As I mentioned Monday, the Big Island of Hawaii is an animal lover’s paradise with something special to offer at pretty much every turn. Whether on land, in air, or underwater, the Big Island offers everyone a little something wild to enjoy and appreciate throughout their visit.
Another experience that the Big Island offers animal-loving visitors is the opportunity to get up close and personal with a large pod of dolphins at the Dolphin Quest lagoon at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort. Last year when we stayed there, our room’s balcony overlooked the Dolphin Quest lagoon, so T got to watch the dolphins play, eat, and be cared for during pretty much our entire visit. Luckily for him, we also gave in and signed him and me up for their Wee Tots program geared toward toddlers and preschool-aged kids; better yet, T (and I for that matter) loved it.
For children ages two- to four-years-old (and one accompanying adult per child), Dolphin Quest’s Wee Tots interactive experience gives smaller kids the chance to meet a dolphin one-on-one for 10 minutes in a very safe and controlled shallow-water environment. The staff at Dolphin Quest recognizes that kids this age are typically too small to “swim with the dolphins,” so they’ve created a very special program where young children can pet, feed, and splash with one of the dolphins during their visit. Of course, Dolphin Quest staff capture the moment in photos (video for hire available also) so you can enjoy the moments with your kids long after the 10 minutes are up.
This year, we returned for another week’s stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Sadly, the rooms that overlook the lagoon were under renovation and we had to stay in another area of the resort, but that didn’t mean that we forgot about our Dolphin Quest friends. And I think T enjoyed Wee Tots even more this time around, if that’s even possible. In fact, T was so comfortable being close to Hua (the dolphin) that Cole (the trainer) let me step back a bit on some of the activities.
Sadly, this will be T’s last year for Wee Tots as he will age out by our next visit to the Big Island. However, I do not think this will be T’s last dolphin encounter, or mine for that matter. Dolphin Quest offers a number of programs for all-ages and group sizes of all time lengths no matter what type of experience you are looking for. In fact, they even offer a “trainer for a day” program where you pay Dolphin Quest to do their job for a whole day. While that might sound like some sort of scam to some (paying to work? shouldn’t it be the other way around?!), to aspiring marine biologists everywhere it’s pretty much a dream come true, or at least a perfect way to get their feet wet on those dreams before diving in head-first.
Another wonderful – and free – activity that Dolphin Quest on the Big Island offers is a free weekly show. On Tuesday late afternoons during the off-season, Dolphin Quest staff hold a free show for visitors to sit on the lawn and learn more about the dolphins and watch them “dance” to a couple of songs as entertainment. I happened to pass by the weekly show as I returned to the Dolphin Quest shop to view our photos from our Wee Tots experience. In fact, I wasn’t even going to go and look over our photos but instead wait until we got home so I could just view them online (as you can view and buy photos online for up to a month after your dolphin program), but C sort of pushed me into going and getting it done before we left the island. Thanks, C! Not only did we get our photo and video a lot sooner but I got to see a show, too!
I’d encourage anyone with a love of dolphins to check out one of Dolphin Quest’s three locations (Big Island, Oahu, and Bermuda) should you find yourself near one while on vacation. While not an inexpensive experience, I find that the money spent is well worth the priceless memories you and your children will have for years to come.