Experience Dolphin Connection
Swim with the dolphins! Encounter Atlantic bottlenose dolphins up close in the Florida Keys.Guests at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys have the unique opportunity to encounter bottlenose dolphins in this marine mammal's natural environment. The Dolphin Connection program, located in an ocean-fed saltwater lagoon, is home to a pod of friendly and highly-intelligent dolphins that Florida Keys visitors can interact with while learning the importance of protecting Florida's marine ecosystem.
Hawks Cay Resort is the only hotel or resort in the mainland United States that offers free public viewing of trained dolphins. We offer a variety of educational and exciting programs for adults, children and the entire family to enjoy. Whether you choose to jump in the water for a hands-on dolphin encounter, learn how to train dolphins or sit on the dock and admire fantastic aerial behaviors, join us at Dolphin Connection for a one-of-a-kind Florida Keys vacation experience.
Programs and Pricing
Rates: $175 per group guest, $145 if booking 30 or more
Requirements & Restrictions: Must be 4'6" or taller to participate. The swimming portion of the program is optional and not required. For safety reasons, pregnant ladies are not permitted. Participants must be able to read, speak and understand the English language. Space is limited and programs may be cancelled at any time for the safety and welfare of the dolphins.
Availability:Call for availability.
Requirements & Restrictions: Interact with dolphins without leaving dry land! For safety reasons children five and under must be accompanied by paid adult (infants and children pay to participate). Space is limited and programs may be cancelled at any time for the safety and welfare of the dolphins.
Dolphin Trainer for a Day
Availability:Call for availability.
Requirements & Restrictions: Ages 10 and up. Must be 4'6" or taller to participate. The swimming portion of the program is optional and not required. For safety reasons, pregnant ladies are not permitted. Participants must be able to read, speak and understand the English language. Space is limited and can be cancelled at any time for the safety and welfare of the dolphins.
Educational/School Programs more info...
Requirements & Restrictions: Customized educational programs avialable for Pre K through grade 12. See all dolphin programs for more information.
About Dolphin Connection
Dolphin Connection is an accredited and recognized leader in the advancement of marine mammal education, breeding, and conservation techniques. Since our inception at Hawks Cay Resort in 1990, we have raised multiple generations of dolphins in our large salt water lagoon and have helped visitors to the Florida Keys gain a better understanding of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin and the impact we have on their marine ecosystem. For more information about our history, conservation and accreditations see The Dolphin Connection. For a complete list of our programs see All Dolphin Programs.
Dolphin Connection Blog - January 2015 January 7, 2015
The temperatures are dropping, you’ve pulled out the heavy sweaters from the back of the closet, and snow is falling from the sky: It must be winter time…unless you’re in the Florida Keys. Without all these obvious cues, how do we know it’s winter here? Believe it or not, it does cool off here just a little bit, and once our water temperatures dip below 68 degrees Fahrenheit something very dramatic happens: all the manatees disappear. These amazing mammals, so common in the canals of the Florida Keys all summer long, move en masse to warm water springs in the winter time.
Despite their robust shape, manatees actually have very little body fat. Without this insulation to protect them, their only defense against the cold is to leave. Luckily for the manatees, Florida is the home to several natural warm-water springs that bubble up from underground. These springs remain a delightful 75 degrees year round, just perfect for a manatee. Two springs hosting the largest winter gathering of manatees are Blue Springs on the east coast of Florida and Crystal River on the west coast. Manatees have even been known to search out manmade warm water sources such as the output drains at power plants!
Manatees are protected in this country under the Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. They are also incredibly loved, and so every winter people travel en masse, just like the manatees, to Blue Springs and Crystal River to see them. From boardwalks, boats, or even underwater, people can slowly, quietly, and unobtrusively have the priceless opportunity to see these gentle giants up close. With specific direction, and requirements for “Manatee Manners”, people from all over the world have learned to love this animal who, legend has it, was the inspiration for the first mermaid sighting. And for those who are unable to make the trek this winter, the Save the Manatee Club provides a live feed from the manatees’ wintering grounds on Manatee TV.
Why is all of this so important? Because when the water warms up, and the manatees once again venture into oceans, bays, rivers, and other heavily-traveled waterways, these slow-moving herbivores will find themselves in dangerous territory. With boat strikes posing serious threats to manatees’ survival, the most important thing we can do to protect them is to remain watchful from our boats and respectful of speed limits. What is the one thing that may cause a hurried family or an impatient boater to slow down and be careful in manatee habitat? Love and respect for these animals. So, with our absolute belief that up-close interactions with animals inspire conservation behavior toward these animals and their habitats, we encourage you to enjoy the manatees this winter and ensure their survival next summer.
Dolphin Connection Blog - November 2014 November 1, 2014
“The Florida Keys: it’s like going to the Caribbean without needing a passport!” We hear this all the time from our American visitors appreciating the simplicity of their in-country travel, but for our international guests coming all the way to the Keys, a little assistance from a knowledgeable source is very helpful. With so many of our visitors coming from the United Kingdom, we are grateful to work with informed and ethical travel operators like Virgin Holidays.
More than just a travel agency, Virgin Holidays has a non-profit foundation called Virgin Unite which strives to “…unite great people and entrepreneurial ideas, reinventing how we live and work to help make people’s lives better. We believe business can and must be a force for good in the world – and that this is also good for business!” While this business philosophy extends to all areas of the Virgin Holidays destinations, it plays a very key role in their organized trips to destinations with whales and dolphins in human care. Wanting to remain true to their mission of ensuring that “business is a force for good in the world”, Virgin Unite recently published the Virgin Pledge on Sea Mammals which defines their commitment to ending the wild capture of whales and dolphins for tourism.
The Virgin Pledge was a result of thorough research, unbiased investigation, and taking the time to truly listen to all sides of the issue of marine mammals being cared for at zoos and aquariums, as well as the demands of their own clientele who expect stimulating and conflict-free travel opportunities. Dolphin Connection has proudly signed the Virgin Pledge on Sea Mammals without hesitation. After all, we have never and will never collect dolphins from the wild. We are proud to work with Virgin to create enriching and enjoyable experiences that transform the way its customers engage with and learn about the oceans and marine life.
We are excited about the possibilities this new partnership will offer, and we are not alone: over 30 marine mammal facilities around the world have signed the pledge. Together, zoos, aquariums, and ethical businesses and citizens can work to inspire conservation on behalf of animals everywhere. With this in mind, Virgin Holidays recently sent their Responsible Business Manager, Mirieme Hill, to attend the annual meeting of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums’ Education Committee. Wanting to know and truly understand more about our dedication to conservation education, Ms. Hill attending the entire three day workshop hosted last month at SeaWorld San Diego. Impressed by the quality and diversity of programming offered by members of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, Ms. Hill opened up the potential for partnerships even wider. Pre-visit programming, post-visit programming, coordination of follow-up conservation activities? The possibilities are endless when you allow ethical, dedicated businesses to truly listen to the requests of their clients for enriching activities that can change their lives and the planet for the better.
So as you plan your next visit to Dolphin Connection in the Florida Keys, you can feel confident knowing that we are part of a larger group of organizations who work to ensure that your heart, your soul, and your mind can all feel good about your well-earned vacation. Enjoy!
Dolphin Connection Blog - October 2014 October 1, 2014
Here at Dolphin Connection, we love dolphins. Chances are that since you’re reading this blog, you do too, and it might even be safe to assume that dolphins aren’t the only animals who hold a special place in your heart. We hope so, because today we want to step outside of our typical area of focus to talk about another intelligent, large, social, gray mammal: elephants.
Recently, several members of the Dolphin Connection team had the opportunity to attend an international conference for people who work with animals of all kinds. Because of the broad subject matter, we found ourselves learning not just about dolphins and other marine mammals, but also about land animals of the furry, feathery, and scaly variety. The conference commenced with a keynote speaker from the Wildlife Conservation Society who told us of the plight of the African elephant and of the 96 Elephants campaign whose aim is to unite people around the world to protect these amazing animals from extinction.
African elephants are an iconic species, known for their size, their trunks, and of course their tusks. These tusks, found on both the males and females of the species, are made of ivory, and while crucial for their survival, they are also integral to their demise. Although the commercial trade of ivory has been illegal since 1989, illegal poaching continues at a pace that threatens the elephants’ future survival: 35,000 elephants per year, 96 elephants per day. At this rate, we will lose the African forest elephant in 10 years and the East African savanna elephant soon after.
“If we do not act, we will have to shamefully admit to our children that we stood by as elephants were driven out of existence.” – WCS Conservationists
Rather than individual subsistence hunters with homemade weapons of yesteryear, poachers nowadays are high tech militants with automatic weapons, night vision goggles, GPS equipment and even helicopters. If they sound like professional criminals, they are. In fact the black market for ivory helps to fund many notorious terrorist groups.
So who can stop the killing? You can! Crushing the demand for ivory crushes the reward for the poachers. Increasing awareness of the issue increases the size of, and the support for, the army fighting for elephants’ survival.
Are you politically inclined? Click here to learn more about the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to ban the commercial ivory trade and here to ensure that the controls on trade of elephant ivory stand strong.
Are you active on social media? Click here to take an #elphie and share it with the world! The more people who know, the more people who care!
Ninety-six elephants a day. Every day. Today. Tomorrow. And on, until our army of animal lovers becomes bigger and stronger than the army of poachers fueled by a black market demand for ivory by people who are unaware or unaffected by the possibility that we may soon live in a world without African elephants.
As always, we were so happy to return to our island paradise in the Florida Keys after this amazing conference, and while we are grateful for the healthy conservation status of bottlenose dolphins in the wild, it is imperative that we – and you – never forget how many other animals around the globe need our help, every day.
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen/Wildlife Conservation Society
Dolphin Connection Blog - September 2014 September 1, 2014
Some of you loyal readers of the Dolphin Connection monthly blog may remember that last September we wrote about the critically endangered vaquita, a very small porpoise found in Mexico’s Gulf of California. At the time, populations were estimated to be in the low hundreds and dropping due to gill net fishing in the area. While the vaquita themselves are not the object of the fishery, they are frequently the unintended bycatch of an indiscriminate fishing practice.
Just recently, an updated study has come out estimating the vaquita population at less than 100. Most tragic is the fact that the reproductively mature females number less than 25, typically giving birth to one calf every other year. At this rate, the current population cannot withstand the mortality that they face. Although the local community has long depended on the fishermen to feed their families, there has recently been a very sharp rise in the use of gill net fishing. According to the article below, this rise is due to the illegal trade in China of a fish called the “totoaba” whose swim bladder is believed to have medicinal properties. One of the scientists involved in vaquita conservation in Mexico has reported that fishermen are being offered $8,500 per kilogram of totoaba by the Chinese black market; much more than they would ever make during a day of fishing to feed the community.
The good news is that other than fishing nets, there are very few threats to the vaquita. With increasing awareness about this dangerous fishing practice and the illegal trade of the totoaba to China, there may still be a chance for the vaquita.
We’re so very grateful for our healthy dolphins and the healthy status of wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphins who are not endangered. As the sun sets over another summer in the Florida Keys with the team at Dolphin Connection sharing the opportunity to swim with dolphins with so many of you here at Hawks Cay Resort, we encourage you to think about the animals who need our help, and to learn more about what you can do to increase the chances of their survival:
Dolphin Connection Blog - August 2014 August 1, 2014
The team here at Dolphin Connection is lucky enough to meet families every day that are raising children who care for and respect wildlife and wild lands. We know how important this is because in just a blink of an eye, these children will be the decision makers for our future. With this in mind, zoos and aquariums around the world have always focused a large percentage of their educational programs on the youth in their community. We know that this kind of programming needs to be fun, high energy, and current in order to keep our children engaged, but celebrities, video games, and social media will really seal the deal! A wonderfully successful example of just such a program is SeaWorld Kids Generation Nature. With Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late renowned environmentalist Steve Irwin, providing the celebrity hook, Generation Nature is a website that leads children through games, projects, and environmental challenges using every kid-friendly resource imaginable.
We love what they’re doing at SeaWorld and we encourage you to check it out!
- Read all blog posts
Frequently Asked Questions
Christine Boozer asked: age for dolphin connection Q: My daughter will be 4 in May. Can she feed and play with the dolphins. This is our 5th year back but I can't remember the age requirement.
Hi there! We absolutely welcome your 4 year old daughter to come meet the dolphins along with you or another adult. The Dockside Dolphins program which is an out-of-water dolphin encounter is ideal for her. All participants in this program who are under 6 years of age will need a participating adult with them. You can read more about this program by clicking on the "Programs" tab above. Thanks!
We look forward to have you back.
Ron B asked: dolphin experience Q: My wife and I are scheduled to stay at your hotel on 17th March and would like to take part in a dophin experience. How can I arrange this, and how much would it cost. Thanks Ron Bryan.
Hi Mr. Bryan, You may speak with any of the reservations agents at Hawks Cay Resort in order to make your dolphin encounter reservation. They can be reached at 1-888-313-5749 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regarding the pricing, it varies with the type of program you prefer. All of this information can by found by clicking the "Programs" tab above. Thank you, we look forward to welcoming you and your wife.
Sally Barnes asked: dolphins Q: What is price for swimming with the dolphins?
Good morning Ms. Barnes. Our in-water dolphin encounter, Dolphin Discovery, is $165 per person. You can read more about this program by clicking on the "Programs" tab above. We look forward to seeing you here!
Beth asked: dolphin connection Q: It looks like my family will be staying @ Hawks Cay over Spring Break this year, so how much does it cost to participate in being a Dolphin Connection trainer for a day? Thanks!
Hi there, The Trainer for a Day program is $315+tax/person. You can read more about this program, as well as the others, by clicking on the "Programs" tab above. We look forward to seeing you this Spring.
Guest asked: dolphin interactive programs Q: How much does it cost?
Thank you for your interest in our dolphin interactive programs. We offer a variety of different programs, each with different prices. You can read about all the programs, including the pricing information, by clicking on the "Programs" tab above. We look forward to seeing you here!