Summer is coming and it’s time to think about fun things to do with the family. When I was at Costco, they had a special offer for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA (fka Marine World). For $99, you could participate in their Dolphin Discovery program to swim with the dolphins and admission is included. Not a bad deal but is it worth it? Well, I went with my daughter to find out.
The weather was perfect the day we went. Sunny but not hot. Make sure to take the tram from the parking lot though. It’s free and saves your feet that much more walking time.
Our time slot with the dolphins was not until 2:30pm (I could choose from three different times) so we decided to stroll around the park. We decided to start in the section of the park opposite to the dolphin area and headed to the coasters. Since it was Monday, there was not much concern regarding crowds and most attractions only had a line that took 10-25 minutes. My daughter was now tall enough to go on all the rides and it was pretty exciting for all of us. Our favorite was Medusa as it has an almost vertical drop and was really smooth (the others are really bump around and shake you like crazy).
Once upon a time, when I was a teenager (ages ago, I know) we used to be able to throw our backpack or bag on the other side of the coaster as we got on the ride. Not here. For the rides that are more intense or go upside-down, you are required to put your stuff in a locker. While there are lockers at the entrance of the park for $10/day, we opted to use the lockers that were specifically arranged for that particular ride. It only cost $1 and was well worth it when we could all ride together – it’s really boring riding on a coaster by yourself!
Then it was time to head to the Dolphin Discovery meet-up spot. As this is reservation only, everyone was quickly checked in and given their voucher for a free photo if their package included it. We were taken to a classroom in which we were given a very informative program. It was interactive and, though kid-friendly, really helped us parents to learn a lot about dolphins as well. The instructor, Segal, did a fabulous job in speaking clearly and engaged the audience well, making everyone feel comfortable to ask questions.
We were then led to the changing rooms. Wow, I was not expecting this! We each had our own changing room with showers in it and clean towels were provided. Before we headed out to the water we could put our stuff in a locker and they then locked the changing room behind us.
All of us had brought our swimsuits (it was in the instructions) and our wet suits were already picked out for us. The sizes were just right so don’t worry if you have never worn one before and have no idea about what size you would wear. This was my first time. Those suits were pretty snug though and I was a bit conscious of my 10-year-old belly bulge. It’s a good thing we’d be in a private area and no one else would see us, right?
Yep, there we are right in the main area. Other park attendees could just stop and watch. Embarrassing! I just kept sucking in until I could hide in the water. I was the only adult among four children so I kind of stood out. As you notice, there is quite a bit of water. The minimum height is 52′ and you need to make sure your child can swim comfortably. They do not need to be a strong swimmer but at least able to swim about 20 feet and tread water for a short while. I probably could have stood up but I was not about to bob up and down, gasping for air and shooting water through my nose while on public display.
We had a relatively small group so the experience was very personal. One trainer took three children and the other trainer dealt with only my daughter and I. Everything we spoke about in the classroom was reinforced here as we could see and touch the dolphin. Did you know dolphins have belly buttons? That they feel like rubber? Or that they have hair follicles on their snout (rostrum) to prove they had milk hair the first couple days after their birth to put them in the ‘mammal’ species? I knew they breathed through their blowhold but but not that they don’t breathe AT ALL through their mouth!
Then it was time for us to jump in and do the dorsal fin swim. Surprisingly my daughter actually volunteered to go first, which completely uncharacteristic of her. She swam like a champ and was the only child to not fall off. Best of all, she could even hold on with one hand with is pretty challenging.
We missed footage of her but here’s a full video of my swim. The other kids were nervous so I went next. We first had to smack the water with our left arm and then use that had to grab on when the dolphin came. Then you could swing your other arm around. Eh, it was okay. Not a chance! It was fantastic!
We came out so excited! Though my husband was not able to swim with us, he attended the classroom session and took some great photos/videos. We took hot showers, changed, and headed to check out the pictures the Discovery Kingdom staff took. There were some great shots as that photographer had actually been with us in the water. Then, wee enjoyed the rest of our day at a leisurely pace.
So is $99 for a dolphin swim and admittance worth it? For a really special treat – definitely!
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary admission to the park and the dolphin program to facilitate this review, which contains 100% my honest opinion.