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Discovery Cove - Getting Ino The Swim, Part Two

 

Once checked in, you will join a group of eight or so other guests to be escorted into the park itself. Your guide will tell you a bit about what to expect during your stay and direct you to the lockers and cabanas. During this brief introduction, each family group will pose for a picture, which is included in the cost of admission; you can pick it up later in the day or as you leave the park.

You will be issued a mask, snorkel, towel and dolphin-friendly sunscreen. The snorkel is yours to keep, the mask must be returned. You will also be issued a black and neon-yellow neoprene vest that is a cross between a wet suit and a flotation device. The vest is required wearing in the water. It is actually a clever way to keep you buoyant and visible (and therefore safe) without making you feel dorky. And, like a wet suit, it provides some comfort in the chilly waters of the Dolphin Lagoon and Coral Reef. If you’d like more wet suit warmth, you can request an actual wet suit, very much like those worn by the trainers. This one comes to mid-thigh and offers more coverage than the vest alone. For non-swimmers and little ones, stiff yellow life vests are also available. If you mislay your towel during the day, replacements are readily issued.

Your next stop will most likely be the lockers. They are simple wooden affairs located in shaded palapas. The doors of unclaimed lockers will be open and inside you will find the key, which is on a lanyard so you can wear it around your neck. (The ID card and key, by the way, tuck neatly inside your vest, so they don’t get in your way during the day.) Near each locker area is a changing room, should you need it.

If your dolphin swim is later in the day, now it is time to take advantage of the continental breakfast buffet, scope out the beach area, and choose a lounge chair or two to accommodate your party. Take your time and pick a spot that offers the ideal combination of sun and shade to suit your tastes.

If you have followed my advice and arranged an early dolphin swim, it will now be time to head to your assigned cabana to begin your experience; you can have breakfast after your dolphin encounter, or you might want to head straight for the Ray Lagoon. This is because the rays will be hungriest in the morning. Trying to feed a full stingray in the afternoon can be a daunting challenge.

Otherwise, you can pretty much take things easy for the rest of the day, basking in the sun, swimming in the river or saltwater pools, visiting the Aviary, or eavesdropping on the later dolphin swims as the spirit moves you.

The ‘Twilight Discovery’ Option

If you choose the Twilight Discovery option, which is available only during the summer months, your day begins at three o’clock in the afternoon and ends at about nine. Your experience, though shorter, will be much the same as if you had opted for a full day, but with a few important differences. For one thing, there will be fewer of you. This program is limited to just 150 guests.

Most important to my way of thinking, is that the dolphin interaction is a “wade” rather than a “swim.” In the evening, all interactions with the dolphins take place in shallow water. That means you will miss out on the thrill of being towed by the dolphin which is one of the great highlights of the daytime experience. Of course, that dolphin ride takes time, so without it you get a little more one-on-one time with your flippered friend. Although the evening interaction is the same 30 minutes as during the day, many people who have done both report that it seems longer.

Obviously lunch is not included in the evening option, but dinner is and it is a decided step up from the midday fare. Chefs personally prepare delicacies like blackened sea scallops or grilled steak and shrimp. They’ll even help you create your own pasta dish. Desserts are more lavish as well and include flaming bananas Foster.

Live music is part of the experience, too, and you can expect lively limbo dancing on the Laguna Grill patio. Because the crowds are smaller in the evening, it’s possible to slip off somewhere relatively quiet with that special someone and savor the sunset in this very special place.

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