Training the Dolphins at Gulf World


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) —Many vacationers and residents are aware of Gulf World but may not know the training process these animals go through.Not to mention all of the special opportunities for residents on a weekly basis.

With 23 dolphins at Gulf World at Panama City Beach, they are the only place in North America to have rough-toothed dolphins you can swim with. Now they have both bottlenose dolphins and rough-toothed dolphins in their habitat and offer vacationers and residents the experience of a lifetime.

There are many different programs that Gulf World provides to interact with the dolphins, from small interactions for younger children to swimming along with two dolphins at a time.

They train these dolphins’ new behaviors through positive reinforcements training, such as snacks of fish, playing with basketballs, or belly rubs.

Gulf world trainers said they go through around 500 lbs of restaurant-grade fish a day to feed all of the animals they have there!

Sales and Marketing Manager of Gulf World, Lee Ann Leonard, said this is a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity.

“This is a bucket list item for so many people. To be able to say you swam with a dolphin, I mean that’s rare and we have a very rare species of dolphin, the rough toothed dolphin. That truly were the only place in North America that you can swim with that kind of dolphin,” said Leonard.

Training these animals varies in time depending on the animal. Some simple behaviors make take just a few sessions up with more complex behaviors taking several weeks or months.

Senior Marine Specialist, and Head Dolphin Trainer, Allison Hinz, said many of these dolphins were rescued.

“Many were rescued and deemed non-releasable and now have their permanent home right here. The rest of the dolphins after that were either born here or at another facility,” said Hinz.

Shows at Gulf World change seasonally, that way local residents can always come and see something new. In late September, they will begin their Halloween-themed show. Swimming with dolphins isn’t all they offer either.

“Most people know you can swim with dolphins here, but they don’t know that you can swim with stingrays. You can get in the water with harbor seals. You can interact with sea lions. You can get in the water with penguins,” said Leonard.

On Sundays, local residents get fifty percent off general admission and all swims.
For more information on programs, go to

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