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Swimming with Joy!

Melissa Clauson & Joe Woodbury
Melissa Clauson & Joe Woodbury
We spend a lot of time in the Hammock Community of northeast Flagler County; within five miles of our work we have a great deal of exceptional outdoor activities at our fingertips.  Life is not passing us by, we are participating: mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, jogging, ocean kayaking, and fishing. We are thankful to have these opportunities to be outside and be engaged, but we had to think… what has been left undone? We thought we might have to give swimming with dolphins a try.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure, on the northern boundary of the Hammock Community, is just two miles north of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. It’s been in operation since 1938 and was co-founded by the grandson of Leo Tolstoy, who made it a fashionable destination for literary figures such as Ernest Hemmingway and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Taking the “Behind the Seas” tour is a must as you will be able to view old photos, film memorabilia, and historic signage from Marineland’s 76 year history.

On a bright blue winter’s afternoon we suited up in sleek, full length wetsuits in preparation for our emersion into the chilly dolphin habitat. We felt like aqua-nauts, ready to explore a world we had only experienced at surface level, and from a distance. Our expectations were high, but we were not disappointed. We were given the unique opportunity of swimming with the dolphins in the deep water of their habitat, and with dive masks on we were able to observe the grace and power of these beautiful animals firsthand. There is just something about being around dolphins that elevates your mood – even the most jaded, cynical person can not resist smiling broadly while giving a dolphin a high-five. In fact, the faces of everyone in our group, adults and children alike, radiated pure joy.

In our field of work we are fortunate enough to see dolphins swimming in the wild on a regular basis; but getting up close, looking into their eyes, touching and feeling the smoothness of their skin, is truly an amazing experience. It is our sincere wish that everybody get a chance to do this at least once in their lifetime; not just because it is an unforgettable experience, but also because it will make the participant a lifelong advocate for the dolphin and the oceans, lagoons and river systems they call home.