No, he’s not our beloved St Patrick or U2’s front man, Bono. Nor is he one of our hunky Hollywood actors Colin Farrell or Michael Fassbender.
Fungie, people… is a dolphin.
But he’s not just any dolphin. He’s practically part of the family. Since 1983, this friendly dolphin has engaged and entertained visitors and locals alike, at his home off the coast of Dingle, a picturesque harbor town in County Kerry.
In fact, he’s so adored by the locals they even built a statue in his honour.
The best way to see Fungie is to take a boat tour and watch him splash about in the sea. So regular are Fungie’s appearances that you won’t be charged if he doesn’t show.
Bridget, tour manager with Dingle Dolphin Boat Tours, reckons she’s seen him thousands of times over the years. “I would say maybe five tours a year don’t see Fungie,” she says, “but 99% of the time he stays in the harbor and enjoys playing close by the tour boats and fishing boats that go in and out every day.”
As you’d expect from a dolphin that has boat tours dedicated to him, Fungie is a pretty impressive character. “People are amazed that they see so much of him; he chooses to swim right beside the tour boat,” says Bridget.
And whether it’s the Kerry air or the Kerry accent that keeps him here, one thing’s for sure: he’s not going anywhere. “He has never left since he first arrived in 1983, Bridget explains. “I think he is fond of Dingle because it’s a very sheltered harbor… He may have been orphaned here and therefore he feels secure here. Dolphins are highly intelligent, and I think he knows he is an honorary member of Dingle.”
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Our flippered friend
One way or another, meeting Fungie is an experience you won’t forget. “I have seen grown men and women cry when they see him,” Bridget says. “Children love calling him and there are loud cheers and laughter when he comes up. Normally everyone applauds when the tour boat is leaving to show their appreciation for this beautiful dolphin.”
Or as David Young, a journalist with the Irish Examiner, puts it: “Having Fungie in your day — well, it’s probably like falling out of the right side of the bed, every morning.”