Thursday, January 27, 2022

Swimming with dolphins: a treat to cement bond between species

Enchanted families have the rare experience of being up close and personal with dolphins
in Hilton Waikoloa Village's acclaimed Dolphin Quest program. Participants may help feed
the mammals, swim with them, watch them play and bond with them in unique ways.


GETTING UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH ONE OF NATURE'S STARS OF THE SEA


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Dolphins are very intelligent and bond with the highly skilled trainers,
who know each one by name and develop close relationships.

IF YOU YEARN to connect with another species, and have watched in wonder the joyful antics of dolphins, there's no better place to bond with these playful and intelligent creatures than Hilton Waikoloa Village's Dolphin Quest.

We watched these graceful and friendly mammals recently with a few dozen other hotel guests during their regular morning play time near the resort complex's stylish Makai Tower.

WHAT A THRILL.  What a treat.  Their eyes seem to express their love of humans, and their faces actually seem to smile as families gather on the shore of the lagoon to watch, then walk into the waters and commune for a thrilling half hour.

As preparation, we did some homework on Dolphin Quest, which operates in Bermuda, Oahu and on The Big Island.  It was at that operation on the Kona Coast where we experienced the dolphin magic during a week-long stay.

Skilled trainers work with the dolphins
each day; their care is meticulous.
 
THE PROGRAM was developed by compassionate veterinarians specializing in marine mammals, and its founding premise is all about connecting humans with these fascinating, intelligent creatures. A primary goal is to educate the next generation to appreciate and nurture them.  There are other dolphin experiences in the world, but this one gets top reviews for its focus on quality animal care and education.  Training programs ensure that staff are committed to loving care of the animals and the program's mission: to enrich the lives of these wonderful dolphins and foster respect and appreciation for marine life.

We watched on the lawn as families gathered for the experience. It's expensive -- but every single person we chatted with after the session was thrilled.  "Once in a life time," said one beaming grandmother. She treated her daughter, son-in-law and three kids and said "It's the best money I ever spent. Absolutely worth every penny!"

While parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles bring
their little ones into the water, photographers wade in, too.

For the money, a 45-minute experience includes a briefing session, then a half-hour with the dolphins, to touch, play and perhaps help with feeding. The group is limited to six, so you're able to join another small family if you are only two or three, or you can book the private six-maximum experience. 

Individual tickets start at $269 for the 45-minute session (there's a pre-dolphin  briefing then a half-hour with them.) There's a 30-minute possibility starting at $230, for kids only, highly supervised by the well trained and congenial staff. We watched hosting parents, grandparents and aunties take photos from the side lines, delighting in watching their progeny so excited in the water.

WE WERE SO captivated by the experience that we watched it part of each day for a week, from our ringside balcony seats in Makai, at Hilton Waikoloa Village.  The lush landscape of blooming plumeria, orchids, bougainvillea and palms makes a beautiful backdrop for the dolphin experience.    

Twice a week, early morning, before the Dolphin Quest
experience begins, trainers work with the beautiful
mammals, while guests at Hilton Waikoloa Village enjoy. 
ANOTHER HAPPY person, father of a young daughter, said it was "an extraordinary bonding experience -- for all of us:  for me with my kid, for each of us with the dolphins.  It was quite magical."

Photographers join the group at a respectful distance, recording the experience for souvenir photos, which are an additional cost.

Special needs children and adults with disabilities are also happily accommodated on an individual basis.  The staff goes out of its way to tailor each experience, so everyone is happy and gets what he or she is looking for. Extraordinary customer service and great awareness of COVID protocol, hygiene and safety have made the program a rollicking success.

If one thinks about the benefits of the time with these graceful, affectionate creatures, it's a worthy investment of time and money.

Bruce Keller and Christene
"Cookie" Meyers happy with
a dolphin view on the
shore of the Kona Coast.

And can one really put a price on something that accomplishes so much in so little time?

 The smiles tell it all.  On both human and dolphin!

 More information or to book: dolphinquest.com/health/ (808) 987-3434.reservations@dolphinquest.com; Hilton Waikoloa Village is at 425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa, HI 96738

 

Keller and Cookie, ready for take-off, for a bird's eye view
of Kauai, here by Air Ventures' air van at the Lihue Airport
.



UP NEXT: Hawaii's magic is timeless -- we've proven that in over a half-century of visits. This trip takes us first to quiet, lush Kauai, "the garden isle," known for its verdant landscapes, pleasant people and tranquil surroundings. And there's nothing like taking it all in by air. We head for the Lihue Airport to hop aboard a state of the art air van, with Air Ventures Hawaii. What a thrill to see the beauty of this lovely island from on high. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly: www.whereiscookie.com

4 comments:

  1. Los Angeles RegularsJanuary 28, 2022 at 2:51 PM

    Wow. What a delightful story to wake up to. We have spent part of each spring at the wonderful Hilton Waikoloa Village (3 couples, many grandchildren, friends, etc. -- it grows each year.) We plan to take 3 groups to Dolphin Quest based on your excellent recommendation. THANK YOU.

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  2. Reno Nature LoversJanuary 28, 2022 at 2:52 PM

    We love Hilton's art collection at this place. And now we have another reason to book. Wish we'd done the Dolphin Quest when we were there for Thanksgiving, but we will be back this year and will definitely do! Wonderful photos!

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  3. Portland Tropics FansJanuary 29, 2022 at 2:08 PM

    Fun story, fun photos. Great experience I'm sure. We didn't realize we could do this when we were at Waikoloa last week. So glad to know for we are returning in April.

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  4. Delightful beginning to end...... more of these kinds of stories you two are so adept at. We need the cheer and encouragement.

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