Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida

The Dolphin Research Center (DRC) is a couple minutes away from Jolly Roger Travel Park and we had heard good things from guests at Sun-n-Fun, so we thought we’d give it a try. 

Although there are numerous experiences one can purchase (swim with the dolphins, paint with the dolphins, researcher for a day, etc…) we decided to go with the basic $20 per adult admission. (We did save $5 on two-adult tickets with a coupon we found in one of the many coupon books in the Keys.)

The mission of the Dolphin Research Center is, in part, to research and learn about dolphins, thus be able to teach in an effort to coexist. It’s difficult to describe the center – it was not “zoo-like” at all. In fact, the dolphins are in “pens” (for lack of a better word) in the bay, and they are able to get out when they want to (which is very rare) via openings in their “fences.” They are served three to five meals a day, yet there are still fish swimming around their enclosures if they want to do a little fishing/munching on their own. 
The research the DRC focuses on a variety of cognitive and behavioral functions, such as number sense  (i.e. this much is less than that much) or recognition of two objects being the same. Of course, the dolphins learn various aerobatic behaviors as well.

 We really enjoyed ourselves (spent about four hours). The DNC has program after program, all narrated and educational.  We learned a lot about dolphin behavior and every employee, intern, and volunteer were incredibly nice and full of information.

The DNC has a few sea lions as well, by the way.  
  Here's a dolphin painting and the final product ~

And a couple more dolphin shots~

The last thing we wanted to do is try some legendary stone crabs. We hear they are expensive, but wanted to try them anyway.  We ended up going to the recommended Keys Fisheries, Market & Marina in Marathon – they had $2/claw stone crab and we each tried one. Yeah, okay done. :-)  It was okay, but not as sweet as Alaskan King Crab or our home-grown Oregon Dungeness crab. We happened to both order the stone crab chowder, which was excellent! (How can something with that much cream & butter be bad?)
So we definitely recommend both the Dolphin Research Center (get there early in time for breakfast – we saw them weigh each dolphin as well, something they do monthly – plan at last half a day, if not more) and Keys Fisheries, Market & Marina – a great day in the Keys!
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

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