Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several truly remarkable wildlife encounters with everything from a 400-pound Alaskan grizzly to a 24-ounce Harris hawk. And now I can add another extraordinary experience to that list thanks to folks at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.
Hawks Cay, which is located on Duck Key about 90 minutes south of Miami, has all the things you’d expect at an upscale resort, including a wide array of watersports activities (Hot Tip: Check out their jet ski tours where we saw both dolphins and sea turtles in their natural environment). But the hotel also has something you’re not likely to find anywhere else: A full-on dolphin encounter program dedicated to both preserving the species and protecting the oceans that these highly intelligent marine mammals call home.
One way the folks at the Dolphin Connection hope to achieve those admirable goals is by offering three distinct programs designed to appeal to a variety of ages and interest levels. My family and I opted for the 45-minute Dolphin Discovery program that allowed us to spend nearly a half-hour in the water with the program’s four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
While guests’ interactions with the dolphins are tightly controlled for the good of all concerned, it was still pretty amazing to be this close to these intelligent creatures and interact with them as the trainers put them through their paces. Actually, in retrospect, it was a little like co-starring in one of those old Flipper episodes I watched as a kid.
In the end our time with the dolphins was over much too soon, though not before we all managed to get both a hug and a kiss out of the deal. Which, come to think of it, is more than I can say for any of the other wildlife encounters I’ve ever had!