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Dolphin Discovery in Tortola

Last week the family experienced some thing pretty awesome. The whole family packed up and took the ferry from St. Thomas to Tortola. We had one destination in mind: the Dolphin Discovery park. 
Getting to Tortola was fairly easy. The ferry from Charlotte Amalie to Road Town took about 60 minutes. From Road Town to the dolphin park it only took us about 5 minutes by taxi.

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At the park we were welcomed by manager, Emmanuel Gilbert and his staff, the photographers and off course: the dolphin trainers. We met with our trainer for the day, Elwin Lee. Elwin has been working 11 years in the park and has trained 5 dolphins during his years here.

DSC_0020Elwin is from Dominica and when asked why he wanted to become a dolphin trainer the answer was easy; “I grew up in the sea, and I also grew up watching the beautiful creatures of the sea, such as the dolphins and the whales. I love the sea and working here also gives me the possibility to inflict my love for the sea to others. I also get to teach children about our marine life and how to take care of the oceans for the next generation.” Elwin has his own program about the marine life he teaches children when they visit the park with their schools. The program raises questions about environmental care and waste going into the ocean. It is also a biological program which teaches the children about the anatomy of the dolphins.

DSC_0081We met with our dolphins for the day; Hippo and Venus. Hippo and Venus are both 2. generation dolphins, both born and bred in the park. Elwin told us that dolphins living in parks usually live over 40 years, whereas dolphins living in the ocean live until they are between 25-35 years. Hippo is 37 years old, and Venus is 33 years old. While dolphins don’t mate for life they still make social groups and stick together with their group. Hippo is the “Alfa” of his group. Venus is both mom and grandmother, and both her daughters live in other Dolphin Discovery parks in the Caribbean.

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It was easy to see that Elwin had a special bond with the dolphins and that he really loves his job. The dolphins loved to play and showed off all their cool tricks and amazing speed in the water.
DSC_0156As a part of the Royal Swim program we also got a lot of interaction and swim time in the water with the dolphins. Lucky for us the parks have their own photographers who take pictures, this way all three of us could go in the water with the dolphins.

DSC_0122The interaction was great. Sophia got to ride the dolphins (both!), she got to study them and pet them.

DSC_0090She was so unafraid and enjoyed every minute of the program.

DSC_0047The dolphins even gave us a dance. (Which Sophia loved as she wants to be a ballerina.)

Just when we didn’t think it could get any more awesome, Elwin had something special in store for us. He told us to swim out and lay flat in the water. From behind, Hippo and Venus came and just pushed us up! Suddenly we were literally walking (read: flying) on water! Both Øystein and I were amazed with the speed and most of all how synchronised the dolphins were. They were in perfect balance as they pushed us over the water. It must be one of the most exiting things we have ever experienced.

DSC_0267To top it off Elwin threw in a boogie board and Hippo gave us another speeding experience.

DSC_0205The day was so wonderful, and we enjoyed every single minute of it. Sophia had an amazing experience, and so did both parents as well. Inspired by the day Sophia changed her mind about becoming a ballerina and now wants to become a veterinarian instead. Working with animals and taking care of them is her passion.

DSC_0030Dolphin Discovery have parks all over the Caribbean and in Mexico as well. The manager, Emmanuel, told us that every year the Dolphin Discovery park in Tortola has about 25,000 visitors. The best months to go if you don’t like crowds are May – September. At Dolphin Discovery Tortola there are currently 10 dolphins. When the dolphins are born they usually stay with their mother for the next 2-3 years. At the park they have their own dolphin “nursery” where the younger ones stay with their moms.

What do I need to do to visit a Dolphin Discovery park?
Either call or book your experience online on the Dolphin Discovery web-page. To get the most out of your visit I would recommend you get the Royal Swim program. The program is suitable for children of all ages, but it is an advantage if the children knows how to swim.
Some kids might be afraid, the dolphins look quite big when you are actually in the water with them. But be assured, it is perfectly safe and the trainers will take very good care of you. However it is allowed to just stay on land and watch as well.

All the Dolphin Discovery parks are highly certified. To read more about Dolphin Discovery and what they do, please visit their website. 

All photos with credit to Dolphin Discovery Tortola. 

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