Our Dolphins are One of the Main Attractions in the Bahamas
Here are all the dolphins in our family at Dolphin Encounters. Read a biography of each special dolphin. Learn what they have been trained to do from the dolphin swims to the "footpush"; where they came from and all about the bottlenose dolphin habitat.
Princess – DOB Estimated 1967 – Female
Mother of: Abaco, Salvador and Shawn
Dolphin Encounters’ oldest and most dominant female dolphin, Princess, has been with the company since the early 1980’s. Just prior to the collection of the eight dolphins from the waters of Abaco, she came under the care of Dolphin Encounters’ owner and founder, Alfred Meister. Until that time, her home had been the Seafloor Aquarium in Nassau.
Princess shares the responsibility of Dolphin Swim #2 with two other adult females, Chippy and Dot. During programs she can be found entertaining the guests with spectacular aerial feats like the front flip, or simply by laying in close proximity to them for rubdowns. She is dedicated and focused on the program at hand, as well as on her trainers. In return for her concentration and consistent program criteria, she demands a great deal of attention.
Princess can be a very affectionate animal, provided she is comfortable with the content of her sessions. Any trainer who has spent quality time with her will tell you that her tough exterior crumbles during one-on-one water play. Whatever type of training she happens to be involved with, always count on Princess to give 100% effort, if not more!
Princess has resided at three different facilities in the Bahamas: The Seafloor Aquarium in Nassau, Treasure Island and Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island. She has settled into each of her environments with relative ease.
One constant in her life through all the transition has been the attention of a man named Randy Johnson. Randy met Princess eleven years ago at the Seafloor Aquarium in Nassau where he was hired as a diver and a turtle caretaker. Eight months later he met and became friends with Audley Miller, Princess’ primary trainer at the time. After two months of observing the two work together, Randy began his own interaction with Princess. Initially, he worked her in shows and joined her in the water for ‘waterwork’ behaviors. Randy proved to be a natural at animal training; it was not long before he took over as head trainer. He and Princess worked together until the aquarium closed its doors in the late 1980’s.
Princess was bought by Dolphin Encounters in 1988 and transported to our Abaco facility. Randy went along as primary caretaker. In 1990 he left Abaco to work at another Bahamian dolphin facility, The Dolphin Experience in Freeport. A little over one year later he returned to Nassau for a job with the Bahamas Humane Society.
Randy and Princess reunited in 1992 when she moved from Abaco to our new Blue Lagoon facility. Randy has said that his years with Princess have definitely been "an experience". He has also been quoted saying "...if you can work with Princess, you can work with any dolphin". Her current trainers most certainly agree!
Aunty V - DOB Estimated 1976 - Female
Mother of: Miss Merlin
Aunty V (‘V’ as she is known amongst the staff) came to Dolphin Encounters in 1989. She was part of the original collection in Abaco and resided there at the DE facility for almost 7 years. In 1996 she was brought to Nassau, as one of the main attractions to join the dolphins here at Blue Lagoon.
We often get asked where this particular dolphin got her name. The ‘Aunty’ portion was derived from the role she played as secondary caregiver to Chippy’s offspring (ie. she acted as an aunt). The ‘V’ part came from the shape of the notch in the tip of her dorsal fin. Put them together, and you’ve one peculiar name for an equally unusual animal. Aunty V was one of the last three animals to leave the Abaco facility, as she remained behind with Chippy until Andy turned one and a half years old.
The story of Aunty V is quite unique (and similar to that of Chippy) with respect to her role within the company. She has come a long way since her move to Blue Lagoon in terms of training and program participation. In Abaco she lived in a large area where snorkelers were allowed to observe the bottlenose dolphins in their habitat from an underwater perspective. With no interactive skills at the time, she would not have been likely to approach her underwater guests.
Upon arrival at Blue Lagoon, Aunty V was exposed to a more structured training regime. We needed to encourage her movement from pool to pool and change her diet to include a larger variety of fish. Once the basic tools of training had been established, Aunty V gave us strong indication that she possessed a high potential for learning. From there on it was a matter of daily participation in the dolphin swim program (where she served as an ‘extra’ for the first few months) alongside Nina and Blue. As her behaviors grew stronger and she began to appear comfortable with the swimmers and the interactive component, she flourished as a primary program animal.
Aunty V continues to show us that not only is she a great aunt but also a great mother. In October 1998 she gave birth to Miss Merlin. As a mother -daughter team, the two have worked well together at the swim program as well as in separate programs.
Stormy – DOB Estimated 1976 – Male
Stormy came to Dolphin Encounters in 1993 as a young dolphin from the warm waters of Abaco. Upon arrival, he was immediately taken under the care of two of our female dolphins, Aunty V and Chippy.
Growing up at Dolphin Encounters, Stormy first learned to participate in the swim program. In the summer of 1995 he was brought to the Blue Lagoon facility where he took up residence at the encounter area. During this time, trainers began to teach Stormy the behaviors and corresponding criteria for the encounter program. His primary trainer works closely with all the other trainers to provide Stormy with consistent and challenging relationships with each person.
Male bottlenose dolphins like Stormy become sexually mature at approximately 10 to 12 years of age. Their weight continues to fluctuate with growth and these particular dolphins (Tursiops truncatus truncatus) rarely exceeding 500lbs. Maximum length from rostrum to tail is about 9 ft.
One of the questions we get asked most often is "How do you tell the dolphins apart?" All of our animals possess at least one distinguishing feature (a scar, birthmark, or skin pattern) that allows us to recognize each individual. Stormy, for example, possesses an obvious cluster of dolphin freckles slightly behind his right eye. Wide, bright eyes and smooth, clear skin contribute to his overall delicate appearance.
Stormy has become what trainers would refer to as a very ‘solid’ animal. This means that he is rare to discriminate one guest from another (regardless of size, shape or physical disability) and that he is consistently able to maintain behaviors with a high degree of enthusiasm and criteria. It is a combination of all of these qualities that makes such a strong interactive animal like Stormy an invaluable member of the Dolphin Encounters’ team.
Chippy – DOB Estimated 1976 – Female
Mother of: Andy, Nina, and Gussie Mae
Chippy is one of the founding members of the Dolphin Encounter family. She was collected from the waters of Abaco in 1989. For the next seven years, Dolphin Encounters, Treasure Island became her primary residence. During this time she gave birth successfully on two separate occasions, first in 1992 to daughter, Nina, and again in 1995 to son, Andy.
In 1996, Chippy came to Blue Lagoon to begin her formal training. Though an older dolphin with limited interactive experience, she has since come to meet every program challenge the trainers have given her. In the summer of 1997, Chippy became an indispensable member of the dolphin ‘swim team’.
During program and/or training sessions, you can usually find Chippy with her primary trainer at Swim #1 or Swim #2. As a pair, the two have accomplished several new behaviors for inclusion in the program. Such behaviors include the aerial back dive and side breach, and her ultra slow swim-bys. Behaviors in training include the front flip and the hug.
Chippy’s closest companion over the last nine years has been Aunty V. They were together in Abaco raising their calves until the summer of 1996. Along with Chippy’s son Andy, they travelled together aboard the Reef I to Blue Lagoon Island. Much different from the bottlenose dolphins habitat in the ocean, the two now live in adjacent pools in the swim area, spending lunch and evening hours together. On occasion they will team up for a program.
Chippy became pregnant on September 14, 1998. We know the exact date because that is the only night that she spent with Jake. 379 days later she gave birth to a beautiful male calf. Chippy stayed out of programs for a little over 6 weeks, spending her days caring for her new baby. Her poolmate, Dot, gave birth 10 days after Chippy and the two moms shared time with the calves, with one mother sometimes watching over both babies.
Jake – DOB Estimated 1977 – Male
Father of: Nina, Soca, and Goombay
If you have just completed an encounter or swim with Jake, you can tell your friends that you have met "Flipper". Now one of the main attractions in the Bahamas, Jake, and McGyver (two of our adult male dolphins) starred in the 1995 production of the movie, appearing alongside actors Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood. Filming lasted approximately five months, after which time they returned to Blue Lagoon to resume their respective roles in our interactive programs. Jake and the other male dolphins share the areas of pool #3 (our largest pool in perimeter) and the encounter pools at the front of the facility (pools #1 and #2).
Jake arrived at the original Dolphin Encounters facility with seven other dolphins from the waters of Abaco. Government permit allowed the collection of the animals with knowledge of the facilities’ eco-friendly intentions. The goal was (and still is) to provide an informative, educational, interactive experience for people wishing to meet these amazing creatures, in an environment that is safe for all involved.
Jake is a large, enthusiastic dolphin whose size certainly becomes his advantage when it comes to splashing our guests! His spectacular high energy behaviors include bows, the dorsal speed run and the side breach. His trainers will agree that he shows great potential when it comes to learning new behaviors, so long as his hyperactive nature doesn’t interfere!
As one of the large adult males, Jake can easily be identified by the large scar on his back located to the right of, and slightly anterior to the dorsal fin. At the time Jake was collected from the wild, the fresh scar appeared to be forming over a recently inflicted wound (most likely the result of a shark attack). Though dolphins can be strong, speedy and very agile sharks are by far faster and more fierce. Contrary to popular belief, sharks are predators of dolphins, not the other way around.
Miss Merlin – DOB October 23, 1988 – Female
Miss Merlin is the daughter of Aunty V and McGyver, born October 23, 1998 at approximately 9 AM. Miss Merlin is the first product of our responsible breeding program, established in 1996 when all of the dolphins came together at the Blue Lagoon facility.
A year before her entrance into the world, Miss Merlin’s mother and father were mixed together for a period of six weeks. During this time they participated in the dolphin Swim Program at pool #3. Lab results of Aunty V’s blood samples determined that her progsterone level was consistently elevated, indicating a successful conception. Within the next 11-13 months she was due to give birth.
Approximately six months into the pregnancy, we scheduled her first ultrasound. With the guidance and expertise of Bill Campbell (our ultrasound technician) staff were privileged to view Miss Merlin in utero – that’s inside mom – and even got a sneak peek at her tongue sticking out (cheeky girl!).
Born to parents with peculiar names themselves, her unique name – Miss Merlin –seemed fitting for this Tursiops. The origin of her name is actually a special tribute to a very dear staff member who passed away one month before M&M was born, Merlin Adams. A dedicated trainer and friend to all, he is missed everyday that goes by. In many ways, Miss Merlin’s behavior seems to embody Merlin’s spirit. She is quirky, active and extremely independent, and always cause for somebody’s smile (much like Merlin himself). We couldn’t have chosen a better way to honor and remember him.
At this stage, Miss Merlin seems to enjoy her human company and her ‘career’ in interactive programs. Her primary trainer works her alongside her mother in the swim program.
Abaco – DOB August 21, 2000 – Female
Abaco-what a fitting name for the calf of our founding mother dolphin! In 1989, Dolphin Encounters built its original dolphin facility on Treasure Island which is just off the second largest Bahamian island of Abaco. Princess, the mother, came from an aquarium in Nassau that closed down. She moved to her new home at Dolphin Encounters and was soon joined by seven other dolphins from the waters of Abaco that were obtained under government permit.
Princess moved to the newly built facility at Blue Lagoon in 1992. She gave birth to a male calf, Shawn, on September 21, 1996. In July of 1999, Shawn was weaned from Princess and began doing the encounter program. Just a few short weeks after the weaning, Princess came into cycle and we decided that she and McGyver would be allowed to breed. Just over 12 months later, on August 21, 2000, a beautiful female calf was born. This was Abaco.
For the first few months, she stayed very close to her mother, but at 3 months of age, she started becoming curious about the humans (both trainers and guests). At this time we began to toss fish in the water to encourage her to start eating. By 4 months of age, she was coming close to the platform and looking to the trainer for the food. This is when her training began
Due to the fact that we had four babies born in a three year period, we installed encounter platforms in our swim area so that all of the female dolphins and calves could begin cross-training to learn the behaviors necessary to do an encounter program. This would eventually allow us to offer more guests the opportunity to interact with our dolphins.
Abaco became the first dolphin at our facility to begin her training program by learning both swim and encounter behaviors at the same time.
Shawn – DOB September 21, 1996 – Male
Shawn is the son of Princess. He was born on the evening of September 21, 1996. For two and a half years, this boisterous boy and his dominant mom were members of our team of swim dolphins.
Formal training for Shawn began at six months of age. Because his mother was in the swim program when he was born, he naturally began to learn all the behaviors required for that program as the beginning of his repertoire. By 10 months of age, he was participating in the swim program on a daily basis. The only behavior that he did not do at first was the footpush because he was too small at that time to participate. When he turned two years old, we began training that particular behavior.
Shawn also became the youngest Dolphin Encounters dolphin to master the fluke presentation. He was giving blood voluntarily at just eight months of age!
On July 1, 1999, activity between Shawn and his mom indicated that the time had come for him to be weaned and to begin doing programs independent of his mom. He was moved into the encounter area with his new social companions–the male dolphins. Though many of the behaviors in the encounter and swim are very similar, the area in which these behaviors are performed is vastly different. Shawn had to not only become acclimated to the new pool areas and dolphins that he had never seen, but also to the underwater platforms where the encounters take place. However, because of his early experience with both trainers and guests, this acclimation period was very brief, and Shawn was doing the full encounter program at the end of one month.
Swim behaviors for Shawn are still being utilized now, as all of our male dolphins are being cross-trained for both programs. This cross-training is proving to be an excellent way to provide our boys variety in both their training and social lives–one of the goals for which we constantly strive here at Dolphin Encounters!
Andy – DOB November 2, 1994 – Male
Andy was born at Dolphin Encounters in November 1994. He is the second calf of Chippy, 3 years younger than Nina, his elder sister. The siblings share a lot in the way of behavior and training potential, as well as a very similar physical features. They are both dark in color, long, lean, and in possession of an extraordinarily thin, narrow rostrum.
You may have seen Andy during your walk up the dock towards the DE lecture area. He is the darkest dolphin at the encounter and most certainly the loudest! Often times you can hear him with your ears long before you can find him with your eyes!
Andy is a bright, clever, quick learning animal. With his never ending energy, it is a full time job to keep him entertained. Fortunately Andy can rely on Dolphin Encounters head trainer - Duke Kerney - for the time and attention he needs. Duke and Andy have worked together since the start of Andy’s formal training in 1996. They have established an excellent training relationship and something akin to a ‘friendship’ as well.
The second of our animals to be born in Abaco, Andy was among the last to move to the New Providence facility. He made the trip to Blue Lagoon at 1 1/2 years of age, with his mother Chippy and Aunty V in July of 1996. Transporting animals from place to place is challenging; great care and constant observation is necessary to ensure the well-being of the dolphins throughout the trip.
Andy began training for the encounter program upon arrival at Blue Lagoon. At the start of the following year he began participating fulltime. Since then, Andy has been busy ‘wowing’ both staff members and guests with his spectacular aerial feats. We can attribute the highest facility bows to Andy at well over 15 feet, as well as the most unique aerial behavior - a combination frontflip/backflip/twist he seemed to invent all on his own. Another signature Andy behavior is the forward tailwalk - the longest and steadiest at the entire facility.
In a short time Andy has proven himself a reliable part of our encounter team. He is an energetic, motivated individual who is also a part of the swim program some days at Swim #3, working alongside the other male dolphins.
Nina – DOB March 1992 – Female
Mother of: Cacique
Nina: daughter of Chippy, and sister to Andy. Nina, whose name translates to "little girl" in Spanish, was born at Dolphin Encounters in the spring of 1991. She was the first dolphin born to the Abaco facility and was the subject of great celebration amongst the Treasure Cay staff. Throughout her time with us, she has developed quite an affinity for training and interaction. Oddly enough, she can often be seen vocalizing at guests and practicing behaviors that are "in training" even when the staff is nowhere around. She truly is a one-of-a-kind animal.
Nina’s disposition and talent make her the perfect candidate for many special jobs. In Abaco she starred in a Sony television commercial, a "Guns ‘n’ Roses" rock video, and several photo shoots (including a session with Miss Bahamas and a stint as a "Baywatch" babe!). Here at Blue Lagoon, she shares the interactive responsibilities of the swim program with Swim #2 teammates Aunty V, and Miss Merlin.
With respect to physical features, Nina and her younger brother, Andy, share a long, slender rostrum and dark overall coloration. Chippy, their mother, shares the same dark coloring but her rostrum is not as prominent. She bears more similarity with them behaviorally (i.e. mannerisms) than she does in the way of appearance. Both siblings possess incredible flexibility and height on aerial behaviors, in addition to enthusiastic and expressive creativity. Nina’s primary trainer, Jason Seymour, shares her imaginative ways. As a result, the two make a terrific training combination.
Nina, Princess and Dot form a stable, experienced foundation for the Dolphin Swim Program. This particular threesome has been entertaining, exciting and educating our guests for many years!
Dot – DOB Estimated 1980 – Female
Mother of: Soca, Goombay, and Laguna
Dot, aptly named for the ‘dot’ shaped birthmark on the right side of her rostrum, is one of the primary dolphins in the swim program. She was collected in 1989 with several other dolphins off the coast of Abaco to begin her life under human care. Her first facility home was Dolphin Encounters, Treasure Island.
In 1992 Dot came to Blue Lagoon Island to help launch the new ‘Swim with the Dolphins’ program.
Dot is known to the staff as a bright, focused, attentive animal. Her primary trainer, Alfonzo Parker, says "she enjoys learning new behaviors. She will often choose to offer a behavior ‘in training’ instead of the behavior for which she is being asked."
When interacting with our visitors in the swim program, she is always within reach of the guests for dorsal and ventral rubdowns. Her ‘pec dance’ and ‘spitting swimby’ are among the facilities’ best.
Over the years, Dot has formed her closest relationships with mother and daughter team, Nina and Chippy. She and Nina lived and performed together in Abaco, while she and Chippy have done the same here in New Providence. All three dolphins can be found socializing together during lunch hours and evenings.
On October 8, 1999, Dot gave birth to her second daughter, Soca, a bright and beautiful little girl and on October 1st, 2003 she had a baby boy – Goombay!
Soca – DOB October 8, 1999 – Female
On October 8, 1999, Dot gave birth to a daughter, Soca. This was a first for Dolphin Encounters, as Dot began giving birth just minutes before our first swim program of the day began. We stopped all programs to allow our guests to witness Soca’s birth. All of the other calves at Dolphin Encounters have been born at night.
Soca began showing curiosity about the trainers and swimmers very early. She began her training career at 2.5 months of age, the youngest age for us ever! Training progressed in leaps and bounds once she got the hang of the “training game.” She shared a pool with her half-brother, Exuma, who is 10 days older than she is. The two of them worked side by side in many training sessions, and the competition between siblings to master a behavior “first” was amazing to watch.
One of the behaviors that is taught very early to all of our calves is the retrieval of objects from the pool. Soca truly treats these objects as if they were wonderful presents for her trainer. She is very creative in what she chooses to bring. Some of her gifts have included: A live puffer fish fully inflated, live crabs, huge masses of seaweed and assorted rocks. She even tried to catch a seagull off of the edge of the platform, much to the bird’s dismay!
Soca’s name comes from the name of a type of music found in the Bahamas. It is very fitting for her, as she is one of the most vocal dolphins in the swim area, constantly making a variety of sounds both during and between programs. She and her mother, sometimes along with older sister Blue, are an integral part of the swim programs. Many times we have the whole family out during a program for the guests to enjoy.
One of Soca’s most endearing traits is her mischievous nature. She is always doing something amusing with either the guests or the other dolphins. One of her pool mates is our youngest calf, Abaco. During training sessions, Soca delights in hiding under the float and jumping out just in time to interrupt one of Abaco’s behaviors. With the guests, she amuses herself by trying to steal cameras. All in all, she is a delight to guests and trainers alike!
Goombay – DOB 10/1/03 – Male
Sire: Jake Dam: Dot
Full sibling: Soca
½ siblings: Nina, Laguna
Goombay is our little mischief maker. He delights in sneaking up on the trainers when they are cleaning the platforms. He was the largest of all of our babies born at the facility and by 3 years of age was much longer than some of the older dolphins. He is an integral member of the male encounter team. His numerous vocals bring a smile to everyone’s face that meets him. He loves to rough-house with his best pals, Shawn and Salvador. The three of them are constantly at play, chasing each other and then swimming closely together in formation.
Salvador – DOB 8/5/04 – Male
Sire: Fatman Dam: Princess
Full sibling: Shawn
½ siblings: Abaco, Gussie Mae, Cacique, Laguna and Clifton
Salvador is known as the “pretty boy.” His unique markings and petite size are obvious in the encounter area. He has light gray half circles on his “cheeks,” a trait shared by all of his mom’s offspring – half of the full circles on her “cheeks.” Salvador moved into the encounter area just shy of his 2nd birthday and immediately began impressing the trainers with his eagerness to join right in with the program training. He is in constant competition with his poolmate, Goombay, to be Shawn’s (his brother) best pal. Many times he has to take a short break in the encounter just to see what Shawn is doing.
Gussie Mae – DOB: 9/2/06 – Female
Sire: Fatman Dam: Chippy
½ siblings: Nina, Andy, Shawn, Salvador , Cacique and Laguna
Gussie Mae was named by the school children of the Bahamas . She is the darkest of the three calves born within a 6 week period in 2006. She began her training at 4 months of age and loves to interact with the training staff, both during and between sessions. Many times she can be seen looking up at guests on the walkways and offering behaviors to try to attract their attention. She shares the pool with her ½ sister Laguna, and the two are them are in constant competition during training sessions. Each will try to push the other out of the way just to participate in a session.
Cacique – DOB: 9/18/06 – Male
Grandfather: Jake Grandmother: Chippy
Sire: Fatman Dam: Nina
½ siblings: Shawn, Salvador , Gussie Mae (also his aunt) and Laguna
Cacique is the first second generation dolphin born at Dolphin Encounters. Early in his life he proved to be an amazing prodigy. At 2 weeks of age, he could actually sit up next to his mother with his head out of the water (a behavior normally learned at several months of age). Even before he started to eat fish and participate in formal training, he was offering behaviors learned from watching his mom. All of the trainers that work with him are wowed by how fast he can actually pick up what is being taught. He was in training alongside some of his older poolmates doing the encounter with guests just after his first birthday. He loves to follow both staff and guests up and down the walkways, offering a wide range of vocals.
Laguna – DOB 10/17/06 – Female
Sire: Fatman Dam: Dot
½ siblings: Soca, Goombay, Shawn, Salvador , Gussie Mae and Cacique
Laguna is the lightest of the three babies born in 2006. She was named by the school children of the Bahamas (reason given: because she lives at Blue Lagoon). She has always been very curious and was seen playing with toys in the pool and fish and crabs when she was very young. In fact, she can usually be recognized they the lighter color on the tip of the rostrum that she gets when she digs in the sand to find the crabs. She is very curious about the guests during the swim program and long before she began her formal swim training, she would swim down the line of guests to get some free rubdowns. Her favorite pastime is to ride the wake of the footpush while her mom is pushing.
Clifton – DOB 10/11/08 – Male
½ siblings: Abaco, Gussie Mae, Cacique, Laguna and Salvador
Clifton is the youngest member of the Dolphin Encounters Dolphin Family. He was named by the school children of the Bahamas (reason given: because he lives at Blue Lagoon).