Since its inception in 2001, Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios has revolutionised the concept of an aquatic attraction in Jamaica. The company’s founders, Stafford and Marilyn Burrowes, wanted to bring a new experience, one that was different from the traditional attraction, to the tourism scene.
As entrepreneurs, they were always thinking about what business they could do to accommodate their guests. On a trip to Key West in Florida, they were passing a dolphinarium and decided to check it out. They were told that there was no space for three days as it was completely full. This was the light-bulb moment. They transformed their ‘Too Cool’ vacation home into an adventure park with four dolphins for the benefit of local and international visitors.
They recently renovated the four-and-a halfacres Ocho Rios property be to more inclusive and family-friendly, with an expanded mini zoo, water slide and infinity pool.
In the past, visitors would walk to an office, with pictures of famous celebrities who visited the park plastered on the walls. However, that has change to a more scenic trail. While walking down the steep gradient from the main gate, guests are flanked by the lush vegetation that outlines the perimeter. There is also a mini waterfall which runs through the property, in keeping with the natural theme.
After this trek, the entrance of the property leads through the air-conditioned gift store which has Dolphin Cove memorabilia such as toys, mugs and shirts. There are also refreshments on sale for visitors to enjoy while they are being banded and told about the various packages. Each person is usually given a time stamp on his or her band, based on the activity he or she is doing.
After exiting the gift shop, there is a flight of stairs, and at the bottom is another receptionist at an information desk, who tells guests where to be for the various dolphin activities. Once this is done, visitors can explore the entire facility, and the first thing that attracts the eyes is the infinity pool. It is placed on an elevated level which gives a panoramic view of the sea, as well as the dolphins practising.
“The pool was completed in January of this year. Every year we add something new and we feel we needed an area especially for children to hang out. It can accommodate quite a large number of guests, who can lounge around in the water on deckchairs, and we even added two Jacuzzis.
Not only that, but we built an authentic Italian pizzeria and, for those who cannot resist the Jamaican jerk, we offer the original pan chicken style,” says Alexei Russell, national sales manager.
For persons who want to explore more, they can walk along the deck, which is outfitted with various stores. “On the boardwalk, we have our famous Starbuccaneers Coffee shop with the ever-so wonderful Jamblum Blue Mountain coffee, Tortuga cakes, Walkerswood sauces, sandwiches and refreshments. We also have an ice cream and snack shop with a number of assorted delicacies and soft drinks,” states Russell.
On the opposite side of these stores there is also interaction with the sharks, which is a fascinating experience to witness, as the trainers show how skilled they are. Following this is a 40-foot waterslide.
“Our Monster Slide was built three years ago as an added feature for our admission package. You can really zip through and feel that adrenaline rush,” adds Russell.
To the far end of the property is the beach, with a changing room and shower close by. It’s the perfect place to lie in the lounge chair and just relax. There are also kayaks available for the nautical lovers who don’t want to step into the cool seawater.
This is definitely something for the more mature persons, as the younger visitors will definitely want to explore the property. One of the more popular attractions is the mini zoo, which is home to rabbits, parrots, iguanas and various species of birds.
“On the jungle trail we have a wonderful Love Bird Aviary, where you can have these birds eating out of your hands. You can also interact with our iguanas, macaws, rabbits and guinea pigs. It’s just a wonderful experiences overall,” says Russell.
In each section, there is the opportunity to interact with the animals by petting and sometimes lifting them.
However, the aviary provides the best opportunity to feel the synergy between human and animal, as the birds are very tame and friendly. The tour guide usually puts feeding in persons’ hands and the birds flock to them and perch in their palms in order to eat.
By the time all this is done, the dolphin activities have started with them gleefully making their different sounds of joy. The first is the Encounter Experience, which allows persons to kiss and caress the dolphins in knee-high water. For those who are more comfortable in the water, there is the Swim Adventure to interact with one dolphin while swimming in deep water, usually with the assistance of a kickboard.
Then there is the Royal Swim for the seasoned swimmers, where two dolphins give persons a foot-push from the water into the air.
When all this is done and persons are hungry, there are three restaurants at which to relax.
“We have two main restaurants; one with a buffet style that serves hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, nachos and the like, and another with more upscale offerings, such as quesadillas, grilled chicken sandwiches and, of course, everyone’s favourite, pizza,” says Russell.
For further information, telephone 876-974-5335 or visit the website dolphincoveja.com.