There are a number of aquariums, theme parks and adventure tour companies that offer opportunities to interact with sea life, especially dolphins. However, they are not so common that we can just drive across town to participate. Most of us will need to travel somewhere, like the aquatic park, Zoomarine. There are two Zoomarine locations, one located in Portugal´s southern coastal region known as the Algarve. The Algarve is something like the European equivalent of Florida, so going to the Zoomarine Algarve to swim with the dolphins will roll a European vacation, beach time and a magical aquatic adventure all into one.
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Travel to the Algarve. How you get to the Algarve depends on where you are travelling from and your general plans. A typical visitor from North America will fly to Lisbon (Portugal's capital and largest city), then either make an air connection to Faro in the Algarve, or go on from Lisbon by train or bus.
Book your hotel in the city of Albufeira. This is where Zoomarine Algarve is located. If one of your main reasons for coming to the Algarve is to swim with dolphins, then choosing a nearby hotel makes most sense. Albufeira is a popular tourist destination in its own right, with easy access to beaches and nightlife, so the bonus to staying here is you'll be close to other attractions.
Note the requirements for participation. All swimmers must be at least 8 years old, know how to swim, and be in good physical and psychological condition. Also, no pregnant women are permitted to swim with the dolphins at Zoomarine.
Make your reservation in advance. During the peak tourist season of the summer, you should book your dolphin time before you even leave for Portugal. Park admission is 23 Euros for adults; the dolphin interaction program costs an additional 145 Euros. There is no deposit necessary to make a booking inquiry, but the full fee is required upon reservation.
Be aware of the procedures. You are required to show up at the program's reservation stand one hour before your scheduled time. There is a brief educational film, and you will be required to shower and wear your swim suit plus a provided wet suit vest. If you wear glasses, you will not be allowed to bring them into the dolphin pool. Expect the entire program to take 90 minutes, with 30 minutes spent in the pool.
Enjoy your swim with the dolphins. Just stay calm and make sure your children stay calm while splashing around with the dolphins. Treat the dolphins with respect because, although they're in an aquarium, they are still powerful sea mammals and can hurt you and get hurt.
Tips and warnings
- The Portuguese are especially well-known for their gourmet standards and their Latin late-night habits, so leave enough time to enjoy the setting before and after visiting Zoomarine.
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