By Diane Ako
Swimming with a dolphin is an unforgettable experience - so I wanted to give that to my daughter for her fifth birthday. I booked a Dolphin Encounter at Sea Life Park on Oahu's east shore.
"From a waist deep platform, participants observe the dolphins while they perform high-energy behaviors. Dolphins play, kiss and even 'dance' with the guests!" describes the website. Each child 1 – 7 years of age must be accompanied in the water by a paying adult who is 18 years or older, so Claus was the lucky adult.
Naturally, my parents wanted to see Olivia's reaction to the encounter too, so the three of us watched from land. My advice to you if you go in the popular summer months: wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock.
After a safety and educational briefing, the group filed out into Dolphin Cove, where they stood on a shallow platform for half an hour and met and petted a dolphin. The dolphin swam past the line of humans many times - enough that everyone definitely got to see it and touch it up close.
When it was all done, I asked Olivia how she liked it. "Great!" she beamed. She had been looking forward to it - enough that she agreed to go to sleep early the night before because we had the morning slot - and said it was even better than she expected.
How does a dolphin feel, I asked. "Soggy. Rubbery," she answered.
Since we were all in the park (to observe the dolphin swims still requires park admission), we decided to make a half day of it. Other attractions we saw:
Dolphin Cove Show
Kolohe Kai Sea Lion Show
Sea Lion Feeding
Penguin Habitat Trainer Talk
Pirates Lagoon Hawaii
Adventure Kids Play Zone
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Lagoon
Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat
Aloha Touch Pool
Hawaiian Ray Lagoon
So, nearly everything. Good fun!
Olivia's favorite was the playground- I'm sure other parents are also rolling their eyes thinking, What did I bring you here for?? - and the Dolphin Cove Show in which four beautiful dolphins and a world-famous wolphin spun and leapt the crowd into oohs and aahs.
By coincidence, a year ago, a friend gave me a book about the history of Sea Life Park, written by its first dolphin trainer, Karen Pryor. I found Lads Before The Wind a fascinating read and can highly recommend it, not just for the history of this important part of Oahu's visitor history, but also for the insight it gives into the interesting work and methods of these animal trainers.
We all had a great day. When it was all done, I really thought Olivia would be tired out from the sun and the stimuli. It turned out to be me who needed the nap!