Dolphin Cove in Key Largo, FL
Eric: Who wouldn’t pay 75 bucks a head to swim with dolphins in Key Largo? It sounds like big fun, right? Swimming with dolphins is one of the few things that gets through to autistic kids. If an autistic kid for Gods sake can have fun with a dolphin encounter and you can’t, then something is horribly wrong with YOU, right? Lemme explain.
We plan a day at the Dolphin Cove “research” center on Key Largo. It’s something like $150 for the both of us, but I’m looking forward to this and thinking it’s money well spent. They make you sit through this hour-long orientation classroom with an instructor that goes over EVERY aspect of how Dolphins behave. Most people’s eyes were starting to glaze over, but I found all this fascinating. I was hammering the dolphin nerd guy for even more details. Do dolphins get colds? Do dolphins watch TV if given the chance? While this was going on, I got to watch the previous batch of people have their dolphin swims. Look at the photos below. Does that not look totally cool? I’ve certainly never touched a dolphin in my life.
Now it was our turn. They ask us, do you want to do the “guided swim”, where they command the dolphins to do their tricks to you under their supervision, or do you want to do the “free swim”? It’s when the dolphins are on their lunch hour when they are NOT being told what to do, and will only interact with you if they feel like it. But the pitch is: you will be interacting with dolphins in a NATURAL setting and environment. Velma falls for it and wants to do the free swim. (Maybe she didn’t want to deal with an autistic kid.) Take a guess what an intelligent creature wants to do after being ordered around all day?
We get in the water in this penned off area. The dolphins are in there already. Your job is to paddle slowly around, keeping your arms in and not making any sudden trashing or lunging attempts. Got it. I’m circling the pen. I see squat. I keep circling slowly and doing what I’m told. Nothing. I notice some British guy trashing around who can’t swim. They fish him out. I keep slowly swimming. Zing! OK, that was a dolphin going past; about 10 feet below me, traveling like a torpedo. OK, I’ve been closer to dolphins while sitting in a boat. I keep this up for another 15 minutes and they call us out of the water.
My verdict: DO THE GUIDED SWIM! Screw the free swim. It’s only natural for a dolphin to want to get the hell away from you after all those autistic kids have been groping at it all day. At that point I didn’t care if they pulled a dolphin out of the water with a crane and dangled it in front of my while I pet it. I just wanted to meet one lousy dolphin.
The other thing I noticed – they seem to be booking all these dolphin encounters constantly, every day of the week. When do they have time for “research”? I think the research is for how many ways you can extract money from tourists with dolphins. “Hey look! While the dolphins are resting from the guided swims, we can toss a few tourists into their enclosures and charge $75 a head and TELL them it’s natural.”
Velma: OK, maybe Eric has some valid points, but I still didn't want to participate in a trained dolphin act. This ain't Sea World, for cryin' out loud. I wanted to literally swim with dolphins. Ok again--so this wasn't what I envisioned. I thought we'd be in clear water with curious dolphins like you see in all those Travel Channel "Dolphin Encounter" segments. The murky water was similar to the stuff in which we swam for our scuba diving test. You could only see a dolphin if it swam right next to you and you were looking in the right place as it whooshes past.
But, I still say Eric's jealous because a dolphin slowed down to look at me and not him! Nyeh! Oh, and when I said (in the video) that they probably thought he was a whale, I didn't intend any comment on his girth. I meant to say "killer whale"! Eric is a big guy, but in no way fat or otherwise whale-like. Sorry, sweetie!
Oh boy dolphins!
Yay! That looks like fun!
I would pay $150 for this, wouldn't you?
Address: 101900 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL
Phone: (305) 451-4060
GPS: N 25º 07.163' - W 80º 25.156'