It’s something that’s on many people’s bucket list — swimming with live dolphins in the beautiful Florida Keys.
Swimming With the Dolphins Is an Ideal Family Vacation
In fact, dolphin encounters are perfectly suited to the Florida Keys because it combines several elements of a visit — family activities, ecotourism, education and conservation, respect for local wildlife, snorkeling, boating, getting in the water, and even a sunset if you time it correctly.
All throughout the Keys, from north to south, visitors can swim with dolphins in their natural environment or participate in a structured encounter. Either way, interacting with these highly intelligent marine animals is an experience you’ll never forget.
Structured or Unstructured Swimming With Dolphins
Most dolphin-swim facilities offer both a structured and an unstructured swim, and it all depends on your personal preference.
Unstructured swims are your best option if you want to interact with dolphins in a more natural environment. Here you can engage with dolphins by mimicking their movements, but keep in mind you shouldn’t touch them. Dolphins will often approach swimmers and interact with them on these swims, but you’re not guaranteed contact.
On the other hand, you have the structured swim, which guarantees contact and includes a trainer who helps participants interact with dolphins.
Whichever swim you choose, there are a few popular places that these can occur.
Located just an hour drive south of Miami, Key Largo’s original swim with the dolphins program, Dolphin Plus, offers both structured and unstructured swims. The natural, or unstructured, swim lasts for 30 minutes, whereas the structured swim lasts until each swimmer has had a chance to make direct contact with a dolphin.
Both programs offer an approximately 45-minute educational program about bottlenose dolphins and dolphin interactions. In addition, they offer sea lion swims and dolphin therapy.
Dolphin World offers multiple packages that allow you to swim with dolphins in Key Largo. If you opt for the Full-Day Dolphin Swim Mini Workshop, you’ll get a brief educational presentation, a structured 30-minute interaction with dolphins in both deep and shallow water, 1.5 hours of coral reef snorkeling, and a photo opportunity with a dolphin. If you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to take a dolphin ride across the facility’s pool.
It should be noted that while the facility provides snorkel equipment, guests should bring their own towels.
Dolphin Research Center Marathon
The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon is another 30 miles south from Islamorada and a 501(c)3 not-for-profit research and educational facility. They offer several different daily presentations that demonstrate the dolphins’ high flying athletics, dolphin education fun facts, dolphin research, new behavior training, medical behaviors, and much more.
Not only can you swim with the dolphins, but they also offer a selection of interactive experiences that include the chance to observe, meet, play, splash, or even paint with the marine mammals. For those wanting to take it up a notch, guests can accompany a trainer for a full day, learning hand signals, and participating in actual training and feeding sessions.
They’re open every day except Christmas.
Theater of the Sea in Islamorada
Known as a marine mammal adventure park, at Theater of the Sea in Islamorada you can swim with dolphins, sea lions, and stingrays in their natural salt water lagoons through their interactive swim programs. This family-owned attraction has been going strong since 1946, and comes complete with turtles, alligators, sea lions, parrots and more, offering several experiences designed for various age groups.
In addition to swimming and snorkeling with dolphins, the 30-minute dolphin swim includes learning about certain dolphin behaviors like dorsal tows, kisses and hugs.
Ready to Swim With the Dolphins?
If getting into the water with these fabulous creatures is on your bucket list, contact Sunset Travel & Cruise today to make it happen!