There are three Dolphin Quests. One’s in Bermuda at the Bermuda Maritime Museum, and the other two are in Hawaii. The SoCalGal Family was very excited to find out that one of these two Dolphin Quests is right here on the Big Island, about a half mile from our resort.
The younger daughter of our crew has been coughing and complaining about not feeling great, but the idea of swimming with dolphins caused a serious rally. The Motrin went down the throat without the usual I-hate-medicine drama, and off we went.
The Big Island’s Dolphin Quest is on the sprawling grounds of Hilton Waikoloa Village, one of Hawaii’s (as in the Big Island’s) main resort destinations. Walking around the Hilton Waikoloa Village is an experience in and of itself, what with a huge man-made beach inside the property, a couple of large parrots in the lobby, and – this is true – a tram to take guests from one end of the resort to another. You can’t miss the Dolphin Quest area, though. It’s a big, very well designed area with twelve dolphins and as many marine mammal specialists: Guess which species is the one that leaps up to 12 feet out of the water?
These are, interestingly, bottlenose dolphins. Spinner dolphins are native to this part of the South Pacific, but they are somewhat smaller than the bottlenose variety (spinner dolphins are also naturally nocturnal, hence not used in dolphin adventure programs like their diurnal bottlenose cousins). The 12 dolphins at the Hilton Waikoloa Village were all born at one Dolphin Quest or another, and right now there are two babies! The youngest baby dolphin, just 8 months old, was born last Easter. His name is Hua, which means (appropriately) “egg.”
We signed up for the “Encounter Deluxe” program, which included the following:
* Length of dolphin time = 30 minutes
* Shallow water interactive dolphin encounter
* View dolphins underwater with masks
* Individual group size up to 6 people
* Fun, educational out-of-water activities with trainers while observing the dolphins
* Each encounter is unique based upon the guests, trainers and dolphins
* Your personalized photos with dolphins available for purchase
* DVD video of dolphin encounter available for purchase (limited availability)
Our dolphin trainer, Danielle, really impressed me with her knowledge (my older daughter had hundreds of eager, excited questions), her passion for the well-being of the dolphins, and the way in which she interacted with my kids. Never condescending or patronizing, she answered all questions seriously and made sure that everyone got equal quality time with the two dolphins our group interacted with. There was a LOT of touching those dolphins, once she saw that we were respectful of them. We swam with them, learned a few commands, and fed them plenty of herring.
Seeing these intelligent marine mammals up close, and interacting with them so personally, was simply amazing. My Motrin’ed kid was so happy she seemed at a loss for words – she just laughed and gasped for the 45 minutes of our program. No one would guess that an hour before, she had been moaning and explaining the importance of her being allowed to watch more TV in our hotel room. We were the only people in our group (there were four or five groups of 4-6 people in our program). This made for an even more personal family adventure experience.
Participating in Dolphin Quest on our first full day in Hawaii sets the bar high. It’s hard to imagine a better family vacation activity. It was perfect. On the other hand, the next day’s plans include a full day sail/snorkel trip out to where Captain Cook met his watery end…Those are the two activities that were arranged for us as part of this sponsored trip. From what I understand, this could be a contender as well. So long as my younger kid forgets she’s supposedly not feeling well, anyway! Children’s moods really have a big impact of family vacation activities. Have no doubt: Swimming with dolphins is a highlight of their vacation.
Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village is definitely one of the best family-friendly, unforgettable experiences on Hawaii.