What’s It Like Swimming With Dolphins?

Swimming with dolphins is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It’s a big deal, so no wonder, people have lots of questions about it.  Some of these questions, may have held you back from taking the plunge and swimming with these majestic creatures. We’d like to answer those questions, so you don’t miss your chance to swim with dolphins.

Some of the most frequently asked questions regarding swimming with dolphins include:

  • What is it like to swim with dolphins?
  • What should I expect from your swimming programs?
  • How long is your program, and how long will I be in the water?

Let’s dive into the experience and find out all about it.

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Who’s having more fun during this Structured Swim, the boys or the dolphins?!

Swimming with dolphins is a one-of-a-kind experience! Sharing space with these magnificent creatures can be quite exhilarating, to say the least.  When swimming with dolphins at Dolphins Plus you may experience holding on to their dorsal fin while they pull you through the water; floating on your back while they push you by your feet; and give rubs, kisses, and handshakes.

All swim programs and interactions at Dolphins Plus are fun and immersive educational experiences.  First, guests participate in an educational segment in which they learn about dolphin physiology and behavior.  Additionally, guests learn about marine ecology and things that you can do in your own lives to help protect this fragile ecosystem.

Following the educational segment of the program, guests are introduced to the dolphins and enjoy the swim program they registered for.  Interactions with the dolphins are untimed and are based on a series of behaviors. Everyone will have the opportunity to participate in the same number of interactive behaviors with the dolphins.

You can expect to be at our facility for about 1.5 hours from arrival to departure. This includes education, getting you ready, the encounter itself (which is not timed), and checking out through our photo department and gift shop. The in-water portion of our encounters is not based on time in-water, but on each set of participants getting to do the same number of interactive behaviors as everyone else (according to the program). 

Structured Swim Program From Start To Finish

From the minute guests arrive at Dolphins Plus they have a great time meeting our dolphin trainers, learning new things, and swimming with our dolphins.  When guests arrive at our facility, we greet them at our guest services check-in area and offer a lovely veranda to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of Key Largo.  We offer environmentally sensitive sunscreens and rash guards due to the resent research suggesting that chemicals found in over the counter sunscreens can be detrimental to the marine environment.  Prior to swimming with our dolphins, guests participate in an educational briefing about dolphins and marine life.

The Florida Keys are known for the mild winters, so swims take place year-round, rain or shine.  If the water happens to be cooler than usual, guests are offered wetsuits to use during swims. Regardless of the time of year, all guests must wear flotation vests during swims.  Once the fittings are completed, guests finally get to meet and swim with our dolphins.

During our Structured Swim program, you and your party will have one-on-one time with our dolphin(s) and one of our trainers.  During the Structured Swim, you will be treading in water 12-15 feet deep. Your trainer will give you and your party specific details on how to interact with the dolphin or dolphins in your program.  Additionally, your trainer will give the dolphin(s) specific commands on the behaviors you will get to experience - high jumps, handshakes, kisses, and more.

Once swims conclude, we have an outdoor shower and an additional area for drying off and changing after swims. Additionally, participants can pre-purchase their photos, and review them at guest services.  We also welcome members of your party to take pictures during your swim.

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Shallow Water Encounter

If you’re not comfortable being in deep water, you may consider participating in our Shallow Water Encounter.  During this program, you will be standing comfortably on a moving platform that is lowered into the water. You will be submerged between knee and waist level, depending on your height.  The dolphin will then swim over to you and interact with certain hand signals. You will get to experience handshakes, kisses, belly rubs, and more. Additionally, you have the option to add on a dorsal tow to the encounter for an additional cost.

DOL_Family_Shallow_Water_Encounter-2Not sure about a structured swim?  You can still interact with our dolphins in our Shallow Water Encounter.

Additional Dolphin Programs

If you're still hesitating about being in the water, but still want to interact with our dolphins and trainers, we have an array of programs that might better suit you. 

Dolphin Dockside

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The Dolphin Dockside program is an up-close and personal opportunity to meet one of our Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.  You will be standing on a floating platform with one of our trainers. You will experience belly rubs and handshakes. You’ll even get to test out your dolphin training skills with hand signals to communicate with one of our dolphins.

Dolphin Paint Program

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If you’re the artistic type, we have a fun Dolphin Paint program.  Pick out three of your favorite colors, so that you can assist one of our dolphins to create a unique work of art.

Kiss By A Dolphin
 
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Have you ever wanted to be kissed by a dolphin?  If the answer is yes, then this is the perfect program for you! You will get the chance to meet one of our dolphins while kneeling on a floating dock.  You’ll also get to kiss one of our dolphins and receive a kiss in return.

Touch Tank

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The touch tank experience is perfect for the science-loving type of person.  Guests will get the chance to investigate other animals that live in our backyard.  One of our staff educators will allow you to touch and explore a few of the amazing marine invertebrates that reside in the Florida Bay.

Behind the Scenes

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If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to care for dolphins, you can participate in our behind the scenes program.  One of our staff educators will demonstrate things such as diet preparation to nutritional supplements. And, just a little warning, this might get a little smelly as you will be around fish!

What Our Guests Say It’s Like Swimming with Dolphins

Guests experience a range of emotions before, during, and after swimming with our dolphins.  The most common expression from guests is just how awesome it is to be able to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. Take a look at some guest reviews from TripAdvisor:

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Our Trainers And Staff

At Dolphins Plus our trainers and staff are top-notch. Not only are they cream of the crop, but they also love what they do - and, it shows!  If you don’t believe us, take a look at what guests are saying about our trainers and their experiences at our facility:

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Conservation

It is a privilege to share everyday life with the dolphins in our family, but with privilege comes a great responsibility to learn as much as possible about marine mammals and their environment.  With the knowledge we obtain, we can better manage and conserve both managed care dolphins and wild population dolphins. That is why, here at Dolphins Plus, we share our knowledge about dolphins and other marine mammals with our guests.

As mentioned, prior to all swims or dolphin interactions, guests participate in an educational briefing.  During the briefing, one of our highly trained dolphin experts discusses topics such as dolphin anatomy, social behavior, reproductive biology, echolocation, dolphin/human interaction, and conservation.  The session concludes with information on what to expect during the swim, including what can and cannot be done during swims.

DOL_Couple_Swimming_With_Dolphins_High_JumpOur Structured Swim makes you feel like a true dolphin trainer.  Just look at these two dolphins and their gorgeous high jump!

One of the most important segments of the educational briefing, without a doubt, is the segment regarding conservation.  This part of the briefing highlights challenges faced by marine life and its inhabitants. Sadly, one characteristic that all marine mammals share is that most are, or have been, exploited by humans. Some marine mammals are considered endangered species, while some have even been driven to extinction.  There are other major threats to marine mammals, such as entanglement in fishing gear and nets. When this occurs, it is considered “bycatch” – as the marine mammal species were accidentally caught.
 

Another major offender to the well being of marine mammals is marine pollution.  As humans, we can’t typically see these toxins, but chemicals such as pesticides, heavy metals, organochlorides, and PCBs end up in our oceans, in turn causing serious health issues in marine life.  These toxins increase mortality rate, cause sterility, birth defects, cancers, neurological dysfunction and more. Additionally, there are types of marine pollution that we can see, such as oil and waste.

DOL_Girl_Swimming_With_DolphinStrike a pose with you favorite dolphin during our Structured Swim.

We know that this part of the briefing can be tough, but if we don’t share the negative aspects, we can never fully create and embrace the positive.  Knowledge is power, and we can use that to help dolphins and marine mammals around the globe. At Dolphins Plus, we see the importance of conservation efforts and educating our guests, so that they too can spread the word about conservation.  Without conservation efforts, hundreds, if not thousands, more marine mammals would perish every year. That is why we have to do what we can in our part of the world to save one life at a time. Some great ways to participate in conservation include discontinuing the use of plastic straws, clipping the rings on soda 6-packs, and keeping debris out of storm drains.

Click here for more frequently asked questions regarding our facility and programs.

 

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