Wild Dolphins - Key West, Florida
By: John McNamara
When you think of Key
West you probably don’t think of glass bottom boats. You
may think, instead, of beautiful sunsets, a fun and lively environment,
and Jimmy Buffet. Now, it’s all changed, with Wild Dolphin glass bottom boat. Wild Dolphin Boat purpose when it sets sail is explore
the depths of the sea through the glass bottom hull, with great
sightseeing, a relaxing atmosphere, and to ultimately find a
pod of bottlenose dolphins.
When I arrived at the
dock where the Wild Dolphin Boat rests, I was warmly greeted by Captain Tim.
Tim explained all the amenities on the boat; a cooler with beverages
and snacks, all weather gear to keep dry, life vests, and the
glass bottom hull in the middle. I was surprised to see a boat
of this size with a glass bottom hull. I have seen much larger
boats with them, but never a 6-passenger boat. This was very
special and I was anxious to see how it was going to work.
We waited patiently for
all the passengers to arrive. Once settled there were two others,
and a father and his 6-year-old son. Soon, we headed out from
the marina for our 3-hour adventurous journey off Key West.
Since the conditions were windy, Captain Tim gave us rain gear
to combat the water chop spewing out of the harbor. As we gained
speed, the water sprayed over the boat and got us wet. Thankfully,
we had the rain gear to keep us dry. The powerful engine pushed
us through the water to the side of the island where the dolphins
are normally found. It was here that the wind slowed down slightly
and we spotted another boat that had the dolphins in sight.
The boaters of Key West are great at working together on dolphin
spotting. It seems that the local outfitters communicate with
each other, with the mutual goal of respecting the space of
the bottlenose dolphins. This way it’s a win – win
for everyone, dolphins and humans alike.
Almost like the dolphins
were on cue, they left the other boat and swam, excitedly, up
to our boat. We all jumped up with our cameras. A word of advice,
don’t take a digital camera like me; the shutter speed
is too slow to catch the dolphins jumping and playing in the
water. Most of my pictures were of tails and bodies beneath
the water. I kept missing the dolphins as they posed on top
of the water. It would have been better to have a disposable
camera because the dolphins were so close to the boat. The shutter
speed is quick and the pictures are decent.
We spent about 30 minutes
with the Bottlenose dolphins. It was small pod of about 2 –
3 putting on the show for us. They seemed to enjoy our company.
The day was perfect for viewing. It was sunny and cool on the
water. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t very clear because
of the wind. I reminded myself that I need to take the good
with the bad when it comes to weather, since I can’t control
what happens. There is one great thing about Key West. Since
it’s an island, when the wind is blowing hard in one direction
on one side of the island, the sea will be rough off shore,
but on the other side of the island the seas will be flat and
After our viewing of the
dolphins, we went on to explore Key West and to find a place
to snorkel. Captain Tim did his best that day to find a clear
and calm spot for us, and he did. He found a protected boat
wreck off the island. We docked the boat and then proceeded
to get on our snorkel gear. I jumped in first because I am an
experienced snorkeler. I anxiously swam to the boat wreck. Captain
Tim was right. The wreck had an abundance of fish. The fish
were darting back and forth through out the boat. It was spooky,
yet thrilling. The water was really clear around the boat, but,
unfortunately, we were not able to use the glass bottom portion
of the boat.
The glass bottom portion
of the Wild Dolphin boat would be great for those that don’t want
to get wet. For me, the adventure is made by getting wet and
partaking in the snorkeling. From what I understand, the Wild Dolphin Boat
is the only Dolphin Encounter boat with a glass bottom hull.
You may not always be able to view from it, but it’s a
nice option if the ocean conditions are good. You might even
get one of the dolphins to swim by the hull, thus viewing them
from their home in the ocean.
After snorkeling, we
warmed ourselves on the boat with some snacks and beverages.
We talked and got to know each other a little better. Then we
headed out to have another chance to view the dolphins again.
We found them even more playful than before, jumping and splashing
in the water. We tried our best to get good photos. The father
was snapping away while his son was squeaking with joy about
the dolphins. The father had promised his son that he would
see dolphins, and boy, oh boy, dolphins are what they got. Soon,
our time was up and we headed back to the dock.
the Wild Dolphin Boat dolphin encounter trip made for a great day. We all
thanked Captain Tim for his gracious disposition and skilled
boatmanship. At the dock we said goodbye. Waiting at the dock
was the Sunset Dolphin Encounter group. During the winter/spring
there is a 3pm Sunset trip that includes dolphin and sunset
viewing. The sunsets in Key West are incredible, and world famous.
This, I think, would be a nice way to end the day, viewing the
dolphins while holding your significant other and watching the
glow of the sun retreat over the horizon. If you’re interested,
the Sunset trip is very popular, so make sure to reserve your
spot early. Times of the trips change during the season, so
please contact the Wild Dolphin Boat for an accurate schedule.
boat is fairly easy. When coming into Key West on US 1 one of
the first major intersections before heading into old town Key
West is Palm Avenue. Once crossing over the bridge, you will
see Harbor Light Restaurant and Marina. Take a left into the
marina and you will see the 6-passenger boat waiting to take
you on a voyage.
Wild Dolphin Adventures
Key West has a large array
of places to stay, from great B&Bs to upscale hotels, so
you should take some time to explore the options. If you need
a reasonably priced place to stay, that is very clean, and usually
has rooms at the last minute, call:Travel Lodge Hotel and Suite
3444 N. Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, FL 33040
Here are a few of restaurants
that I enjoy when visiting Key West:
305 Petronia St. (Thomas St), Key West, 305-296-8666
Here you can eat under
the stars and huge Banyan trees. The food is really good. You
must try the pork tenderloin and their key lime pie –
the best around.
Half Shell Raw Bar
231 Margaret St. (Caroline St), Key West, 305-294-7496
This is a reasonably priced
fish house serving “fresh” seafood in a very rustic
environment. All the food is served on picnic tables. The restaurant
is filled with lively locals and tourists.