If your trip aboard the Southern Star has left you excited for more dolphin and marine life adventures, you should head over to Okaloosa Island and spend a day exploring the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Since opening in 1955, Florida’s Gulfarium has enchanted, entertained, and informed locals and visitors about the animals, fish, and birds that live in and around the Emerald Coast. It underwent a massive renovation last year, resulting in a more streamlined layout and a greater emphasis on interacting with the marine life.
Like most aquariums, The Gulfarium’s primary goal is conservation and environmental education. Last year, Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park rescued 18 sea turtles, returning 15 of them back to the wild. The remaining three turtles spend their days at the park serving as a reminder that environmental stewardship is important to the health and wellbeing of local wildlife. The staff is engaging, but not preachy, when they tell the stories of how the turtles were injured or endangered by human interference, most notably by wayward litter or leftover ropes, lines, and fishing hooks.
In addition to the traditional aquarium exhibits, like a touchable tide pool, dolphin shows, and shark tank, the park has a number of special animal encounters that allow you to get up and personal with a number of different types of marine life, including otters, stingrays, and of course, dolphin.
- The Discover Dolphin Encounter (for ages 5 and up) brings you dockside for a chance to touch and feed the Gulfarium’s friendly dolphin family.
- The Dolphin Splash Encounter (for ages 8 and up) puts your directly in the “splash zone” and you visit with the dolphins from a submerged platform. This 30-minute program gives visitors an opportunity to touch, talk, and play with the dolphin. Be sure to wear you’re bathing suit, you’ll get wet!
- For true marine biologists in training, check out the Ocean Odyssey, a four-hour adventure into each of the animal habitats, including the dolphins.
- The VIP Trainer program gives participants a taste of what it’s like to work at the park. You’ll learn how the trainers work with the animals, including the dolphins during, this 5 hours, interactive and innovative program.
The Crew of the Southern Star believe in the Gulfarium’s mission of environmental conservation, and they work hard to create a dolphin-friendly environment aboard their cruise. If you and your family are looking for another dolphin-centered adventure, be sure to check out the Gulfarium.