over 100,000 passengers a year. Terry and Aaron take great pride in their ecotourism operations and feel very privileged to be able to introduce this special part of Western Australia to visitors from all over the world.