If there is one thing you are bound to see while you are staring out to sea on the coast of Key West, it's one of the hundreds of local dolphins out in the distance. The famous Key West sunset is as known for its stunning display of colors as it is for dolphin sightings out in the Gulf of Mexico. If you are visiting Key West Florida, there are several excellent tours and activities that center around the most interesting of marine mammals. These dolphin encounters take you to the areas of the Gulf of Mexico that are most highly populated by the bottlenose dolphins, areas that are often called the Dolphin Playground. In this article we will describe the Key West bottlenose dolphins and tell you about two of the best dolphin tours that Key West has to offer its visitors looking to see the dolphins up close.
The Key West Dolphins
The type of dolphin you will see off the coast of Key West is the very common and very familiar bottlenose dolphin. This is the dolphin you've seen in famous movies like Flipper and they are oftentimes the dolphins found in aquariums and dolphin centers. Part of the reasons the bottlenose dolphin in particular seems to be so popular is that these creatures are extremely intelligent and extremely sociable. Unless they are attending to young or trying to hunt for food, these dolphins are more than willing to interact with human beings. Oftentimes, the dolphins wander around in groups of at least two or more. These smaller groups usually belong to a larger group (called a "pod") of anywhere from 10 to 30 dolphins (though groups as large as 1,000 have been reported in various places around the world). While pods of bottlenose dolphins can be spotted in the waters all over the coasts of Florida, a greater number of these pods are attracted to the waters off the coast of Key West thanks to the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico and the wide variety of dolphin prey found close to the coral reef gardens of Key West.
The Wild Dolphin Encounter
Best On Key West has Key West dolphin encounters, the Wild Dolphin Encounter and the Wild Dolphin Sail & Snorkel Tour. The Wild Dolphin Encounter is your classic Key West dolphin eco-tour. On a small, 6-person boat, you and your group will head out to the Dolphin Playground on the Gulf of Mexico and search for some of the many local pods of dolphins. More often than not, these enthusiastic creatures are more than welcoming to humans and small boats like the one on the Wild Dolphin Encounter. They tend to come up close to the boat and "show off" for the people on board. Have your camera ready because these dolphins are very likely to pull off some interesting stunts. The captain on board these trips is very knowledgeable on the life and biology of the Key West dolphins, so feel free to engage her or him in discussion while you are on board. The second part of the trip then heads out to one of the shallower areas of the Key West coral reef ecosystem so that on-board guests can experience an unforgettable Key West snorkeling trip. With snorkel gear strapped on, guests will be able to take an exclusive sneak peak at the fascinating underwater world that is made up of multi-colored corals and all kinds of vibrant reef fish!
The Wild Dolphin Sail & Snorkel
This dolphin trip is structured similarly to the Wild Dolphin Encounter but there are a few differences. For one thing, the boat on this trip is bigger. Instead of six people, up to 14 can fit on this boat, making it ideal for larger groups that want to go on a Key West dolphin experience together. The boat, also a sailing catamaran, has the ability to reach some of the most shallow snorkeling locations due to the shallow draft design of the hulls. Both the Wild Dolphin Sail & Snorkel adventure and the Wild Dolphin Encounter are two of the most popular but exclusive trips in Key West, so make sure to check availability and reserve your spot on either boat well in advance.