a_002Something I have heard said many times is that you should do something every day that truly makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be massive; it could be as simple as running a bath, lighting some candles and putting on some relaxing music as you indulge in a long soak in the tub. There are of course those special things that take a lot more planning and may seem more out of reach but will really make an impact on you. This is the stuff that forms part of your ‘Bucket List’. These are the special things that you want to achieve, conquer or experience before your time on this earth is through.

For me, on the top of my bucket list was swimming with the dolphins. I had decided that one way or the other this was an experience that I simply had to have before my time was up. I love animals in general but to me there is something magical and even spiritual about dolphins. They are such beautiful creatures and nothing will replace the experience I had on a recent holiday in Orlando, Florida. Thinking my experience would involve leaping over board in desperate hope that a dolphin might glide past me at arms’ length I was thrilled to actually touch, kiss and ride with a beautiful teenage dolphin called Coral at Discovery Cove.

Our whole Discovery Cove experience was absolutely amazing. We were really not sure what to expect and were initially a little shocked at the high price we paid for our Dolphin experience. However, as we were to discover the Dolphin experience was just one small part of our Discovery Cove day. From the time of our arrival we had free run of their whole set up. The morning started with an arrival photo. Arrgh I had no makeup and hadn’t done much to my hair as we would be swimming all day! From our photo opportunity we were directed to a fully catered breakfast in their outdoor restaurant. What we were to discover was that all food and drink for the day was provided free of charge and dotted around this magical water world were many different kiosks providing drinks and snacks and even alcoholic beverages all available for your enjoyment.

After breakfast friendly staff guided us to a changing area where we squeezed ourselves into our wetsuits, locked up our possessions and continued on our tour of the water park. Along with our wetsuits came a snorkel and fins and even some fish friendly sun tan lotion. The park is beautifully laid out with wide paths that weave their way through tropical trees and around the edges of all of the snorkelling and dolphin man make lakes. The layout is fantastic with a huge welcoming, meticulously groomed beach full of sun loungers for those intending to laze away the day and soak up some sun.

It was hard to focus on much until my time came for my Dolphin experience as that was the highlight of my visit. After gathering with a group for our welcome and information segment on what to expect we were all placed in groups of eight with two Dolphin trainers per group. We were taken to the Dolphin pools where each group lined up in waist deep water to eagerly await the arrival of the Dolphins. Coral was our allocated Dolphin and impeccably behaved for her teenage years. The trainers clearly have a love of these graceful creatures and had a special routine that was both informative and interactive. While having my photo taken with Coral I gently rubbed her belly and to my delight she chattered away in dolphin speak. The grand finale was of course the swim out to the deep area of her pool to have her glide up beside me, let me hold her top and side fin while she swam me back to the shallows. A magical pocket of time I will never ever forget.

My Dolphin experience was going to be pretty difficult to top so I was surprised how much I enjoyed snorkelling with the tropical fish, stingrays and manta rays. Some of these amazing creatures were as large as my arm span and happily glided around the bottom of their lake with humans swimming above and beside them. Unlike the Dolphins that had a clean rubbery feel these big beauties were a little more on the slimy side and though totally safe their sheer size made them look quite daunting. A sectioned off area of the lake was set aside for sharks and those keen enough to dive with them. I was content to look through the glass from my underwater vantage point and watch with trepidation as several glided past the glass giving me the eye!

One side of the park was totally dedicated to fish of all shapes and sizes whilst the other side had been modelled into an adventure water wonderland. Waterways had been created around the edge of the park, surrounded by tropical plants and spotlessly clean. Swimmers of all shapes and sizes lounged in rubber rings and various other floatation devices while enjoying the sun and relaxing their way around the water circuit. A bird sanctuary offered a great distraction for families with birds tame enough to be hand fed with the carefully provided bird friendly snacks. At your leisure lunch was available back in the restaurant, again at no cost and with enough options to suit the most voracious appetite.

With the sheer amount of people through Discovery Cove I was even amazed how well presented the shower facilities were. Everything had been thought through down to the supply of fresh towels; soap, shampoo etc in the showers; and even the laundry bins collecting wet towels that were constantly being changed out. As our day came to an end and we wandered through the gift shops one last time I couldn’t help but be impressed not only by the presentation and cleanliness of the water park but also by the amount of friendly, helpful staff on hand to ensure you had fun and got good value for money. Well done Discovery Cove!