Ever dreamed of being a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld? If you want a quick taste of what it’s like to work with the park’s dolphins at Dolphin Cove in the Key West section, sign up for the Dolphins Up-Close tour. At $50 for adults and $30 for kids, it gives you a 45 minute glimpse into the world of these fascinating creatures. You get to pet them, and and you even give them signals to perform various behaviors. If you have an annual pass, you get a discount on those rates.
The tour is offered many times each day; you can book it in advance online or check for availability at one of the tour kiosks in the park. My husband and I did it spontaneously on the 4th of July. The park was rather crowded, so we wanted to do something that would get us out of the crowds and give us a special experience. We’ve done many of SeaWorld’s tours in the past and it’s always an enjoyable experience.
The tour groups hold up to 20 people, including adults and kids. We met with our group at the Dolphin Nursery at the appointed time, as that’s where your experience starts. You learn about the moms and babies and watch a feeding session in a special area on the other side of the pool from the public viewing area. Since it was late in the day, the dolphins were getting a scatter feeding, meaning the caretaker tossed fish into the pool rather than giving it to individual animals. Each dolphin’s intake is monitored to make sure they all get an appropriate amount of food each day.
Next, we headed off to Dolphin Cove where we would participate in a training session. This is definitely the higlight of the tour. Each family group gets paired up with a trainer, so you get plenty of one-on-one time with “your” dolphins. We were paired up with two young females who were both very sweet. All of the SeaWorld dolphins learn certain basic behaviors, whether or not they eventually end up in the Blue Horizons show. The behaviors make it easier to take care of them; for example, they learn to allow blood draws and physical examinations, including sonograms for the pregnant mamas. The jumps and other high-energy moves provide them with exercise.
You don’t actually get into the water with the dolphins on this tour, although you just might get soaking wet (watch out for the trainers wearing wet suits!). But for the most part, you pet them from the edge of the pool and give them hand signals to perform various behaviors for you. The dolphins get several short training sessions each day so their attention span doesn’t get exceeded. They are rewarded liberally with plenty of fish by the trainers.
Click the slideshow at left for a few photos of our experience. You can take your own pictures, and the SeaWorld photographers also grab some shots. We bought a CD containing all our photos and some stock shots for $40.
If you don’t want to do an entire session, you can pay a few dollars to feed the dolphins at Dolphin Cove throughout the day. If you want to actually get into the water with them (just the shallow part), check out the Marine Mammal Keeper Experience. Click here to read more about that. Click here to read about the Blue Horizons dolphin show. Click here to read more of my articles, and click here to follow me on Twitter.