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 - December 2013 December 1, 2013
In July of this year, we told you about some very important research happening in Sarasota Bay on the west coast of Florida. The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), an organization which Dolphin Connection has supported and partnered with for years, has been conducting health assessment studies on the local bottlenose dolphins for over 40 years. The data emerging from this study provides us with the majority of what we know about wild dolphin anatomy, behavior, natural history, and health. Whether it’s with financial resources, supplies, or personnel, Dolphin Connection is dedicated to contributing all we can to this incredibly valuable study.
This year, the data from the past 40 years is especially valuable because it provides baseline information about animals living in a relatively healthy environment which can be compared to data from health assessments conducted in parts of the Gulf of Mexico impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill disaster. In 2011 and again in 2013, SDRP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted health assessments on dolphins in Barataria Bay and the Mississippi Sound, areas in the Gulf severely affected by the oil spill. Sample and data analyses for 2011 and 2013 are underway, but preliminary results show that many of the dolphins in the study are underweight, anemic, have low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half also have abnormally low levels of the hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function.
While these preliminary results are disturbing, there may be some good news in the form of inspiration: How does it make you feel when you hear about a manmade disaster threatening the lives of dolphins? Sad? Angry? Motivated? How about informed? Aware? Committed? With all of us living near the coast, or near waterways or drains that lead to the coast, we all impact the health of the oceans. What kind of an impact we make is up to us. Knowing how an oil spill may be affecting dolphins might be just the wakeup call we need to take action. Will it encourage a beach walker to bend down and pick up a plastic bag from the surf before it becomes a sea turtle’s lunch? Will it inspire a grocery shopper to purchase in bulk and use canvas bags to minimize the amount of plastic in their life? Will it inspire a busy family to take some time to go for a walk together and participate in a coastal cleanup?
With warm winter temperatures and beautiful sunsets, life at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys can feel pretty idyllic. Surrounded by the protected waters of a National Marine Sanctuary, it is easy to swim with our dolphins and enjoy the tropical fish darting around our toes and forget that not so far away are habitats and animals who truly need our help. So in the spirit of the season, rather than letting the bad news defeat us, let’s use it as a reminder to enjoy all that we have and help those in need.
Dolphin Connection Blog - November 2013 November 1, 2013
Happy November! One of our favorite months here at Dolphin Connection, filled with gratitude, good food, and beautiful temperatures. Migratory birds pass through on their annual trip south, cooler air brings less humidity, and the gorgeous sunsets come a little earlier in the day, but the most noticeable change for us will be the darkness that descends on the Florida Keys so quickly: November marks the end of Daylight Savings Time! Now, instead of having hours at the end of the day to appreciate the beautiful views from our islands, we find ourselves in darkness by supper time. Luckily for us, a flip of a light switch means we don’t miss any of the gorgeous sights at Hawks Cay Resort, so we can continue to enjoy our little slice of paradise. For dolphins, however, special adaptations are required to allow them to safely maneuver through a world in which they may not be able to see.
Bottlenose dolphins, and all toothed whales, have an adaptation called “echolocation”. This adaptation allows dolphins to use sound to see. By producing very special high-pitched clicks, and then using the fatty “melon” to focus these clicks at specific objects or across general locations, a dolphin can listen for the echoes created as the sound waves bounce back. These sound waves are altered depending on what kind of object they interacted with and so each returning sound is different and will produce a very specific and unique image in the dolphin’s brain. This image, much like an ultrasound image that you might receive at the doctor’s office, provides details as to the object’s shape, density, and movement. Even a fish buried under the sand is not safe from a hunting dolphin who uses his echolocation! The dolphin’s brain, which is dedicated in large part to the interpretation of sound, can identify these altered waves as having bounced off of a fish, a rock, another dolphin, etc. Pretty useful when you’re a predator who needs to find food, and even occasionally a prey animal who needs to avoid sharks!
When the sun is shining and the water is clear – which is true almost all of the time in the Florida Keys – dolphins rely most heavily on their eyesight. But in dark or murky conditions, this ability to use echolocation is as useful as our ability to turn on the lights when the sun goes down. So, as winter descends on the Florida Keys and our precious sunshine becomes a little more limited, it’s good to know that all of us have successful ways of surviving. We look forward to seeing you here as you celebrate the holidays by swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Connection!
Dolphin Connection Blog - October 2013 October 1, 2013
October is here and for those of us living in the Florida Keys, we look forward to celebrating fall holidays like Halloween with jack-o-lanterns, costumes and – of course – plenty of sweet treats! For you and me, that probably means chocolate, but what about the dolphins? If a dolphin were to go Trick-or-Treating, what would they want?
If we want to give the dolphins at Dolphin Connection a treat to eat, we might offer them ice cubes or unsweetened and unflavored gelatin! While not providing any important nutrients other than additional water, these items are just a great way to have fun with the dolphins in a way that they really seem to enjoy! Alternatively, we can give the dolphins a special treat that is not edible. This might be like you receiving something besides candy when you’re Trick-or-Treating. Maybe it’s a toy or a game or even just a warm and friendly greeting when you knock on the door. Believe it or not, all of these would be wonderful treats for our dolphins as well. A fun game of catch with a dolphin-safe ball, a rub-down with a loofah or a sponge, or even a water fight (which the dolphins are always sure to win!) are all just as much fun to the dolphins as the ice cubes or the gelatin treats are.
Even more than treats or toys, we all know there is something else that dolphins love the most: fish! Here at Dolphin Connection, our dolphins eat capelin and herring: up to 45 pounds each per day! Fish provides the dolphins with everything that they need in the way of protein, fats, carbohydrates, calories, and even hydration! Think of this as equivalent to a healthy menu of fruits, vegetables and protein for you. Not only is fish the perfect food for a dolphin, but our dolphins are fed only the very best of this perfect food. Every morning we sort through hundreds of pounds of fish, making sure to pull any out that don’t meet our standards. A scratch, a scrape, or a cut on the fish? Throw it out. Our dolphins get only the best, restaurant quality fish every day.
So, if a dolphin comes trick-or-treating to your door, now you know what they might like. Give them a fish and that’s like you receiving an apple in your bag – delicious and nutritious! Give them an ice cube and that’s like you receiving a candy bar – a special treat that’s completely separate from your daily meals. Throw a ball or offer a rub down and that’s like you receiving a warm greeting or a fun game – a chance to interact with folks you care about in a way that’s enjoyable and special.
Next time you’re here at Hawks Cay Resort enjoying a sunset, come on over and watch our trainers and guests as they swim with the dolphins. Of course you’ll see them providing lots and lots of fish, but if you pay close attention you’ll see treats, rubs, toys and affection being given out just as freely. October really is a wonderful month, and not just for the little ghouls and goblins in your neighborhood!
Dolphin Connection Blog - July 2013 July 1, 2013
We are the lucky ones: Not only do we get to spend our days swimming with dolphins, but we get to do it here on our island paradise. There’s not much that would make us want to leave the beautiful Florida Keys…not much except the chance to participate in amazing conservation research that can help us to better understand and protect wild dolphins everywhere.
One of the ways in which the entire Dolphin Connection team participates in global conservation is by joining with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program in their annual wild bottlenose dolphin health assessment projects. These projects, which began in the 1980s, provide scientists and veterinarians with information about the health of wild dolphin populations as well as environmental contaminants, life history, population structure and ecology. Understanding the overall health of these animals, including causes of disease and effects of pollutants, allows us to establish baselines to monitor the health of the oceans.
Every year, a team of experts, including scientists, researchers, veterinarians and animal care professionals, perform health assessments on the local population of dolphins living in Sarasota Bay. With the permission of the US government, samples are collected, measurements are taken and identification is made. In this way, information is gained about both the individual animals who may be seen year after year in these studies, and also about the population, and even the species, as a whole. Sarasota Bay is the only place where generation after generation of dolphins has been studied. As such, the research happening here is some of the most important in existence and it provides some of the most useful and reliable data about bottlenose dolphins in the wild.
Dolphin Connection makes valuable contributions to the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, including annual donations of both our time and our resources. Besides financial support, each year our animal care staff eagerly anticipates participation in the health assessment studies, which provide a wonderful opportunity to learn about and assist with the all-important research happening there. This year the study carried some extra importance because the results, under a federal research permit, will be used for establishing the parameters of a healthy population (Sarasota Bay) so that they may be compared when a similar study is completed in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill. As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) and with support from the Georgia Aquarium, Dolphin Quest, and Dolphin Connection, animals in areas of the Gulf affected by the oil spill will undergo standard assessments, sample collection, and remote tracking via satellite to begin evaluation of their health and behavior. Compared with the baseline data from Sarasota Bay, we will better understand exactly how dolphins, and all animals, are impacted by environmental disasters.
Beyond the obvious importance of this study to our planet, the Dolphin Connection team’s participation is also valuable to us as a company and as individuals. We gain skills, inspiration and a greater understanding of bottlenose dolphins beyond our own population. Information learned about conservation issues, cutting edge research and the fight for the survival of our seas inevitably makes its way into our educational messaging and to our guests. So as you plan your visit to Dolphin Connection at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys, know that more than just swimming with dolphins, sunsets and sand between your toes, you are joining a community that reaches past our island’s borders and into the greater world of marine conservation. If you would like to contribute to the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program’s all-important work, please visit their website to find out all the ways in which you can help.
Dolphin Connection Blog - June 2013 June 1, 2013
For those of you who follow us on Facebook, the news of the mass stranding of California sea lion pups on the California coast isn’t new. You’ve been receiving our updates about the situation as well as our pleas for donations to help support the animal care personnel and supplies needed.
Since the beginning of 2013, over 1,300 young, malnourished, underweight California sea lions have stranded between Santa Barbara and San Diego, along the southern California coast. Too weak and thin to forage for themselves, these animals are being brought to marine mammal stranding centers in Los Angeles County and Orange County. Rehabilitation typically takes 8 weeks before the animals are strong enough and healthy enough to be released back to the wild to try their hand at hunting for themselves. Four months into 2013, these stranding centers have already seen more animals than they did in all of 2012!
The National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) has been working closely with the National Marine Fisheries Service as well as the independent stranding centers in an effort to coordinate the financial and personnel assistance necessary for responding to this stranding event. A long-time supporter of NMMF and their research, Dolphin Connection is currently providing support for their research on the effects of the 2010 oil spill disaster on the wild dolphin population in the Gulf of Mexico. From the beginning, proceeds from sales at Dolphin Connection have gone to research benefitting wild dolphins, as well as to the care of our own dolphins here in the Florida Keys. But it doesn’t end there. We have sent in our donation to the NMMF, earmarked for the care of these stranded sea lion pups, and we encourage you to do the same. According to Cynthia Smith, Executive Director for the National Marine Mammal Foundation, “Not only are we working to help save these stranded pups, NMMF scientists are also working to uncover the reasons behind this marine mammal emergency. Donations in any amount from our supporters and friends are so important right now. This is one of those moments when people can make a real difference.”
The work being accomplished by the NMMF is bigger than just responding to these sea lions pups immediately in need. “Sea lions are a sentinel species and these strandings are likely a symptom of an unhealthy ocean.” The NMMF is currently working to discover the cause of these strandings: Why aren’t these animals able to feed themselves, and how can we help? As news, updates and discoveries come in, we will continue to keep you posted. In the meantime, we encourage you to click on the links above to find out more about what you can do to help these struggling sea lion pups. All of us and our beautiful dolphin family in the sunny Florida Keys say “Thank You!”
In the meantime, we hope to see you down here at Hawks Cay for some sunshine, sunsets, relaxation, and of course swimming with dolphins.
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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!