As a homeschool mom, we take our love of learning everywhere. On our recent vacation to Destin, FL we had the opportunity to tour the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach, FL. We had so much fun learning all about marine life and participating in the various shows and demonstrations. It was a beautiful day for the entire family. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has been in operation for over 60 years and is one of the oldest marine water parks. In addition to the general admission, which gives you access to all of the exhibits and various shows, training demonstrations and more, there are also animal encounters that give a much more up and personal experience with several of the exhibits.
First, we took a stroll around the inside of the Gulfarium. There were various viewing areas to see marine life, as well as a “Living Sea Exhibit” to watch dolphins from the sea floor to the water’s surface. This was the baby’s favorite exhibit of the day. She loves “fishies” as you can see in this video clip. Unfortunately, the day that we went it was pouring down rain for a good part of the day. Although there are canopies outside, I would suggest waiting for a day when it’s not raining. As a result of the torrential downpour, I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked from many of the different exhibits. My hubby’s phone had already taken a dip in the ocean earlier that week, and I didn’t want to chance water damage with my phone.
I did, however, get lots of pictures when my kids participated in the Stingray Bay Snorkel Encounter since by then the rain had slowed down to a sprinkle, and this area was completely covered. First, they put on their snorkel wear. They were both so excited to wear wetsuits for the first time.
With their instructor, they got acquainted with the water while she carefully went over all the safety rules with them. I was a tad nervous at first since they would be snorkeling with sting rays and sharks, but my fears were quickly put to ease by the instruction and knowledge of their trainer. Because my kids were the only two that were participating in the encounter during that time frame, they got a lot of personalized attention. Here the Stingrays were swimming by, which allowed them to reach down and touch them.
This picture makes me laugh so much because of the look on my daughter’s face. Their instructor was teaching them how to feed the stingrays. They used the smiley face to dangle the fish through, but as you can see my daughter was not very excited about touching a slimy fish. My son, on the other hand, was thrilled! He thought it was so cool.
The entire encounter from beginning to end lasted about an hour. Their instructor, who we later found out had just moved from our little town in Tennessee to Florida, was very knowledgeable and helpful. Besides the initial time of instruction and getting familiar with the water and the stingrays and sharks (yikes), they spent about 30 minutes in the water snorkeling. Both of my kids loved the experience and would love to go back and participate in several other of the animal encounters next time we go on vacation.
After their snorkeling experience, they were able to take a warm shower (it was cold the day we went) and were given an embroidered Gulfarium towel, which they have wanted to take every day to the pool since we’ve been home.
While we were waiting on the big kids to finish up their showers, we were able to watch the trainers feed the seals. It was so cool to watch!
Thankfully, the weather cleared up enough for us to enjoy the Sea Lion Show. I apologize for the blurry picture, but the baby was jumping up and down in my husband’s arm out of pure delight. You can tell from the smile on her face just how much she enjoyed the show. Sadly, none of my pictures turned out very well from where I was sitting. I had no idea that a Sea Lion could be trained to do so many fun tricks!
All in all, we had a fantastic fun filled day. I would recommend the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Make sure to check out the various animal encounters online before you go to make sure there are openings the day you plan to visit. My kids enjoyed participating up close and personal with the marine life. They are already planning a return trip to encounter the dolphins. For more information check out their website or Facebook page.