When granddaughter Destiny was just a baby, we went with her and her family to SeaWorld in San Diego, where her big sister Hailey got to swim with the dolphins. That is something that Destiny has always wanted to do, and I promised her that when she visited us in Florida someday, I would make it happen. Yesterday was that day.
We left the house about 10 o’clock and drove to Marineland Dolphin Adventure just outside of St. Augustine. They have three dolphin swimming encounters during the day, at 10 am, noon, and 1:30 pm. We figured we would do the last one, but we got there early enough that they said Destiny could do the noon swim. And since it was a rather chilly day and there weren’t many visitors, there would only be two other people taking part.
Long before there was a Disneyland or SeaWorld or any theme parks, Marineland has been creating unforgettable experiences for more than 80 years. Today, the world’s first oceanarium welcomes guests from around the world with one-of-a-kind dolphin experiences that are truly unforgettable.
They offer several different dolphin encounter programs, from a dolphin show open to all visitors in which the beautiful creatures perform all kinds of tricks, including jumping high into the air alone and in pairs, to smaller meet and greet activities with different levels of involvement.
I chose the ultimate Royal Swim for Destiny, in which she not only got into the water to interact with the dolphins, shaking hands/fins with them and throwing a ball for them to retrieve, to hugging and caressing.
Then came the big ones – where she swam out into the middle of a huge deep pool and a pair of dolphins went up to join her, and she held on to their dorsal fins as they swam across the pool.
You would think that would be thrilling enough, but wait, there’s more! Destiny was sent out to the middle of the pool again, and the same two dolphins came up and under her and lifted her up by her feet and propelled her across the water. You can see by the smile on her face that she was a happy young lady.
Dolphins are amazing animals, and the first ones ever to be trained to do anything were right there at Marineland way back before most of us were ever born. We were told that the man who trained the first dolphin didn’t know how to swim, so he would go into the pool in a rowboat, and he spent a year teaching the first dolphin half a dozen tricks.
After Destiny was done with her adventure, a wonderful staff member named Joan took us downstairs, where a series of aquariums held all kinds of marine life, along with other interesting displays. One look at all these shark teeth told me I never want to go in the water again. Joan was a wonderful tour guide and we learned a lot from her.
After everyone else had left, Joan spent at least another half an hour with us, maybe more, telling us all kinds of interesting things about dolphins. For example, being marine mammals, dolphins cannot sleep like you or I would, or they would drown. So they close one eye and half of their brain sleeps while they continue to swim, and then they close the other eye and let the other half sleep. How cool is that?
We had a long day at Marineland and enjoyed every moment of it, and I know that Destiny has memories that will stay with her for a lifetime.
The next time you’re in the area, plan a day at Marineland, which is located at 9600 Oceanshore Boulevard (US Highway 1), just south of St. Augustine. It may not have all of the glitz of SeaWorld or Disney World, but it’s much more intimate, and I guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed.
Thought For The Day – I’m not being lazy, I’m just waiting for inspiration to strike me.