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“A wonderful, memorable experience!”

Dolphins Plus Bayside
Ranked #9 of 37 things to do in Key Largo
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Attraction details
Owner description: Welcome to Dolphins Plus! Here, our guests have the exciting opportunity to observe and interact with our marine mammal friends in a unique and stimulating environment. Our guests can experience our dolphins in their natural seawater homes on the Gulf of Mexico (Bayside) in Key Largo, Florida. Along with getting to interact with our marine mammals, guests will learn all about these amazing creatures, and the importance of marine conservation, from our knowledgeable and well-trained staff of trainers and instructors. Our dolphin swims are available to the public throughout the year and are a great addition to your Florida vacation. Meet and interact with our dolphins in our hands-on Structured and Shallow Water Dolphin Swims or snorkel freely alongside the dolphins in our Guided Natural Dolphin Swim program for the dolphin encounter of a lifetime. Our dolphins are always happy to meet new friends. So, come on over and jump on in. We’ll see you at Dolphins Plus.
Reviewed July 23, 2013

My husband and I swam with the dolphins on our recent vacation to Key Largo. We absolutely loved the experience! We go into the water and got to meet the dolphins up close and personal. We got "handshakes" and dolphin "kisses". We got pushed around the pool by our feet and the dolphins pulled us around by their dorsal fins. After we left the water, we were able to watch the dolphins jump and play. There was even a baby dolphin swimming around in the pool.

As other ratings have suggested, the experience is somewhat short, however, I expected that. These are living, breathing animals-they do not exist to entertain us for hours on end. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I was happy to have it.

It's also true that this experience is expensive. I don't know how much it costs to maintain a dolphin, but I'm guessing it's a lot. These dolphins get top-of-the-line health care and restaurant quality fish. They appear happy and healthy and they trainers appear to really love them. I would gladly spend more at a company that cares about their animals, instead of a facility that churns out sick, tired dolphins at a discount price.

Dolphins Plus gets an A+ from me.

Thank Bethany S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"structured swim"
in 262 reviews
"natural swim"
in 94 reviews
"once in a lifetime"
in 96 reviews
"dolphin encounter"
in 39 reviews
"shallow water encounter"
in 29 reviews
"photo package"
in 37 reviews
"amazing experience"
in 68 reviews
"bucket list"
in 61 reviews
"professional photographer"
in 13 reviews
"natural environment"
in 14 reviews
"special needs"
in 15 reviews
"take pictures"
in 24 reviews
"key west"
in 13 reviews
"trainers"
in 449 reviews
"kisses"
in 56 reviews
"photos"
in 137 reviews
"mammals"
in 43 reviews
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Reviewed July 20, 2013

We all agreed that this was the highlight of our 2 weeks in the Florida Keys. The briefing was a little light on the educational element but it was entertaining. Our trainer was superb, and had a great rapport with the dolphins. The dolphins were amazing, so intelligent, friendly and playful. The dolphins appeared to enjoy the encounter as well, and they certainly appeared to be very well looked after.

Whilst not a cheap day out, it was worth every dollar. Recommended.

The children (16 and 19) took part in the Structured Swim, whilst Mum and Dad observed and took countless photos.

We chose Dolphin Cove as they allow "observers" (for a $10 fee) and you are free to take as many photos as you wish. There is also a professional photographer, and he did take some very good photos, but you are not pressured into paying for them, although of course we did buy some as they were very good.

A very memorable day.

1  Thank UKGM1992
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 19, 2013

My husband and I visited Dolphins Plus on our honeymoon, while we were in Key Largo for a couple nights after having been in Key West for a couple nights. The experience I had at Dolphins Plus gave me a lot to think about, and only more than a week later am I able to write a review about it, because it took me that long to absorb it all. We did the Structured Swim and the Natural Swim. I thought I was going to like the Natural Swim much better, but actually, I really preferred the Structured!

But that wasn't the only unexpected thing that happened. I learned a lot about dolphins from the intern who explained things to us before the Structured Swim. The "classroom" is right next to where the dolphins live, and they kept swimming by and poking their heads up playfully at us. They seemed genuinely happy, well-taken care of, and that they liked people. It was really neat to look into their eyes, even before we got into the water.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I was surprised to find that these dolphins were born in captivity, and their lagoon is an all-natural enclosure-- not as big as I thought it would be. Having just come from snorkeling in a more wild environment, it did not psychologically click for me that we were swimming in these dolphins' quite small home with them, "invading" their space quite a bit. It was addressed by the staff in a few different ways, but not directly during class, like, "remember, these dolphins are in a much tighter space than their natural habitat, so it's really important to give them plenty of room." I almost wish that was explained in the videos or on their website initially, although if I had used some common sense, I would have realized that.

So, just something to keep in mind, especially during the Natural Swim.

When I went snorkeling, it was perfectly fine to dive down and get closer to the fish and get a closer look. This is different-- you have to come at it quite differently and let the dolphins come to you, be careful not to wind up cornering them unintentionally, and things like that. The trainers will help you, though-- they are really great and somehow keep an eye on everyone. The experience really taught me to think about things more and stop and pay attention to other creatures and what they might be feeling. It was really interesting to interact with this species of animal. They are more subtle creatures than humans, and yet, it also made me appreciate humans more, as well as dogs. With people and dogs, for example, you can go up to them an give them a hug. But dolphins have a different level of perception, and they don't need to interact in that way to understand each other or communicate. They have this whole other level of interacting, and a lot of it is through eye contact. It really amazed me in a good way, but at the same time, it also made me appreciate my own species... and dogs, for some reason, which are a different species of animals from us, and yet seem to interact with us so well on our level. (there is a nova special called Dogs Decoded which explains why dogs get us so well..., but I digress!)

As we were leaving, though, (no longer in the water) the dolphins swam up to the side where were were, almost definitely as if to say goodbye and to say it was okay that I hadn't understood right away. They seem to be really forgiving and understanding creatures, and pick up on so much information!! They kind of seem to look right through you.

The most meaningful interactions I had with the dolphins were actually not in the water! It was when they would come to me when I was standing on the sidelines, when nothing structured was going on. Although, it was definitely fun doing the tricks with them, and seeing how smart they are in the structured swim. They definitely seem to have fun doing the tricks, and they love getting their fish rewards. They seem to really have a relationship with their trainers, which is neat to see.

The experience also taught me a lot about people. The other people who were there were very nice, and we all had a lot of fun together, even though we were all strangers. Other than hosting dolphin-human encounters, the staff are studying, doing research, and rescuing injured dolphins. But they really have to know how to interact with people, too, because it's kind of a big deal to manage the dolphins and all the people swimming with them, in a short period of time, to get them to understand what all is going on. I feel like the staff did a great job with this. It wasn't what I expected, but I learned so much.

Now that I am back home, I have done some more reading... I did notice that a lot of the people who attended were also concerned about the happiness of the dolphins, and I could tell the staff often got questions like that from people. There are swim with the dolphins programs that are doing some unethical things. Luckily, after reading this link by the Humane Society (see below), I can say that Dolphins Plus is following the practices that this article below recommends. At first I thought it was a bummer that they were all bred in captivity, but then realized after doing more reading that this is really for the best. I do think it would be cool if they had a way to swim really far distances and then come back to their enclosure, but I don't know how that would be accomplished. For now, these dolphins are doing great work with us humans, and probably doing a great service to their fellow dolphins living out in the wild, and they do live longer in captivity. Although they may suffer for not being able to swim long distances or dive deep into the ocean, they are fed really well and seem highly entertained. They seem to enjoy their jobs living at Dolphins Plus.

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/captive_marine/facts/swim_dolphins.html

2  Thank SBWaggs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 19, 2013

My family went to Key Largo to snorkel. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, so we looked for something else to do. We came across this place on tripadvisor and decided to give it a try. Everyone who works there - especially the trainers- obviously cares about these animals and the people who are there to interact with them. The experience exceeded all my expectations. My kids (ages 6 and 9) are still talking about it. The looks on their faces alone were well worth the money!!!

Thank kimmermakosch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 19, 2013

Hi! Today I participated in Dolphins plus combo program. Very nice! But I want to separate the structure swimming and the natural swimming. For me the structure swimming was not so interesting because I really felt myself like a robot: do this, do that... And there was not enough contact with the dolphins like I expected. You just do some motions and dolphins do some. And some of it you do together.
But the natural swimming I like much much more! No problem that you can't touch dolphins! But you can swim with them, follow them and feel theirs freedom underwater! It's amazing! I want to do this again and again! Thanks dolphins for the unforgettable experience!

2  Thank Irena17
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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