We visited the Ocho Rios location of Dolphin Cove Jamaica in June 2015. If you want the full story, keep reading. If you just want the highlights or the key tips, scroll to the bottom.
Dolphin Cove presents preservation of marine life and the environment wrapped in a tourist attraction. In fact, it is the top marine attraction in Jamaica, if not the Caribbean. As long as you realize what it is and have a reasonable level of expectation of the experience, you will be fine. If you are the kind of person who thinks that no animal should be in captivity, this experience will not change your mind. And, you should probably not bother reading the rest of this article.
We bought tickets and made reservations for the 11:30am Dolphin Encounter the following day. There were different tour options available but since our son, Darrian, isn’t a good swimmer yet, we wanted something that he could enjoy fully.
The park opened at 10am that day. We got there about 10:50am thinking that we were early. You really should try to get there closer to 10am as there is a lot more to do than we realized. We needed to leave at about 1pm and really could have used more time.
Even with the receipt for the tickets in hand, it took us 20-25 minutes at check-in (from when they started attending to us) to get our wrist bracelets and sign the liability waivers. Although there was a computer at the desk, quite a bit seemed to be done by hand in notebooks with handwritten receipts. So, be prepared for a little wait.
At 11:30am when the experience started, everyone with reservations for that time sat on the benches on the deck. The arm bands not only identify the type of tour you have paid for but also the group with which you will be for the dolphin encounter. It doesn’t really matter where you sit during the pre-encounter briefing. There is no “good” spot because based on how everyone stands in the water, you will get your turn to touch or otherwise interact with the dolphin.
The trainer started off talking about Dolphin Cove and dolphins in general. Once that piece was over, we were placed in groups of about 10 people each. We lined up in the water and each person interacted with the dolphin in turn getting and giving the dolphin a kiss, touching the dolphin’s back, and giving it a belly rub. Using the signals that we were taught, we got the dolphin to sing, dance and flip. It was about 15 minutes of group time, not individual time, with the dolphin.
Was it enough time with the dolphins? Darrell thought it was enough. Darrian and I thought it could have been a little longer. They are such friendly creatures that a few minutes more would always be welcomed.
There is a miniature petting zoo with rabbits and guinea pigs. There is bird feeding. There were some friendly exotic birds including macaws, love-birds and parakeets.
There is a water slide and a beach area but we didn’t have time to experience those. We also didn’t get to do the glass-bottom boat ride.
We did the short speed boat ride going from Dolphin Cove towards Dunns River Falls next door. On the way, you can see Mick Jagger’s former estate. Now called Rio Chico and owned by Butch Stewart of Sandals fame, it is a villa which rents for US$40,000 to $70,000 per week! Talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous! The ride was choppy but fun. The boat captain was the only person who asked for a tip.
The boat ride was Darrell’s favorite part of the visit. My favorite thing was the section with the vendors. This was for one simple reason – Nobody asked me if I wanted to buy anything and I didn’t feel pressured to buy anything.
You can also swim and snorkel with the sting rays. There are maybe two sting rays. The barbs have been removed. You can take your picture holding one. Interacting with the stingray is included with the admission so you may as well do it. It isn’t as though you are snorkeling or interacting with many of them. If that is what you are expecting, you will be disappointed.
It was difficult to hear them very well. I’m not one who cares for activities specifically designed to make tourists laugh. Maybe kids under 12 might find the show funny but it needs more work to keep the average adult entertained. That said, their main “pirate”, whose voice announces the show, is pretty good. He really fits his role. I won’t let the cat out of the bag with that one.
The Shark Show is free. The Shark Interaction is extra.
The music in the area with the sharks is in the flavor of Jaws. They make a big show about how dangerous sharks are; however, the sharks that they have are nurse sharks.
It is one thing to spill the beans to kids that Santa Claus isn’t real. I think it is responsible to spill the beans on the shark experience given that there are people who die each year from real shark attacks. Are there people who will do the shark experience at Dolphin Cove and leave believing that all sharks can be tamed or that they interacted with a potentially dangerous shark? Quite possibly, which would be very unfortunate.
The idea of interacting with sharks, even if they are only nurse sharks, sounds scarier than it actually is. These are not Great Whites like from Jaws! You do sign a liability waiver; but, there is no way the company would be irresponsible enough to put tourists in a swimming area with sharks that are likely to harm humans. Nevertheless, nurse sharks are sharks, making it a unique experience with bragging rights.
So what’s the deal with nurse sharks? According to National Geographic, “Nurse sharks are slow-moving bottom-dwellers and are, for the most part, harmless to humans. However, they can be huge—up to 14 feet (4.3 meters)—and have very strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth, and will bite defensively if stepped on or bothered by divers who assume they’re docile.” Sharksider.com states, “The threat to humans is very minimal. There have only been a few attacks ever recorded, and only one of those attacks was unprovoked. No fatal attacks have ever been recorded.” So in reality, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.
The main reason we enjoyed Dolphin Cove Jamaica was because it made our son very happy. Surprise!
Parents, your kids will enjoy it. There are enough activities here to make you happy too.
Have you visited the Ocho Rios location of Dolphin Cove Jamaica? How was your experience? Let us know. Leave a comment below.
Dolphin Cove is located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, near Dunns River Falls and Mystic Mountain, and is about 30 minutes drive from Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, Discovery Bay. Contact us now to book your Mais Oui Villa vacation.
Think and dream Jamaica!
Til next time,
Sherry & Darrell
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Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tenis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!