In February of 1997, Terry and I took Jason and Justin on our
first family vacation. The trip involved stops in Orlando and
the Florida Keys. Terry was aware that I had participated in a
dolphin swim in 1994, and wanted to know if that was something
we could do with the boys. Some research into the options available
eventually led us to the Dolphin
Research Center in Grassy Key. Why the DRC?
Simple… Justin was too young for any other place offering such
funny is it then that almost a dozen years later, Ellen (of Ellen
and Richard... this web site’s famous couple from numerous travel
guides) would have a friend working at the DRC? Turns out… very
all of our adventures on the 2009 trip to South Florida, this
was the one that really planned itself. We were going to meet
up with Nancy and her husband. (Norm!) We were going to visit
the Dolphin Research Center. And we were going to participate
in one (or several) of their programs. The only question was what
to ultimately pick.
you follow this web site? If so, you might know that Richard was
providing us with an incredible amount of assistance in setting
up a new bathroom. He was showing up on weeknights to check out
potential problems. (Most of which didn’t exist. Amazing how when
the plumber shows up, the pipe no longer drips, isn’t it?) So
Terry and I… sneaky creeps that we are… actually were able to
contact Nancy and the DRC without Ellen and Richard knowing. Oh
yes… we were all going to be swimming with the dolphins.
here it is… a bit about the Dolphin Research Center. It isn’t
flashy, it’s just fantastic. And you will not find a friendlier
group of people any place at any time.
~ ~ ~
so often the phrase “once in a lifetime” gets used, and I’m not
so sure that it works. Here’s a good example…
our drive to the DRC, we left Key West and saw a waterspout over
the ocean. I have always been fascinated by storms like hurricanes
and tornados… always wanted to see a tornado in person, and honestly
believed I never would.
me, the waterspout is likely to have been a once-in-a-lifetime
moment. And yet for people living around Florida for any decent
length of time… especially the Keys… seeing waterspouts could
be a common occurrence.
in 1994, when I first had the opportunity to swim with a dolphin,
I honestly believed it was a once-in-a-lifetime. Then in 1997,
Terry and I brought the boys to the DRC… where we were introduced
to Santini and Aleta. Later that same year,
on our honeymoon, Terry and I had a chance to swim with dolphins
again. And here we are in 2009… once more having the opportunity
to take part in a simply thrilling and great adventure.
maybe it’s not once-in-a-lifetime… maybe some of it is perspective
united with opportunity… but the reality is, this is the kind
of experience that should be placed right at the top of any must-do
arrive at the DRC and prepare for our adventure. A quick walk
around the grounds after we check in, and then we go to change
before our introductory workshop (where the rules and expectations
are delivered to us). We move along to our lagoon, and there they
the actual encounter is broken down into three parts. Now… that
isn’t quite accurate… but it does kind of sum up the session.
begins with introductions to the dolphins. During our encounter,
we walked onto a landing next to the lagoon and got in the water.
Cayo and Gypsi swam by, and then came closer to give us a chance
to pet them.
second segment featured a personal interaction with the dolphins.
The high-light of this was leaving the platform to swim slightly
into the lagoon, outstretching our hands so the dolphins could
swim past and pick us up, getting a dorsal pull around a portion
of the lagoon, and then being returned near the platform.
last portion made trainers out of us, with each participant stepping
forward and giving a command to the dolphins. (And while you would
love to see the dolphins try everything, it is amazing how many
people want to have a splash-fight. I’m sure most people feel
exactly the way I did… “Please, please, please all you others
pick the less cool stuff because I really do want to see them
perform all the things we’re being offered as options, but I’m
taking the splash-fight because it’s got to be the most fun.”)
time in the water is impossible to truly measure… since it races
by at a blistering pace with countless smiles.
staff is beyond fantastic. Sure, it’s easy to say that working
near the water all day and playing with dolphins must be cool…
and the staff I spoke with assure me that it is… but we are talking
about beautiful, powerful creatures interacting with astonished,
fascinated tourists. For each of these people to be so pleasant,
friendly and professional is a true credit to them and the DRC.
hope you’ll find the time to get to the DRC… and hopefully even
join Terry and I in experiencing once-in-a-lifetime more than
~ ~ ~
I’m going to recommend the Dolphin Encounter. And that recommendation
involves one of the more expensive experiences the Dolphin
Research Center offers. It also involves making an almost
mandatory reservation. So don’t mess around… get to their web
site… look over the available packages and options… and make your
your plans, such as an encounter, end up as something that allows
for reservations… make them. Make them as soon as possible. And
if you can’t plan in advance and make reservations, and what you
are considering is something that they claim you must act on the
day of… follow through with everything they tell you to do. Call
back… be there first thing in the morning… do anything it takes
to make it happen.
put, your day with the dolphin… whether meeting one up close for
a few minutes, playing with one in a group swim, or experiencing
any of the other exciting and fun options… is a great day with
a real dolphin. As in… an amazing experience that doesn’t happen
for most of us every day with a real dolphin. That means other
people will be calling or will be there, and they will be looking
to set up their plans. So don’t hesitate.
is located at mile marker 59 along US 1. There are several places
nearby to eat and relax, and plenty of things to do in the Florida
Keys to make this the central feature of an amazing extended vacation
in the area.
about pictures. For instance… is there someone in your group that
won’t go in the water? The DRC offers professional pictures for
purchase, which is awesome. But video? Nope. Not that I know of.
So don’t be afraid to ask what you can do to allow the extra…
and dry… set of hands to get involved.
about clothing and sunscreen and glasses… and also where you’re
going to be. You may be making plans that mean you’ll get wet.
Make sure what you’re wearing… what you’re bringing… and everything
else involved is right for you, the animals, and a day in the