On a recent trip to Jamaica I was offered the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Cool, I thought. My husband was infinitely more excited than me, and he wouldn’t even be on the trip. Stories came pouring out of how he had swam with dolphins on a family trip to Jamaica when he was young. It had obviously left a large impression on him. I went in knowing it would be a great experience and even my high expectations were exceeded by the folks at Dolphin Cove in Lucea.
Dolphin Cove, with one location in Ochos Rios and one in Lucea near Negril, keeps groups small. Our group size of 6 allowed us plenty of individual interaction time with the dolphins. Several different packages are available. We took part in the Encounter Swim which took us into a deep water portion of the sanctuary. The Encounter Swim features one dolphin and allows you to receive a kiss, pat the dolphin and ride the dolphin. We were in the water for roughly 25 minutes which felt like a perfect amount of time. There are also “Touch” programs where you can stand knee deep in water, receive a dolphin kiss, and pat the dolphins. A more advanced option is the Swim With program which involves 2 dolphins who will take you for a ride and give you a dorsal push into the air.
Dolphin Cove requires reservations and has a strict cancellation policy so be sure to set up a time in the middle of your trip that you know will work for you. Prices can vary slightly based on season, program selected, and age of participants. You must be able to swim to participate (you will also be issued a life vest).
Some helpful hints:
* Apply sunscreen ahead of time. Applying sunscreen immediately before going in the water is not allowed as it can be unsafe for the dolphins.
* Bring a towel and an easy change of clothes. Keep jewelry to a minimum so you can easily take it off before going in the water.
* Be aware that pregnant women are not permitted to enter the water with the dolphins. We did not realize this until we had been in the water for 10 minutes and luckily I was early enough in my pregnancy that they allowed me to stay. Research suggests that dolphins pay more attention to pregnant women because they can hear the extra heartbeat. Our dolphins were very polite and loved us all equally.
* Bring a camera. Dolphin Cove has a photographer that will take pictures of your session. These pictures are pricy and your package does not include any photos or video. If any of your group will not be in the water put their photo skills to work.
* Be ready to have fun. The entire experience from start to finish is worth the cost. It will be remembered by you and your kids for a lifetime. The staff at Dolphin Cove was incredible and the pre-water presentation had the entire audience participating and laughing. After you are done with the dolphin encounter there is the opportunity to participate in other activiites which can be found on their website. Activities available vary between the two locations.
** I attended Dolphin Cove’s program as a guest while on a press trip. All views are my own and I would absolutely plan on taking my family there at my cost on a return visit.**
Nasreen Stump is a freelance writer who lives in Vermont when she isn’t on the road for work. She can be found on Twitter @ramblingstump.