Now More Things to Do When Visiting Paradise Island
BLUE LAGOON ISLAND – Victor and Michelle Portugues, along with daughter Gabriella Rodriguez and her friend Maria Vigoreaux, all of Puerto Rico, were the first guests to participate in the new Sea Lion Encounter Program offered by Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island.
The Sea Lion Encounter Program, the first of its kind in The Bahamas, is based on Dolphin Encounters’ highly successful and award-winning dolphin interactive programs and allows guests to meet California sea lions up-close in their pristine all-natural marine mammal habitat which allows even more things to do on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
“It is with great pleasure that we welcomed the Portugues family and their friend as the first guests of our exciting new Sea Lion Program,” said Robert Meister, Managing Director of Dolphin Encounters Ltd. “One of the few programs of its kind in the world, the Sea Lion Encounter is truly unique as it allows guests to interact with these extraordinarily playful animals face-to-face in a fun and educational experience. The Portugues family is the first to participate in our sea lion encounter and we wanted to mark the occasion with a celebration.”
After an applause greeting by mangers and staff and being told that they were the first official guests, the Portugues party were given an informative and educational lecture regarding sea lions and were then led to the sea lion habitat.
Kim Terrell, Marine Mammal Director of Dolphin Encounters greeted the family and introduced them to P.J. a female sea lion. Standing on specially designed, waist-deep water platforms immersed in a calm, private lagoon, the guests were able to pet, kiss, hug, feed and interact with P.J. face-to-face. The 30- minute program also allows plenty of time for guests to ask questions and learn about marine mammals.
“This was an amazing experience,” said Gabriella Rodriguez after participating. “I have never done anything like this before. We have been in with the dolphins and loved that but this was really great – I didn’t want to get out!”
Her friend Maria also agreed. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To be honest I was a little afraid at first before we went in and I wasn’t sure, but PJ was so sweet and Kim was really good about teaching us about sea lions that it was just so much fun – I wanted it to last longer and I definitely want to do it again.”
Victor Portugues also enjoyed the Sea Lion Encounter. “We have been coming to The Bahamas since 1996 and have been to Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island before and really enjoyed the dolphin programs and had booked dolphin swims for this trip. Then we learned about the Sea Lion Encounter and wanted to try something new and I am really glad we did. It was really different and a great deal of fun – each one of us enjoyed it immensely.”
“We also want to thank the staff who are so wonderful,” said Michelle Portugues. “They each made us feel so comfortable and so welcome. Special thanks to Kim for showing our family such a great time with PJ.”
The Portugues party was given a mini-reception beside the sea lion habitat after their program and presented with gift bags, souvenir photos, a DVD of their experience and certificates to return to enjoy a complimentary encounter with their new sea lion friends.
The six sea lions, PJ, Kalika, Xena, Maggie, Torey, all female, and Murray a male, came to Dolphin Encounters over a year ago after surviving Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of their former home at Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi. Having all been born under human care, their habitat at Blue Lagoon Island was first time the animals had ever been in a natural ocean environment.
“The animals very quickly became adapted to their home here at Dolphin Encounters and enjoy learning new behaviours,” said Ms. Terrell. “Our new program is a wonderful experience for the animals as well as visitors. It is a new opportunity to interact with another marine mammal species and provides extraordinary educational opportunities for the thousands of students that visit our facility.”
“This day marks a very special milestone for our company,” added Mr. Meister. “Our goal is to offer our guests educational, fun, safe and interactive programs that allow participants to connect with our animals on a personal level and the new Sea Lion Encounter does that. We continue to innovate and to offer new experiences. The official grand opening is planned for later in the year but the program is open and we welcome all Bahamians and visitors alike to come and experience this exciting and very entertaining program.”
Dolphin Encounters is a member of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA), the largest organization of its kind. In 1997, the facility was accepted into the prestigious Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA), and in 2004 became an accredited member of the group, cementing its status as one of the top marine parks in the world. In 2003, Dolphin Encounters and Project B.E.A.C.H. received the prestigious Cacique Award, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s highest honour for excellence in tourism and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
The facility has also made the lifetime dream of many children come true by participating in the Make-A-Wish Foundation program.
In 1996, Dolphin Encounters was chosen by Universal Studios to help produce the movie ‘Flipper’, starring Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood. In 2001, the dolphin starred in Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s movie, ‘Holiday in the Sun.’ The dolphins have also been featured in countless television, film and print media all over the world, and many international celebrities have swum with them at Blue Lagoon Island in the Bahamas.
Like many of their dolphin friends, several of the sea lions are movie stars. Torey was thrust into the spotlight after playing the title role in the movie Andre and PJ also had parts in the movie. Both starred alongside another one of our sea lions, Murray in the movie Slappy and The Stinkers, and were also featured in an ad for Reynolds Wrap.
For more information about Dolphin Encounters or to make reservations call 242-363-7150 (general inquiries) or 242-363-1003 (reservations).