BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
The ocean is a wondrous place filled with many majestic animals that are intelligent, social creatures and can attribute to some of the mysteries of the open sea. On an island like Curaçao, the ocean is a big part of the island’s real estate and residents have taken the extra initiative to learn about the animals that live in the salt waters that surround them.
The Sea Aquarium Park in Curaçao is home to the Dolphin Academy founded in 2002 to offer people a comprehensive, interactive and educational encounter with the animals that live there.
Dolphins are highly intelligent marine mammals, included as part of the toothed whale family that also consists of Orcas and Pilot Whales. These smart and playful animals can be found worldwide mainly in shallow seas of the continental shelves and they are carnivores mostly indulging in fish and squid.
The Dolphin Academy’s mission is to reveal the truth about dolphins especially since throughout history they have been painted as mythological creatures full of magic and wonder. At the Dolphin Academy, they offer a unique and intimate experience to help educate people through an informative interaction with the animals that encourages people to make personal connections and explore a sense of wonder and fascination based on fact not fiction.
The Dolphins are a very popular attraction for visitors to Curaçao and the Dolphin Academy places the utmost importance on the physical and mental well-being of the animals under their care. It is their number one priority to ensure an intimate and genuine interaction between humans and dolphins. This places strict regulations on the number of participants in a group so that the dolphins are free to interact through their natural impulses. The care and training of the dolphins for all their programs is based upon the following idea; whenever the dolphins respond correctly they are rewarded. If they make a mistake the trainers simply try again or proceed with a different request.
On our first day on the island, we were invited to visit the Dolphin Academy in Curaçao for an up close and personal experience with these majestic creatures of the sea. There is a total of twenty-two dolphins at the academy and they are all trained to participate in various experiences and encounters with humans. Before you can participate in a Dolphin Experience, you are asked to watch an informational video about the Dolphin training experience, how they are raised at the academy and how they are encouraged to explore the open water, a testament to the cooperative relationship that the trainers have developed with the Dolphins.
The video briefly explains the mission of the academy along with all the in-depth research, history and conservation of Dolphins and other sea life. They talk about the importance of understanding the preservation of the ocean, addressing issues like noise pollution that causes stress to the animals, choosing environmentally safe products, recycling and disposing of wastes responsibly and suggesting proactive ways that individuals can help protect lakes, streams, rivers and oceans. After the video, participants are taken into a classroom to receive more intimate knowledge of Dolphin interaction. Instruction is given in any language required and a trainer will explain how the animals respond to your touch, where on their bodies it is safe to connect with them and how they are very sensitive to the energy we give off. Dolphins are playful creatures and respond to the energies and vibrations of the people around them. The more comfortable and confident a swimmer is, the more relaxed the dolphin will be.
There are five different and equally informational dolphin experiences that are accessible to the public that allows you to go swimming and snorkeling with them in their natural lagoon. The lagoons are spacious and not sectioned off into individual pens. Therefore, the dolphins themselves reserve the right to stop any program by simply leaving an area inhabited by visitors.
The Dolphin Encounter is safe for persons of all ages. You will stand in waist deep water accompanied by a trainer where you will have the opportunity to touch, kiss and hug a dolphin while learning about them, and the trainer provides an interactive lesson on the dolphin’s body and behaviour.
The second experience is a Dolphin Swim, a more unique and intimate encounter of real interaction where you can swim alongside the dolphins with a pair of fins of your own. The warm sand and saltwater provides a magical experience, where with instruction from a trainer you can give the dolphins signals and watch them wave, sing, spin and lots more!
The third experience is a Dolphin Free Dive, where you can fully submerge yourself under the sea in their world allowing for them to dive down beside you where you can gently pet and interact with them underwater, as well as participate in an echolocation experiment.
The Dolphin Scuba Encounter and Open Water Dolphin Dive are even more up close and personal experiences with the Dolphins where you can scuba in the lagoon, or accompany the dolphins out of the lagoon and interact with them with other divers in the ocean. Both programs are executed in cooperation with the Ocean Encounters Dive Center.
We had the chance to experience our very own Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin swim, both equally unique, informational and magically interactive experiences. Being around the animals is an enlightening experience, their energy infectious and honestly, we could have spent hours under the warm Caribbean sun swimming alongside them like mermaids.
The Dolphin Academy offers many courses to learn and educate yourself about dolphins with specialized training programs for children and more intensive courses for adults. In addition, the Curaçao Dolphin Therapy Center offers a unique and effective therapy program for children and adults with disabilities that has proven to make real progress in their functional development and sense of well-being.
Discovering the unknown depths of the underwater sea world with the humans of the sea is an unforgettable almost once in a lifetime experience. For those of us who live here in Toronto, the experiences call us back for more! When you book your next vacation to Curaçao, be sure that you visit the Dolphin Academy, make some memories with the Dolphins, discover and be impressed by the mysteries of the sea!
The Dolphin Academy is located in Bapor Kibrȧ, Willemstad Curaçao at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium. If you interested in booking your very own magical dolphin experience visit their website at https://dolphin-academy.com/ to make a reservation or give them a call at +599 9 465 8900.