Dolphin Cay is not an aquarium or entertainment facility. Instead it is a place where guests can encounter a family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and sea lions cavorting joyfully in one of the world’s largest and finest open-air habitats. Dolphin Cay is home to a full-time team of marine-mammal specialists and veterinarians who look after these intelligent, personable, extraordinary creatures 365 days a year.
Visitors to Dolphin Cay can participate in a variety of innovative programs allowing them to observe or interact with the animals in ways that enrich humans and marine mammals alike—and all while helping to fund the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation’s conservation efforts. For many visitors it’s much more than a man-meets-nature activity. Encounters with these playful, inquisitive mammals have been described as healing, transcendent and even spiritual experiences.
“Dolphin Cay’s main objective is to provide the highest quality care possible, where animals can be rescued and rehabilitated back to optimal health so that they can live full, enriched and long lives in the safest environment possible,” said Dolphin Cay Vice President Ted Turner. “We assist stranded and beached animals so that future generations can experience these fascinating, ocean inhabitants and learn to protect these precious, natural resources.”
If you’re planning a trip to Atlantis, a visit to Dolphin Cay is a must!
How long has Dolphin Cay been around?
Dolphin Cay was opened in 2007 to provide a safe haven for 17 stranded dolphins and 10 sea lions whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. As international experts consulted on the best long-term plan for the animals, the hungry and injured creatures were cared for right in the Gulf where they’d been recovered, then temporarily housed in inland swimming pools and training tanks provided by the U.S. Navy. Restoring the dolphins to health and safety was the first priority, but reuniting them in a permanent home was the ultimate goal—one that was finally achieved when Atlantis committed the resources to build a habitat and rehabilitation center worthy of these magnificent animals. Now the original Katrina dolphins have been joined by 16 calves. Healthy, happy and rejuvenated in their new home, they are all eager to greet our guests as they are invited to participate in one of many innovative programs.
What are some of the unique behaviors of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at Atlantis?
• Females have a specific “call” (underwater vocalization) that they give their calves if they wander too far. When this call is made, the calf returns immediately to its mother.
• Many dolphins are very creative in using tools and in blowing bubble rings and pushing them around underwater. They manipulate these bubble rings like a magician. Beautiful to watch and fascinating to experience.
• Dolphins can “see” underwater hand signals from the behaviorists without using their vision. Their echolocation can detect subtle and complex movement of each hand signal and they respond correctly each time.
• Dolphins can vocalize in frequencies that are so intense that they actually produce small amounts of heat. Some scientists suggest that dolphins and some slower moving cetaceans use intense sound to stun fish for an easy meal.
Tell us about your efforts with the animals?
At the Atlantis Rescue & Care Facility – aside from the care of our dolphins and sea lions on an everyday basis — we are a rescue, research, and rehabilitation resort. We have a staff of over 165 Marine Life Team employees dedicated to animals and marine research. Atlantis is the only resort of its kind to have an Animal Rescue & Care Facility and employ a full staff of marine-mammal specialists and veterinarians who have the tools and knowledge to work with these animals. We have this facility at Dolphin Cay (and as you know, we also have a Fish Hospital, for other types of marine life).
We are the only resort in the world that conducts this type of rescue, research and rehabilitation. Our work will be a huge piece of the scientific foundation for understanding how this population progresses in the future.
It's important to note that Dolphin Cay’s team doesn’t only work with dolphins + sea lions - they are marine-mammal experts, overall. In 2018, we also had a big marine-mammal rescue, rehabilitation and release journey of a Manatee (“Manny”), who was severely malnourished and in really critical condition.
Tell us more about the facility where the animals are rehabilitated.
Animal Care & Rescue Facility at Dolphin Cay is where we rehab and work with rescued animals. The Dolphin Cay team, like the Aquarists at The Dig and various marine habitats and lagoons, etc. monitor and care for the animals 365 days a year, 24 hours a day!
What should every guest know before coming to Dolphin Cay?
It is important to understand that we are are an educational, inspirational environment. It’s really important to note that when visiting Dolphin Cay, we are coming into their sanctuary and home of the animals – not the other way around. We are adapting to their environment and it’s a serene, peaceful, playful setting – one in which the dolphins feel comfortable with us. We are engaging through educational programing that’s perfect for all age groups.
A portion of the cost of all of the Dolphin Cay programs goes back to the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation – Atlantis’ non-profit dedicated to conservation efforts, research, education … the list goes on. So, when the girls participate in those dolphin and sea lion interactions, a portion of the cost of what they did goes back at the Blue Project for further research and conservation efforts.