Florida Guide > Discovery Cove
We had talked about swimming with the dolphins when our youngest was old enough – our last trip to Florida had been to set up our villa and our kids did not have much of a holiday then. So, with Joshua just turned 6 (minimum age to swim with the dolphins) and Jamie 10, we booked Discovery Cove for what was promised to be the event of a lifetime. (It is worth checking out any special offers when booking, because when we booked our tickets, the 7 day ticket for either Busch Gardens OR Sea World which was included in the price, was upgraded to 14 days for visits to BOTH).
We had been advised to arrive as early as possible if we wanted an early dolphin swim, and we managed to get a slot at 9.15am for our swim, leaving us the rest of the day to explore and enjoy what else was on offer at Discovery Cove.
From the moment we arrived, we were made to feel like VIP’s – we were given a quick tour of the place in small groups (no more than 8 people) , a family photo was taken and we were each given a see-through holdall with Factor 30 sun lotion (you must not take your own, the lotion supplied is dolphin friendly) a mask and snorkel, and shown to an area to choose either a full wet suit or a wet jacket and then the changing rooms and lockers. (Everything is supplied, - an unlimited supply of clean, fluffy towels, shower cubicles with containers of soap, shampoo and conditioner, hair dryers and changing rooms).
We all chose the full wetsuits, as we had been warned that the water is very cool, and went to our respective changing areas. Remember that the zip goes at the back (I managed to put mine on the wrong way round and then got completely stuck trying to get it off and had to be rescued from my suit by a very amused mum and her daughter – very embarrassing!!!)
After meeting up with the others we went to the briefing meeting and then shortly afterwards to the bay to meet our dolphin for the interaction and swim. This was a truly magical half-hour and the looks on the boys’ faces were priceless. The water was pretty cold, but the wetsuits helped keep us warm, although Josh’s teeth chattered the whole time. We were encouraged to interact and play games with our dolphin and also be towed through the water by her. Josh was a reasonable swimmer, but I was allowed to go out with him to the deep area, where the trainer showed Josh how to hold the dolphin and then he was off – being towed by our dolphin back to the shallow area. Then it was my turn – and it was truly amazing to feel the strength of the dolphin and to glide so quickly and easily through the water. Once we had each had a turn, there was more interaction with our dolphin and all too soon our session was at an end. The whole session is filmed and you do have the opportunity to view the results and purchase photos, a video or a CD of photos – these are not cheap, but a great memento of the day.
The bay is bordered by gleaming white sand with plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas, and we used this area as our base and meet-up area in between exploring the rest of the place.
There is a large, tropical pool, teeming with fish, and manta ray. This is where you can use your mask and snorkel and much of our time was spent swimming and snorkeling amongst the reefs. We had bought a couple of underwater cameras (from Wal-Mart) for the kids to use, which added to their fun (and the results were so clear and colourful). There is also a smaller pool where we were given food to feed the rays – We had to hold our hands flat and the rays swam over our hands and sucked the food out of them – it was a really weird feeling, but great fun). There is a lazy-river type area also (much warmer water and lovely to laze around in) which the kids enjoyed very much.
Also included was lunch – buffet style, with plenty of choice, good portions and very tasty, plus a soft drink of your choice. Our kids, who can be fussy eaters, ate everything they chose and this was eaten outdoors, with a live band playing background music and lots of interaction with the diners.
There is a separate area where guests can wander amongst birds, parrots and other small creatures, and food is available for guests to try to entice the birds to feed from their hands. The kids squealed with laughter when one rather large bird landed on my head looking to be fed. The birds and animals were used to people and this was a really good place to visit.
We had a magical day there – plenty to see and do. Apart from the dolphin swim, nothing else is timed, so you can explore everything at your own pace. The place was spotlessly clean, the dolphins were brilliant (it was really nice to watch other parties interacting with the dolphins whilst we were relaxing on the beach), the food was great, the kids have not stopped talking about the day, and we remembered to collect our free photo that had been taken on our arrival – this is proudly displayed in our villa as a memento of a really brilliant day.
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