Dolphin Cove

Friendly warning (c) Iain Purdie

Billing itself as “Jamaica’s #1 Attraction”, Dolphin Cove offers more than just the chance to meet one of nature’s coolest mammals. As we visited two days after the hurricane, a few of the attractions were unavailable but it was still a very enjoyable day out.

Whenever there’s a tourist attraction involving animals, there are always some negative comments or concerns for the animals’ welfare – we heard none at all regarding this place and every single person on the resort who’d been came back gushing with praise. So I’ll start by giving you one downside (and really the only major one) – it’s not at all pushchair/pram friendly.

The entrance itself is at the top of a hill with about 40 steps to get down to the check-in. You continue down several more flights before getting to beach level, and even there the trail is rock-strewn with the occasional step. As long as you can lift your pram around a bit, it’s not the end of the world but it’s something worth being aware of.

2012 is the Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, and many hotels and companies are offering deals as a way of celebrating this. For instance, our resort has wiped the charge for internet access and the Ocho Rios shopping shuttle (usually $7) amongst other things. Dolphin Cove were upgrading every entry ticket to the next highest. Usually there’s an entry fee, then another charge to do a Dolphin Touch. An upgrade takes you to a Swim and more money gived you an Encounter.

Each offers you more time and activities with the creatures, and their deal for this year is to offer the Touch with the entry fee, Swim for Touch price and Encounter for Swim price. Given the prices, this is a damn good saving. Most of our party went for the middle ground one, but as Little Mister was too young for anything else I volunteered to hold back and just do the Touch with him.

The resort itself is nicely haggard, with a light-hearted pirate theme. The decor is just right and very weather-worn, and there are even a few “pirates” wandering around scaring the clientelle with surprise “YARR”s. Little Mister wasn’t phased, just staring at them and blowing raspberries in rebuke.

We got to feed lovebirds, hold makaws and a huge iguana then watch the staff feed the sharks (I didn’t find out what kind of shark, but definitely not Great Whites!) before we had some very expensive drinks and ice cream. Just after midday, those on the Encounter were packed off for their briefing and we watched the start of their activities before heading to the other side of the resort for our own.

Fortunately, before we actually met the dolphins, Gillian made her way over to take charge of Little Miss – and also brought Little Miss with her. The winds had picked up and the choppy waters had made it difficult for her to complete everything, so the staff had said she could do the Touch as well.

As myself and the two kids made our way down to meet Mitch, the bottle-nose, a member of staff walked past asking if a very nice Palladium ring belonged to any of us. Erm, yes, actually. It was my wedding ring!

I’d put it into the baby bag to keep it safe as you’re not supposed to wear jewellery while interacting with the dolphins in case it scratches them. Thing is, Gillian had managed to drop it out of the bag while recovering her own rings! Full marks for honest staff!

AAAAARRRR (c) Iain Purdie

The Touch itself was wonderful. Despite the number of things I have done in my travels, being this close to dolphins wasn’t one of them and the 10 minutes or so we got was fantastic.

Cupping our hands had Mitch swim up and place his beak in our palms, pose for a photo them accept a kiss on the nose. Little Mister was faultless. I honestly thought he’d be too nervous, but with just a hand to steady him in case he fell he did everything perfectly with the biggest grin on his face.

We next got a quick guide to the dolphin’s body with demonstrations of many of the “pieces” (fins and echo-location, mainly), followed by a quick swim-past by Mitch to allow us another chance to stroke him.

I enjoyed it – the kids absolutely loved it. We’ve already decided we want to come back and do the top package where you get lifted up in the air by two dolphins pushing your feet.

Even the burgers and chips we paid a small fortune for were good, and the souvenirs are the right kind of cheesy. We haggled over a photo/DVD package as we had a split group over two activites and got all the photos from both plus a DVD of the main group for $120. Not cheap, but still less than the $160+tax it should have cost.

Yes, while the initial entry fee isn’t bad they really do hammer you for the paid activities. They are good, though. Gillian wanted to do the shark feed and there’s also a chance to snorkel with sting rays but they weren’t on due to the repair work. If you’re only going to get one chance in your life to do this kind of thing, then this must be as good a place as you can to do it.

Expensive, yes? But can you put a price on a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience?

A really good day out made all the better by it being the day we returned to the Club resort after our brief re-housing at the Fun.

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