If it's always been your dream to swim with and interact with dolphins, head for the Florida Keys. There are a number of different places to swim with the dolphins in the Keys. Each has a slightly different approach and "flavor". If you're planning a trip, book these swims 4-6 weeks in advance if at all possible, as spaces fill up quickly.
At Dolphins Plus www.dolphinsplus.comin Key Largo (866-860-7946 or 305-451-1993), swims cost $100 for a half-hour in the water and an hour of education. In this basic program, no contact is guaranteed as the dolphins are not trained to interact with humans. Those who want to partake in the basic program experience must be at least 8 years old, a good swimmer, and comfortable with snorkeling equipment. Those 8-13 years old must be accompanied in the water by an adult. On the weekends, a structured program is offered where children as young as 7 can swim. In this program, contact is guaranteed as trained dolphins are used.
The Dolphin Research Center www.dolphins.orgin Marathon (305-289-1121 for information) offers swims for $125 per person. Minimum age is 5 years old. The educational program run by the non-profit society lasts about 2 1/2 hours in length with about 20 minutes in the water. Children 5-12 must be accompanied in the water by a paying parent or legal guardian. To make reservations for this program, call (305) 289-0002.
Theater of the Sea in Islamorada www.theaterofthesea.com in Islamorada (305-664-2431) offers both Swim with the Dolphins and Trainer of the Day programs. In the Dolphin Swim program, contact is guaranteed as these are trained dolphins. The program is available to those 5 and older who are not pregnant and able to read, speak and understand English. Minors must bring proof of age. The program is about 1 hour in length, including 30 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes in the water. Admissions to shows is included in the price of $110 per person. The Trainer of the Day program is available to those 10 years of age and older. The 3 hour, hands-on program revolves around learning about, feeding, and caring for dolphins. The cost is $75 per person.
Hawk's Cay Resort and Marina www.hawkscay.com on Duck Key (888-443-6393 or 305-743-7000) offers 3 dolphin programs. DOLPHIN DISCOVERY: Interact directly with the dolphins for 25 minutes in the saltwater lagoon as skilled trainers guide this 45 minute program.
DOCKSIDE DOLPHINS: This unique 30-minute dockside program provides families with a behind-the-scenes look at the dolphin training and the opportunity to participate as a dolphin trainer's assistant.
DOLPHIN DETECTIVES: Specially designed to stimulate a child's sense of wonder, this 30-minute dockside program allows children a supervised, hands-on training experience with the dolphins. In addition to the dolphins, Hawk's Cay offers its guests numerous other amenities including a kids program, tennis, restaurant, a large pool, a man-made beach lagoon, watersports, boating, and snorkeling/diving trips.