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 - 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!
Dolphin Connection Blog - July 2014 July 1, 2014
On the 8th of last month we celebrated World Oceans Day, and in fact Dolphin Connection and other zoological facilities accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) took it a step further and celebrated World Oceans Month! We took all of June and proclaimed #OurWorldOceans through social media. The goal of this campaign was to bring attention to the ocean environment and to all the animals who depend on it. Through Facebook and Twitter, thirty days of animal information, conservation tips, and calls to action were posted with the hashtags #OurWorldOceans and #AMMPA.
While accredited zoos and aquariums have always been a cohesive team, working together for the welfare of our animals, this was the first time we’ve embarked on a unified campaign using social media as a global platform for animal advocacy. Look around your living room, public transportation, or even a restaurant; what do you see? Chances are that there are people of all ages, including teens and tweens, glued to their smart phones. And what are they doing there? Tweeting! Blogging! Facebooking! This is how our young people communicate and as part of that, it’s also how our young people will share their passions, their ideas, and their hopes for the future. With the survival of our animals and their habitats in the hands of our youth, joining them where they hang out – on social media – is the best way to ensure that they have all the crucial information that they need as they get older and become our environmental decision makers.
With this in mind, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums introduced MarineMammalMonday, TakeActionTuesday, AwarenessWednesday, CreatureFeatureThursday, FunFactFriday, SelfieSaturday, and ShareTheLoveSunday. Every day included inspiring photographs, useful weblinks, and scientific information about the marine species we love. The success of this campaign was so great that we’re not going to stop with the end of World Oceans Month. Keep your eyes open for more information coming from all your favorite marine mammal facilities at #AMMPA. As long as you want to learn, we want to teach!
Dolphin Connection Blog - June 2014 June 1, 2014
Last month, the team at Dolphin Connection was honored to be a part of Family Science Night at Treasure Village Montessori School here in the Florida Keys. Supported by the Ocean Reef Community Foundation, Keys Ahead, Inc., and Florida International University, this community-building event included a variety of science activities designed to engage students, parents and teachers.
As one of many special guests at this exciting event, we were excited to share our own passion and enthusiasm for marine science with the people of the Florida Keys community, and we were just as excited to learn from the other local scientists and conservationist represented. So, on a beautiful Friday evening we jumped in a car drove into the sunset on our way to Treasure Village Montessori in Islamorada.
Upon arriving at the school, we were greeted by a variety of other participants, all representing scientific organizations in south Florida. Included among these colleagues were The Turtle Hospital, NOAA Fisheries, The History of Diving Museum, and The Coral Restoration Foundation. Clearly we had a great night ahead of us!
We set up our booth full of activity sheets, conservation tips, career guides, and even some fascinating bones and skulls, and soon the doors opened and one by one, families, local community members, and teachers began to arrive. The school itself hosts students from pre-K through 8th grade, so the attendees at this event represented that age range, as well as all the associated parents and grandparents. One thing we know about dolphins is that they excite and inspire people of all ages, and this night was no exception. Who doesn’t want to see what a dolphin’s skull feels like or learn about the amazing role that their lower jaw plays in echolocation? This group certainly did!
Of course, one of the unique qualities defining children of the Florida Keys is that many of them are out on the water frequently and they’ve seen all the fish, sharks, birds and – yes, dolphins – that children in the rest of the country may only dream of. Because of this our focus wasn’t just, “Look how cool dolphins are!” – these students already know that, but instead we focused on safe, respectful, and law-abiding ways to share our oceans with the animals who call it home. So many of our local children have family members with boats and even family members who are professional fishermen, so what could be more important than to make sure that these children grow up with an awareness of the ocean as a home as much as it is a place for recreation? With this in mind, every individual who passed by our booth received a “Dolphin-Friendly Fishing and Viewing Tips” card and had the opportunity to learn more about wild dolphins’ natural behaviors and why it is so important to give them the space to hunt, parent, and socialize without fear of boats.
By the end of the evening, the adults had their hands full of take-home projects, informational brochures, and gifts, while the children were immersed in a spontaneous game of freeze tag in the school’s playground. Delighted with the number of people we reached at this special event, our team packed our bags and drove back to Hawks Cay Resort, ready for another day of Inspiring Conservation and swimming with dolphins!
Dolphin Connection Blog - May 2014 May 1, 2014
Here at Dolphin Connection in the Florida Keys, we are so grateful for our small island community. The friendships and partnerships that come from island life are priceless; nonetheless we certainly like to be reminded of the big world out there and our most recent visitor certainly did just that!
Last month we were honored with a visit from world-renowned marine mammal veterinarian, Dr. Geraldine Lacave. Hailing from Belgium, Dr. Lacave works as a consultant for multiple marine mammal facilities in Europe and worldwide. She is also a member and active participant with the EAAM (European Association for Aquatic Mammals), IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers Association), and IAAAM (International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine). Recently, Dr. Lacave was in the United States for a marine mammal conference and we were lucky enough to convince her and her family to spend some time in the Florida Keys for some sunsets, beaches, and of course swimming with dolphins at Hawks Cay Resort. While she was here, she took the time to speak with the Dolphin Connection training team about marine mammal veterinary training, with a focus on pre- and post-partum care for bottlenose dolphin mothers and calves.
The trainers here at Dolphin Connection range from experienced professionals who have been in the field for over 20 years, to young beginners whose careers in dolphin training are just in their infancy. For all of us, regardless of our time in the field, opportunities like this are precious. In fact, one of our most senior staff members said, after listening to Dr. Lacave share her experiences with dolphin newborns, “No matter how long one has been in the field, there is always something to learn. The learning process with these amazing animals never ceases!” Other reactions from our team included, “Even though I know it, see it, and live it, the obvious dedication people around the world have for the animals under their care continues to be inspiring!”
Ultimately, one of the most important reasons for animal training is that it allows us to take better care of the animals we love. Directly or indirectly, every behavior we train our animals to do benefits their health. Have you met a dolphin and pet its tail fluke? Did you know that that behavior is crucial because it allows us to safely take a blood sample so that we can be proactive about our veterinary care? Have you ever rubbed a dolphin’s side as it lay out in front of you? That behavior allows us to complete an ultrasound exam to track a pregnancy or assess the health of internal organs. Hearing from Dr. Lacave about the benefits of husbandry (veterinary) training and learning about all the ways in which she’s seen it lead to advancements in the healthcare of dolphins is inspiring to all dolphins trainers and our team could not be more grateful.
- 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!