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An Information Guide  to Activities, Attractions, and Family Friendly Accommodations in the Florida Keys

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Beach pail image for Kids in the Florida KeysDOLPHIN PROGRAMS FOR KIDS
IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

 dolphin image for florida keys kids page
The Florida Keys offers kids and families an opportunity not found many other places in the United States or for the world for that matter with its Dolphin Interaction Programs. There are four places - Hawk's Cay, Dolphins Plus, the Dolphin Research Center, and Theater of the Sea - in the Florida Keys which provide children with an opportunity to interact with dolphins. All of them are on the expensive side if your child wants to get in the water with the dolphin and depending on the age of the child several require that a paying participating adult accompany the child which makes it doubly expensive These encounters and swims usually run in the the $90 to $135 range. Each facility has age, or height, and other safety limitations and restrictions. Advance reservations recommended for dolphin encounter programs and dolphin encounters and swims. CALL FOR LATEST FEE SCHUDULE

. The Dolphin Connection at Hawk's Cay Resort, at Mile Marker 61, Duck Key, Florida Keys (305)743-7000 is described below:

Hawk's Cay offers several programs. Its Dolphin Discovery program is 45 minutes long and includes 25 minutes of personalized contact but no swimming with the dolphins. Under the supervision of a highly skilled guide or trainer you'll be able to pet, touch, and possibly feed the dolphins. Costs more for non-resort participants.

In its Dolphins Dockside program, Hawk's Cay provides adults and teens with a look at dolphin training. Participants act as trainer assistants during a training session. ages 13 and over, 12 and under must be supervised by a paid adult.

The resort's Dolphin Detective program offers young children and opportunity for hands-on participation in the trainer's world including training games, preparation of dolphin fish food and supervised training of the dolphins. 30 minute dock side program c. Children must be 5 years or older.

 

. Dolphin Research Center, Mile Marker 59, close by Hawk's Cay on Grassy Key, Florida Keys (305) 289-1121, www.dolphins.org Dolphin Research Center features Exciting and fun narrated dolphin and sea lion sessions every half hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 7 days a week.
Dolphin Encounter swim program, DolphinSplash wade-in program and other fun interactive programs offered daily!

The Dolphin Research Center began as Santini's Porpoise School and was run by Milton Santini, a pioneer in dolphin husbandry and training. At that time visitors were allowed to swim with the dolphins.

In 1962, Hollywood hearing about Santini made a movie about a family in the keys that befriends a dolphin. "Flipper" was filmed on location at the Dolphin research Center (Santini's) and starred five of Santini's dolphins, including Mitzi, Little Bit, and Mr. Gipper. Some of the dolphins at the Dolphin research center are descended from those "Flipper" stars. Mitzi, Santini's first pupil, was picked to star as Flipper in the original movie.This is the place were the famous porpoise "Flipper" was trained and buried. Mitzi's performance made the film and the TV series that followed a hit. She became a beloved celebrity at Grassy Key. When she died she was buried beneath a dolphin statue in the School's courtyard. The Dolphin Research Center maintains the grave, and in honor of her accomplishments they always make it the first stop on the tour. A small plaque at the Dolphin Research Center reads:

Dedicated to the memory of Mitzi The original Flipper 1958 -1972

In 1977 Jean Paul-Gouin a whale conservationj ist purchased the Santini facility and renamed it "Institute for Delphinid Research". the facility was closed to the public in order to research the dolphin's language and reasoning skills.

In 1984 having completed his project, Jean Paul-Gouin turned over the facility with its dolphins to his general manage, Jayne Shannon, and head trainer, Mandy Rodriquez. They founded the non-for-profit Dolphin Research Center.

 

. Theater of the Sea, Mile Marker 84.5, 84721 Overseas Highway Islamorada, Florida Keys (305) 664-2431, Second oldest marine mammal facility in the world and home of Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins., www.theaterofthesea.com

Park admission to Theater of the Sea includes dolphin show, sea lion show, guided marine life tour and a 5-minute bottomless boat ride.  Cost of participation in the dolphin, sea lion and sea ray programs includes viewing of all shows. Swims include thirty minutes of water time. Participants take turns interacting with the animals. Allow 2 hours before or after program participation to view the shows.

For Trainer for a Day participants, park admission allows viewing of the the sea lion session only.

Restrictions for all programs - Must be age 5 or older to participate, understand English or have translator. IAdditionally, in order to avoid disease transmission to facility's animals participants must not have assisted with a marine mammal rescue within 48 hours. Liability waivers must be signed by a parent or appointed guardian. Appointed guardian must provide notarized documentation of guardianship. 

Dolphin Swim program - Theater of the Sea offers a structured interaction in the water with the dolphin(s).Swimmers do trained behaviors with the dolphin(s) such as dorsal tows and hugs and may snorkel the pool with the dolphin(s). Each class and swim session last an hour . A parent or appointed guardian is required to swim with participantís ages 5, 6, or 7. Participant must be a competent swimmer. Trainers oversee the interactions from out of the water and cannot personally attend to individuals. Must not be pregnant. Observers for dolphin swims, pay park admission plus an additional fee to accompany participant to the swim area.

Swim with Sea lions. Structured interaction in the water with the sea lion(s). Swimmers do trained behaviors with the sea lion(s) such as flipper tows and hugs and may snorkel the pool with the sea lion(s). one hour duration - parent or appointed guardian is required to swim with participantís ages 5, 6, or 7. Must be a competent swimmer. Trainers oversee the interactions from out of the water and cannot personally attend to individuals. Must not be pregnant. Observers for sea lion swims, pay park admission plus fee to accompany participant to the swim area.

Swim with the Rays . Feed and touch gentle rays near a shallow sandy beach. Snorkel with the stingrays and a variety of tropical fish. one hour. A parent or appointed guardian must accompany participantís ages 5, 6, or 7 to the swim area. For those participating in the 4:00 stingray swim, make plans to see the shows before program.

Trainer for the Day - Assist with feeding, training, and caring for the dolphin(s) and sea lion(s). Does not include swimming. One hour behind the scenes and one hour with animals. Must be at least 10 years of age to participate. Children may be ages 5 to 9 to participate, but their party must purchase the entire program. For Trainer for a Day, park admission allows you to observe the sea lion session only. For those participating in the 1:30 Trainer for a Day make plans to see the sea lion show before the Trainer of the Day program.

 

. Wild Dolphin Adventures , Key West, Florida Keys - Eco-tour with Key West's resident pod of wild Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural home. http://www.wilddolphinadventures.com <http://www.wilddolphinadventures.com/> (Click Here)

Dolphin watching is a great family outing. Kids and adults alike get a major thrill seeing the wild dolphins and sometimes experience great interaction while snorkeling amongst them. At times the dolphins take extra interest in children just like humans get excited about seeing their babies. Dolphins are intelligent beings and know that the little ones are the young and need extra special care.

Enjoy an interactive expedition aboard the CORAL REEFER, a fast twin engine 28' custom built boat guided by Capt. Dave Lewis. See local marine life & birds, learn about the natural history of the back country mangrove habitats, snorkel coral reefs and see tropical fish, turtles, lobsters, sponges, crabs, gorgonians, rays, and much, much more! Wild Dolphin Adventures also does light tackle sportfishing.
 

. Dolphins Plus, Mile Marker 100.5 , Key Largo, Florida Keys, (305) 451-1993 , www.dolphinsplus.com

Dolphins Plus offers environmental programs several times each day at their marine mammal facility. Swim and interaction program fees vary depending on the program you choose.

. Dolphin Cove, Mile Marker 101.9 Bayside, Key Largo 305-451-4060, www.dolphinscove.com


 

ACTIVITIES and PLACES TO VISIT for CHILDREN and FAMILIES
in the
FABULOUS FLORIDA KEYS 
To find out more about Kids' activities and places to see to make your children's visit to the Keys a rewarding and worthwhile experience, CLICK on the links in the navigtion bar to the left or provided below.
GUIDE INTRODUCTION . KIDS AND RESORTS . BEACHES . NATURE WALKS .
MUSEUMS . WATER SPORTS . MOVIES . DOLPHINS . KAYAKS . GOLF
BOATS TOURS . SNORKEL . DAY PROGRAMS . ATTRACTIONS
BIKING AND SKATING . FISHING . CHILD HEALTH TRAVEL
.
ICE CREAM . READING

 

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The links below are for charity organizations providing services for children in the Florida Keys.

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