Fisherman visits dolphin every day to make up for the missing tourists

May 8, 2020, 2:16 p.m.
Fungie the dolphin swimming alongside a boat.
Photo: Anne Bendix/Shutterstock

Fungie is no stranger to solitude.

Since the bottlen-nosed dolphin was first spotted in Irish waters back in 1983, he's almost never seen with even a single friend. Fungie is so famed for his solo act, even Guinness World Records has taken notice, naming him the world's longest-lived solitary dolphin.

That's not to say Fungie doesn't enjoy visitors. In fact, he's spawned his own tourist industry in southwest Ireland, where people clamber aboard so-called "Fungie boats" to meet the iconic dolphin.

"People are amazed that they see so much of him," one tour operator tells Irelend.com. "He chooses to swim right beside the tour boat."

Indeed, anyone swimming, boating or kayaking in Dingle harbor will soon have a very enthusiastic dolphin cavorting at their side.

But earlier this year, with the world in the throes of a pandemic, the Fungie boats went silent. No one visits the dolphin any more.

Well, except for one man — an angler named Jimmy Flannery.

He was among several locals who noticed that Fungie hadn't been himself lately.

"Fungie was lonely alright," he tells the Independent. "He follows the (commercial) fishing boats out but they don't have time for him. They are too busy heading to the fishing grounds."

Indeed, whenever a boat left from Dingle's port, Fungie would race after it, hoping it was a contingent of his adoring fans, the newspaper reports. The dolphin would race towards it, only to be met with indifference.

So, for the last few weeks, Flannery has been paying twice-daily visits to the old harbor resident. Flannery, the newspaper notes, likes to call his sessions with Fungie "fishing chores."

But the truth is, loneliness wears on us all, humans and dolphins alike.