Included in the price of general admission, the lagoon-side beach is open for guests who want to sunbathe, cool off and take a dip, and/or snorkel with a variety of tropical fish.
Chaise lounges, showers, and changing rooms are provided.
Snacks and drinks can be purchased.
The lagoon-side beach is typically open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weather permitting.
ANIMAL INTERACTION PROGRAM QUESTIONS:
A pioneer in animal interactive programs, Theater of the Sea offers several animal interaction programs including:
- Swim with the Dolphin (since 1987)
- Meet the Sea Lion and Meet the Dolphin (since 1994)
- Swim with the Rays (since 1997)
- Swim with the Sea Lion (since 1998)
- Wade with the Dolphin (since 2000)
- Paint with the Dolphin and Paint with the Sea Lion (since 2007)
- Meet the Sea Turtle (since 2009)
- Swim with the Sharks (since 2013)
- Meet the Alligator (since 2017)
- Adventure and Snorkel Cruise
- Sunset Cruise
You should be comfortable in the water.
The Meet the Dolphin, Meet the Sea Lion, Paint with the Dolphin, Paint with the Sea Lion, Meet the Alligator, and Meet the Sea Turtle are out of the water programs.
The Wade with the Dolphin is available for non-swimmers and swimmers alike.
The Swim with the Sea Lion, Swim with the Rays, and Swim with the Sharks take place on a shallow water sandy beach and snorkeling is available.
The Swim with the Dolphin takes place in a 15 to 20 foot deep lagoon, but participants do not tread water the entire time. However, you need to be comfortable in deep water.
- Training at Theater of the Sea utilizes operant conditioning techniques based on positive reinforcement. Basically, desired behavior is reinforced and undesired behavior is ignored.
- New behaviors can be taught in a number of ways including targeting, where the animal remains in contact with a target object and is led through the movements of a behavior.
- Behaviors are often shaped in stages called approximations, where a series of gradual steps build up to a final behavior.
- The length of time it takes to train a behavior depends on the animal, the trainer, and the behavior.
- Each trained behavior has a unique signal, such as a hand or verbal cue.
- Another signal, such as a whistle or the word good, is called a bridge and indicates that a behavior has been performed correctly and will be reinforced.
- A reinforcer is anything that increases the likelihood of the behavior, such as food or attention.
- Since any reaction to a behavior is potentially reinforcing, unwanted behavior is ignored.
- With training, behaviors the animals do naturally can be shaped into those performed for shows, programs, and medical procedures.
This has not been successful in the past as the animals had lost their ability to find food and avoid predators as well as lost their natural fear of humans that any wild animal should have. Dolphins approaching people looking for food or interaction face many risks. These include:
- Boat injuries
- Being fed, intentionally or not, poor quality fish or objects that they should not ingest
- Being deliberately injured by those who view them as nuisance animals and use them as scapegoats for declining fish populations
It is prohibited by the Marine Mammal Protection Act to harass a marine mammal, which includes approaching, swimming with, or feeding a wild marine mammal. This is for the safety and well being of both marine mammals and humans.
Normally, wild animals tend to keep a distance from people, but when people feed and interact with them, they can lose their natural fear of humans and become vulnerable to a variety of problems.
This is also why it’s not so easy to release animals who have been in human care.
Marine mammals who are accustomed to being fed by people:
- spend unusual amounts of time near boats, have been struck by them, and cut by propellers.
- can learn to steal fish off fishing lines, ingesting monofilament line and hooks.
- have been fed inappropriate food such as poor quality/spoiled fish, beer, ice cream, or non- edible items.
- can lose their natural behaviors, impacting their ability to cope and live in the wild.
- are at risk for encountering people who view them as nuisances. The National Marine Fisheries Service have reports of marine mammals who have been shot, fed explosives, or injured by other means.
There are also risks for humans who attempt to interact with wild marine mammals:
- Any animal who feels threatened is capable of aggression.
- Animals who become moochers can get pushy and aggressive when they don’t get the handouts they have come to expect.
Sharks and killer whales can prey on dolphins.
Even though marine mammals are protected in the United States, there are exceptions to these protection laws and they face many human imposed threats both in the United States and worldwide. Some of these threats include incidental deaths in fishing operations and indiscriminate fishing techniques, overfishing, scapegoating, native subsistence hunting, and marine debris.
Exceptions to protection laws allow for “incidental” deaths of marine mammals in fishing operations. Indiscriminate fishing techniques, such as drift nets, are used to meet consumer demand for fish, and kill everything in their path including non-target fish, sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals. These nets are often lost or discarded at sea, where they continue to kill. 410 marine mammals are killed every day as a result of bycatch alone…that is one every 3.5 minutes.
The ocean’s resources cannot compete with modern fishing techniques and overfishing, which deplete the food source for marine mammals and other marine life.
As a result of overfishing, dolphins, sea lions, and other marine mammals are often scapegoats, blamed for declining fish populations. This results in intentional killing, often legal, of both individuals and populations. For example, in Newfoundland, 300,000 harp seals are killed each year, blamed for declining codfish populations. And along the Japanese coastline, dolphins are driven into shallow bays with nets, then gaffed, and dragged ashore where they are killed. In the United States, the lethal removal of California sea lions who prey on migrating salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River has been permitted.
Exceptions to protection laws allow for native subsistence hunting of marine mammals and marine mammals are often killed in the name of cultural tradition. For example, every June in the Faroe Islands, 3,000 to 4,000 pilot whales are driven by boats into coves and slaughtered. The United States permits aboriginal whaling in Alaska with established quotas for hunting bowhead whales, belugas, harbor seals, Stellar sea lions, polar bears, and Pacific walrus.
Extremely high accumulation of chemical and heavy metal residues released into the environment by human activities such as agricultural run-off has caused increased disease in dolphins as well as all life.