Seaworld on Queensland's legendary Gold Coast is one of Australia's premier theme parks, with a range of rides, rollercoasters, shows and productions that draw millions of tourists from around the world through the front gates. Beyond the standard theme park fare, Seaworld is world renowned for their dolphin shows, training and rescue and rehabilitation services, with the parks 2000 seat covered amphitheater Dolphin Cove regarded as one of the best dolphin show locations of any theme park in the world. But Sea World's crowning dolphin experience for the general public is the Dolphin Encounter, where instead of watching the majestic mammals from afar, guests are invited into an intimate pool to swim, feed and play with some of the parks female dolphins while learning some of the training techniques used by the parks expert trainers.
The Dolphin Encounter Experience
The Sea World Dolphin Encounter Experience is limited to around 12 guests and is only run once per day. All guests participating in the Dolphin Encounter are requested to meet at the specified area at 9am, not long after the park opens. The day we got to play with the dolphins we were in a group of 6 guests partaking in the experience. It was an overcast summer day and even though the temperature was in the low 20's, we took the option of the complimentary wetsuits. Within 15 minutes, we were dressed and briefed by the trainers and made our way to the central lagoon pool to meet our new friends. The central lagoon is located in a high traffic area so you will have other park guests walking past while you are frolicking with the dolphins, but we were so captivated by the experience we didn't even notice.
We were perfectly comfortable in our wet suits and if it were a warmer day we wouldn't even recommend wearing them. The trainers let the dolphins acclimatize to you, which only took seconds. These dolphins are used to being in the water with humans and they are itching to play. We were encouraged to touch and pat the dolphins while being cautious to be gentle but the dolphins love it and will let you know if they are not getting enough attention. Each group or family are taken aside for a set of professional photos shot by Seaworld's resident photographer which are available for purchase afterwards. I highly recommend if at all possible to bring a friend or family member with you who is not participating in the Dolphin Encounter to stand on the raised platforms and take photos. As it was just my wife and myself, the only photos we have the experience are the professional ones, which are nice but we would have dearly loved some candid shots with us in the deeper water candidly playing with our new dolphin friends.
The trainers were fantastic and taught us a lot about the dolphins and the activities Seaworld is involved in, especially their rescue and rehabilitation efforts. We got to participate in some of the drills that they use to train the dolphins which were informative and before we knew it, our hour in the water was up and it was time to leave our new friends and hand back our wetsuits before going on to enjoy all of the other activities and rides that Seaworld is famous for.
What Are The Dolphins Like?
Seaworld only use female dolphins in the Dolphin Encounter as the males may become territorial and aggressive. We found the female dolphins were wonderful to be in the pool with, they were fun and friendly and loved the attention they received from the participants. They were quick to let you know if they didn't think they were getting enough attention. Although it is not an entirely accurate comparison, the closest I can describe how they the dolphins found the entire experience was like a dog getting a pat, they loved the attention but if they wanted a break they were more than happy to swim away for a little alone time. It was an amazing experience being able to touch and interact with these famous animals, there skin a lot tougher and rubbery than I was expecting while still being amazing smooth. Being up close and personal with them, you really get the feeling of just how smart they are and why every effort should be made to protect this amazing species.
Seaworld Dolphin Encounter Pricing
I'll make no pretenses about it, the Dolphin Encounter at Seaworld is expensive. Costing $165 for every adult and $110 for every child in addition to the normal Seaworld entry fees, it is not an activity that every family will be able to undertake. That being said, this is an incredibly popular event and as it is only held once a day, numbers are kept deliberately low to maximize the comfort for the dolphins and with all money raised in the Dolphin Encounter being used for dolphin rescue, research and rehabilitation, I believe the high price is justified.
How To Book
Once you have the date you plan on visiting Seaworld finalised, the easiest way to book the Dolphin Encounter is via the official Seaworld website. You can also make a Dolphin Encounter booking via Seaworld's official phone booking hotline 1800 252 168 or through your local travel agent. Remember that this is an extremely popular event, especially during the Christmas and Easter school holiday period and its advisable to book at least 3 months ahead to ensure availability for your preferred date.
Is It Worth It?
My wife and I have travelled the world but swimming with the dolphins at Seaworld is still one of our greatest highlights together. The hour with the dolphins flew by, the dolphins themselves were even better than we imagined and the trainers made the experience even better with their knowledge and experience, but never did it feel condescending. We got to understand that caring and nurturing these dolphins is more than a job for the trainers, they are completely devoted to their task and love the dolphins like their own children. I highly recommend the experience and we can't wait until our children are old enough to understand to take them to Seaworld and let them experience the Dolphin Encounter for themselves.
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