Theater of the Sea, Islamorada

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Joy S on July 10, 2011

Do not miss Theater of the Sea on Islamorada. It is wonderful. Located at MM84.5 on Windley Key, it was founded in the 1940's and is America's oldest open-air aquarium and mammal show. It is actually the second oldest marine mammal facility in the world. Theater of the Sea does not try to compete with more modern, expensive parks, but this makes it all the better. It is a wonderful place to come for adults and children alike. It was one of the highlights of our holiday on the Florida Keys.

Admission is $26.95 for adults and $19.45 for children aged 3-10 (these prices do not include tax). You need about 3 hours to see all the shows.

The admission charge includes a parrot show, dolphin show, sea lion show, guided marine life tour and a 5 minute ride in a bottomless boat. You can have lunch at Nickys Grill - we had very good sandwiches here, and there is a lagoon side beach where you can sunbathe.

The shows are in small stadiums - not at all flashy, but very intimate and you are very close to the animals. The shows are entertaining but also highly educational, and all of them highlight conservation issues. The dolphins amazed us, not only with their jumps but also with the noises they were able to make from their blowholes - everything from an aeroplane noise to a realistic sound of a baby crying. The sealion show was funny, but demonstrated how intelligent these animals are, and children in the audience got to go up and toss a hoop to the sealion, which he caught.

The guided walks are also very good. We went on 2 of these - you only walk a short distance, but a guide accompanies you and tells you what you are seeing. The first one was along a boardwalk through lots of mangroves to the beach; the second was around the animals - turtles, alligators and many more, where they guide fed them, but also told us lots of information about the animals.

The bottomless boat ride is a lot of fun. It is short - less than 5 minutes up and down the dolphin lagoon, but a dolphin swam along with us, which was great fun.

There are also a number of programmes allowing visitors to swim with and interact with their dolphins and sealions. You need to book in advance, as these are very popular. Reservations are only taken by phone or in person. We did the swim with dolphins programme. It cost $175 per person, this includes 20 minutes orientation and about half an hour swimming time. There are 3 sessions - 10:00, 12:30 and 3:30. You have to be there on time. The cost of participating in these programmes includes the viewing of all shows. Observers can go too and pay $2 to accompany their party to the swim session.

You have to be 5 years old or older to participate. A parent is required to swim with children aged 5-7 and they recommend all participants are competent swimmers, although they do provide life-vests if you want one. They also provide flippers.

In our session with the dolphins, there were only 4 swimmers - it was amazing and I could not recommend this enough. You get to hold a hoop and the dolphin jumps through; hold on to the dorsal fins of 2 dolphins as they pull you around the lagoon; swim around the lagoon with the dolphin swimming next to you; get pulled along on the dolphin's stomach and get a dolphin hug and kiss. It really was tremendous, and having spoken to people who have done similar programmes, this one seemed to be the best. You got so much time, there were only 4 people in the water and you got to interact a lot with these wonderful animals.

Our 7 year old son, who is quite a good swimmer but did wear a life vest, absolutely adored this experience and said it was the best thing he had ever done - his face was a picture.

Observers get to stand right by the water's edge, so they see and hear everything and you can take some great photos.
Theater of the Sea
mm 84.5
Islamorada, Florida, 33036
(305) 664-2431

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