A Day with Dolphins in the Desert at Dolphinaris Arizona
By Meg Brunson
I've been so excited to visit Dolphinaris since it opened at OdySea in the Desert in Scottsdale. We waited patiently until my youngest was 3 years old so that everyone would be able to enjoy the land experience. I knew the girls would love seeing the dolphins up close and personal, and I really loved how educational the experience was for everyone. We decided to make a full-day experience out of the visit, which we are so glad we did, it turned out to be a truly special day! There has been some controversy about having dolphins living in the desert, and I will address that as well!
Why Dolphins in the Desert?
While I am sure there were some business/economic reasons for building in Arizona, we learned a lot about the mission of Dolphinaris and the treatment of the dolphins living here in Phoenix. First of all, it's important to note that the dolphins at Dolphinaris were all born in captivity, not captured from the wild. They would not know how to survive if they were just released into the wild. Their quality of life is best in the environment in which they've been raised. The dolphins do serve to entertain guests - but they're also as an amazingly influential educational tool.
Each experience begins with an educational presentation where they teach guests of all ages about water conservation and how to keep marine animals safe. Giving our kids the ability to experience dolphins in this way really drove the lesson home. It's more impactful than watching a TV show or reading a book. The girls are now watching their plastic usage because they don't want to hurt Sunny (the dolphin we interacted most with). We also learned about the in-depth precautions Dolphinaris has to protect the dolphins - monitoring the water and the weather to ensure that they are not at risk. They have an "inside" portion of the facility where the dolphins can stay if weather conditions (like a dust storm) warrant it. I'm an advocate for animal rights, and I also believe we are extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful educational resource right here in Scottsdale!
Dolphinaris offers a few different dolphin experiences including land and water experiences. They are pretty much what they sound like - water experiences are in the water with the dolphins, and for land experiences you stay on land, but those playful dolphins will likely get you a little wet! We opted for the land experience, mostly because I know my kids can be a little timid and I believe that starting with the land experience provided us the best introduction to the animals. That being said, I was insanely jealous of the other people who climbed in the water with the dolphins and I totally hope to have that opportunity in the future.
After the educational presentation, we entered the pool area and met our trainer, Edna, and our dolphin, Sunny. Edna was friendly and patient with the kids, and she taught us all about dolphins and showed us things like how their blowholes work, their teeny tiny ear hole, and all their teeth! Did you know that dolphins don't have vocal cords? They open their mouths when they "talk" but the noise comes out of the blowhole - I had NO idea! - I really do learn something new every day! The kids learned about the ways in which the dolphins are trained and practiced giving them signals right along with the trainer.
I love that all experiences (land & water) include a dolphin kiss in addition to other interactions. The kids loved each getting their kisses and being able to dance with the dolphins as well. Some of my kids were a little nervous, dolphins are big animals after all, which made me really happy that we opted for the land experience initially... but, by the end of the experience, after everyone got their kiss and had a chance to pet the dolphin, they were ready for more!
The Beach Club
Dolphinaris offers Beach Club membership as an add-on to the land or water experiences, and also as a stand-alone option! The beach club area includes many seating options from cabanas to tables and lounge chairs. You can sit in the sun or beat the heat in the shade of a cabana or umbrella. Plus, they have a pool for swimming that includes an acrylic wall so that you can see the dolphins underwater. There are also 2 hot tubs to enjoy and complimentary water, lemonade, and iced tea.
We opted for the earliest land experience possible (9 am) so that we'd beat the heat as much as possible and then have plenty of time to enjoy the beach club. Upon arriving we had our pick of seating options and selected two small adjoining cabanas with lounge chairs that were positioned near one of the hot tubs and the pool. We got the kids latherds up with sunscreen and off to the pool they went!
In Phoenix, we've come to expect complimentary water when we're visiting an outside attraction in the summer - but the iced tea and lemonade was a really nice touch and made a big impression on our kids. At noon there was a dolphin show, and the crowd got a little heavier around this time, as people wanted to see the dolphins perform. They had a second performance later in the day (6 pm) as well. Those shows were adorable and we decided right then and there that it'd totally be worth it to visit with a beach club pass and catch one of the dolphin shows, like many other people were doing.
We really wanted to make the day out of our visit, so I brought my laptop and got a little work done while my husband went on "kid duty" and we ordered lunch from Docktails, the on-site restaurant. The kids enjoyed mac and cheese, cheese quesadillas, and mini cheeseburger sliders, and we had tacos. After a short rest, the kids returned to the pool until they were tuckered out. I was surprised that we made it until after 4 pm!
Dolphinaris is located right off of the 101 (at Via de Ventura) and all four kids passed out in the car before we hit the 101! Now, THAT's a sign of a good day! Learn more about Dolphinaris Arizona and plan your next day trip at dolphinaris-arizona.com
© 2018 Meg Brunson
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four daughters who live in Peoria, AZ and is the local Editor of KidsOutAndAbout Phoenix - helping parents and caregivers find free and affordable things to do with kids, out and about in Arizona! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!