Swimming with Dolphins!

With summer upon us, there is but one thought in our minds: water fun!!
Most will visit the beach frequently, others will find any excuse to have a pool party, and others will take a trip to water parks.  Babies, children, parents and grandparents alike will be looking forward to splish splash excitement. It is simply incredible how good old water can give us endless hours of wholesome entertaining for the entire family.
Boats, jet skis, masks and fins are all calling out, almost yelling our names.  Good just in time because the kids will be out of school soon.
Year after year we hear the call of the water, and take advantage of it.  The beaches, the kiddie pools, the big pools and water spouts never disappoint……at first.  After a month of visiting our favorite spots to enjoy water, we start hearing mumbles from the smallest family members telling us that despite our love for water fun routinary boredom is starting to sneak in.
Now every cool mom knows that advance planning is key, so we strategize and make great combinations of beach and pool visits.
To spice up your water fun scheduling even further we would like to suggest something different that can also be used as a teaching tool.
We are talking about taking the family swimming with dolphins!
This is a unique experience that will definitively make it to the “What did you do this summer” school project come fall.
When you make your announcement everyone will be counting down the days.  With everyone into “green” these days, deciding to take a dip with our dolphin friends is a way to discover the importance of preserving our oceans and caring for beaches.  Additionally, you will be imparting lessons in loving and respecting animals.
We couldn’t wait for the summer, and already had our dolphin adventure.  We went to the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon http://www.dolphins.org/, one of the Florida Keys.  We chose it because the proceeds go to their work and research
(305) 289-0002 (program reservations) (305) 289-1121(offices).  They offer a few options like:
-Trainer for a day
-Dolphin encounter
-Paint with a dolphin
-Hug the Sea lion

Since we were going with a 2 year old we chose the Dolphin dip that was not as adventurous as the dolphin encounter where you get a dorsal fin ride!  But we did want to get our little one in the water with the mammal.  At this center, children under 4 are free.
Once we got to the research center, we got a brief description of the dolphins and the ocean world.  We were glad it was brief as we really just wanted to go see the dolphins!  At the dock we got an overview of what to expect from our interaction with the dolphin, along with instruction on what we could do, and how the trainer would guide us through the 20- 25 minute long visit with the dolphin.  
Then we moved onto a submerged platform in shallow ocean water.  The view was so relaxing and beautiful, the water that day was calm and of the deepest relaxing blue.  Just perfect. Usually there are 4 guests on the platform, but this time it was only our family of 3.  The trainer taught us some sign instructions for the dolphin.  Then she summoned the dolphin and two of them came to greet us. Our new friends were Atlantic bottle nose dolphins.  Baby was too excited to be scared and all the water splashing had him giggling the entire time. We gave the dolphins a back rub a flipper shake and played with them a while.  Baby wouldn’t do any of these, but he did interact with them later when we started using the signs the trainer had given us (the trainer was there the entire time with us).  It was so much fun for our little one when he would turn and the dolphin would imitate him.  For the grand finally, the trainer gave them a series of instructions to show us how fast and agile these animals are, it was truly a show a few feet from us. To say the experience was incredible is an understatement.  To see joy of baby meeting his new friends and interacting with them is priceless.  For security reasons, you are not allowed to take pictures, but there is a photographer at hand to take the special moment when the dolphin kisses you good-bye.
We were all thrilled with our experience, and now every time baby sees water he talks about the fins, which in South Florida has all the Dolphin fans (football) very happy.
I can’t wait to take him again next year and compare his encounters.
As you can imagine, the well-being of the dolphins is paramount at this locations where their research is so important, the optimal environment for the animals is not left to chance.  At the center, help for mammals in distress has been available for decades.  Rescue and rehabilitation programs are in place not only for data collection, but also for the preservation of the wild life in the area.  In addition, this center is the only one in the Keys licensed by the Federal government to assist the endangered manatees when in distress.

There are several places in South Florida where you can book your swim with the dolphins.
Here is a list of a couple of them in Miami and Orlando, so you can review them and decide what program fits best your family, budgets and wish list:
In Miami:
Dolphin World http://www.dolphinworld.org/dolphin-encounter/miami.html
The Miami Seaquariumhttp://www.miamiseaquarium.com/dolphin_swim/dolphin_swim.asp

In Orlando:
Dolphin World Orlandohttp://www.dolphinworld.org/dolphin-swim/orlando.html
Sea World http://www.discoverycove.com/

Some of these facilities offer a swim in a pool, and some others at sea (that is what we chose), keep it in mind when you are going over your preferences.

It is all around a great experience and in some cases full day out.
Children as young as 3 are allowed at most swimming with dolphin programs, and some allow pregnant women to enjoy this experience at their discretion.

There is a toll free 1-800-667-5524 that will help you with swimming anywhere in North America, so no worries if you are not in the South Florida area!  You can also browse this service before calling at http://dolphinreservation.com/.

Some experiences even offer something for those who don’t know how to swim, so don’t let that limit you!
Make your summer be one of adventure and love for the planet this year, and don’t forget sun protection!

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