Close up to a Bottlenose Dolphin

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Tue 3 Jan 2012 20:29
As a Christmas pressie to each other we fulfilled a long-held ambition to get up close to a dolphin or two. We are blessed when cruising to enjoy the company of these fascinating creatures that seem to be as curious about us as we are about them. Whenever it's safe to do so we go forward and watch them playing in our bow wave - on the few occasions we go fast enough to actually make one that is. We've even had pilot whales at the bows but fortunately nothing larger! Our favourite species are the Bottlenose and Atlantic Spotted - a completely daft bunch but great fun to watch.
Rotan has a wonderful research facility based at Anthony Key Resort on the Northwest of the island featuring 20+ bottlenose dolphins from which the males have been trained to allow close contact with the public under the guidance of a trainer. Without the trainer's prescience it would be extremely difficult to avoid stressing the friendly creatures. The females are not included in the public interaction as they would be a distraction - male dolphins being a pretty randy lot but with a very short span of attention.
Many people have varying thoughts on such establishments - us included, especially having witnessed so much dolphin activity near the boat -however one fact we are aware of -  in the wild these mammals love to play and perform as part of their daily life. None of the activities performed at the Research Institute were any different to what we have seen them undertake in the wild with the one exception that we were able to smooth the dolphins belly and back, staying well away from the blow hole of course.
So without further ado here are the pics of our time in their company - a mere 30 minutes in fact. Our dolphin's name was Ken.  And for anyone feeling that their captivity seems cruel - well during Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - a major destructive Category 5 the dolphin pens were damaged allowing the dolphins their freedom - but they all returned to the Institute. Must be the 35lbs of fish they are fed daily! 
                                                             Aerial view of Bailey's Key at Anthony Key Resort showing the dolphin pens
          A short boat ride takes us to the dolphins' home                                             The main pen where people can snorkel with them
      The briefing area where we are told about the rules of encounter........            .......before heading to a small beach to wade waist deep
        Chatting to a visitor!                                                                                         Here we go........ 6 of us in a straight line (3 were retrieving cameras)
The red box carried by the trainer is full of fish - not cold beers
    This is Ken - he thinks it's funny anyway.......                                    ...... and off he goes to perform a tail walk for us for which we give him much applause
                    Ken received double fish rations for this leap
     Just stick your hand in there Madam......                                                                     ........and now you Sir
      and now for a nice big wet sloppy kiss                                                                     Phil would have preferred a female dolphin to be doing this!
      Watching Dixon, Ken's younger brother performing......                                ..............while Ken just blows a few bubbles
                                                                      Ready? Now Heave !!! Gosh Ken you're are a heavy cetacean!!!
We learnt a lot about the dolphins whilst there, but it's all on the internet for anyone to find out about. For us it was the experience which we'll always remember.