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Education

How to Swim With Dolphins in the Wild

 manThe purpose of our educational dolphin swim program is to stimulate awareness about the delicate balance of the marine environment. We do not sell a thrilling experience using trained animals, we show you the real thing by giving you the opportunity to encounter wild dolphins on their territory in their own terms. Human/dolphin interactions are governed by a set of laws and guidelines, which you need to be aware of if you want to swim with dolphins in Panama City Beach. It is illegal to harass, feed, chase and touch marine mammals in the wild and also detrimental to them. At Water Planet, we will take the time to educate you before every dolphin swim trip. We will show you how to swim with dolphins in the wild and then take you out in the Gulf of Mexico, where the in-water encounters usually take place. For more information about the legal issues related to contacts with marine mammals click here.

Most of us want to swim with dolphins but the question is do dolphins want to swim with us? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and we need to respect that in order to avoid harassing them. Education before encounters with a wild animal is most important. We need to remember that we are like guests in their environment. we will take the time to teach you important facts about dolphins because we want you to feel that your experience makes sense. We will tell you about dolphin’s anatomy. We will explain the dolphin sonar and echolocation. We will tell you about courtship, mating, dolphin birth, male female calf relationships, cooperative fishing, fishing techniques, social structure, communication, whistles and vocalization. There is a set of laws, rules, guidelines and etiquette governing the interaction with wild dolphins and we will give you the information you need to have a safe, respectful and enjoyable experience.

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Our dolphin watch and dolphin swim tour is very personalized. It is conducted off of one 28 foot and two 24-foot pontoon boats for a maximum of six guests per boat.

It is essential to organize, before any dolphin encounter. We will help the participants prepare for the complexity of the dolphin’s world. The ocean is their home and their environment. Basic education about dolphin physiology, social habits and environment is important in order to protect their lifestyle. While we observe them, dolphins could be feeding, courting, nursing or teaching their young. These behaviors must be understood and respected. A strict code of conduct, accompanied by clear guidelines is established and followed during all trips.

We observe and swim with the wild bottlenose dolphins around Shell Island, a nature preserve, which is part of the Florida State Park network. Too often, swimmers are unprepared, anxious to get what they came for. They are overconfident, impatient and aggressive. We teach patience and respect, which are the ingredients for this intense and beautiful experience.

The same educational efforts and respect policies are applied during our therapeutic programs for children with disabilities. We try to share with the children and their families our enthusiasm for the beauty and for the balance of the marine environment. It reflects on the way we conduct our therapy sessions and on the content of our expressive art and music sessions.

Basic Dolphin Education

Most people are familiar with the sleek gray dolphins that play in our coastal waters. This information is designed to help you learn a little more about these friendly aquatic neighbors. We hope that this knowledge will lead you to an increased appreciation and respect for these wonderful creatures.

 basicDolphins are not only beautiful and fun to watch, they are an important part of a very complex and fragile ecosystem. As an indicator species, the dolphins are a barometer for the health of our coastal waters. Providing a safe and peaceful place to live and raise their young, sufficient natural food, clean water and air should be the main goal and responsibility for all of us, whether residents or visitors. By working together we insure that the coastal bottlenose dolphins will be here to delight us for generations to come.

Dolphins are mammals. They breathe air, are warm blooded, give live birth to babies and nurse their young — they are not fish and should not be confused with the fish called dolphin (also called Dorado or mahi mahi). This fish inhabits warm temperate and tropical waters around the world. It is a beautiful, colorful and edible fish which is frequently served in restaurants. But it is NOT related to any of the dolphins species.

Dolphins never sleep. Dolphins are conscious breathers. Unlike with humans, their breathing is conscious and voluntary. Should they go to sleep like we do or should they loose consciousness (by impact with a vessel for instance), their respiration would stop and they would die. They rest one hemisphere of their brain at a time.

Dolphins are cetaceans, like whales. They belong to the group of the toothed whales whose scientific name is odontocetes. The other whales, called baleen whales, have the scientific name mysticetes.

DSC00007All dolphins have cone shaped teeth. They live in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. There are also several species of freshwater and river dolphins, all of which are either threatened or in danger of extinction.

There are approximately 57 species of dolphins. Most have an elongated beak called a rostrum. The difference between porpoise and dolphin is in the shape of the teeth. Dolphins have cone shaped teeth whereas porpoise have spade shaped teeth. Most porpoise live in colder waters and are smaller than most dolphins, and they have no elongated beak.

The largest of all dolphins is the Orca, or killer whale. It is the most powerful creature that lives in the oceans. It is the fiercest of sea predators and fears no other creature whatsoever.

DSC00061Female dolphins pregnancies last approximately 12 months. They give birth to a single calf weighing 25 to 40 pounds and 24 to 36 inches long. They nurse their young for the first two years. For the first year the calf feeds exclusively on mother’s milk. They remain with their mothers for the first five to eight years, learning social and feeding skills from extended mother-calf family groups. (Adult and sub adult females and calves of both sexes traveling together in a group are called a pod). The male dolphins generally play little part in the rearing process. Juvenile dolphins of both sexes frequently leave the mother/calf pods for extended periods of time.

Female dolphins become reproductively active between the ages of 10 and 13 years and the males between 12 to 14 years. Female dolphins usually rejoin their mother’s pod and males remain with other males, often forming lifelong cooperative coalitions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADolphins have a special sense called echo location which is used for navigation and to find and obtain food. Echo location involves the production of sound in the nasal sacs or sinus cavities of the dolphins. The sound is focused by the melon, an oil-filled sac seen as a bulge on the dolphin’s forehead, and then projected toward objects in the water. Sounds that strike any object (a fish, human, boat or ocean floor) are reflected back to the dolphin and received by the lower jaw, where they are passed to the dolphin’s brain. The dolphins can form sound pictures of objects based on the difference between the density of the object and the density of the surrounding water. Dolphin echo location only works within the water.

Dolphins have good eyesight both in the air and in the water. Their eyes are designed for seeing in low light conditions Their color vision is limited. They have no sense of smell but they have an excellent sense of taste.