The Dolphin Research Center – A Place of Fun and Learning

The Hammocks at Marathon, Bluegreen Resorts’ vacation haven in the center of the Florida Keys, is the ideal spot for enjoying diving, snorkeling, swimming, sailing, and boating excursions. However, Marathon also offers other attractions, including shopping, dining, the Sunset Celebration every evening at Mallory Square, and chartered jaunts out to the sites of a number of picture-worthy shipwrecks, to name only a few. Travelers with a love of animals, science, and nature will love spending a day at the Dolphin Research Center. Here, visitors can observe the playful, intelligent California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that make their home at the center.

With advance reservations, visitors ages 5 and up can partake in a daily dolphin encounter. Families of all ages can also enjoy a “dolphin dip,” which involves interacting with the animals while standing on a raised platform in the water. In addition, for $30 above general admission fees, anyone can walk in and “hug a sea lion.” Aside from special programs like these, general adult admission to the center costs only $25 per person. The center welcomes people with disabilities and is wheelchair-accessible.

The Dolphin Research Center was established to facilitate dolphin rescue and to foster understanding, communication, and cooperation among human beings, the natural world, and the animals of the sea. Founders Armando “Mandy” Rodriguez and Jayne Shannon-Rodriguez hoped to provide a lifelong sanctuary for rescued dolphins within the infrastructure of a full-service research and teaching center.

The first person to bring dolphins to Grassy Key was commercial fisherman and self-taught animal trainer Milton Santini. Santini’s love for the dolphins he cared for was so great that he even brought them into his home during a hurricane, keeping their bodies moist with wet towels for the duration of the storm. Santini’s dolphins were so well trained that several even served as the lead character in the original film that sparked the popular television show Flipper. After the death of his favorite dolphin, Mitzi, Santini sold his dolphin-training academy to a company that renamed it Flipper’s Sea School. Mandy and Jayne Rodriguez, who arrived on Grassy Key in the 1970s, followed in Santini’s footsteps by getting jobs at the school and later founding the Dolphin Research Center. Today, the center hosts 70,000 international visitors every year.

Sombrero Reef – An Underwater World for Every Diver

Stay with Bluegreen Resorts at The Hammocks at Marathon and enjoy all the activities available in the family-oriented community in the Florida Keys. Marathon, a city comprising several small islands and situated equidistant between Key Largo and Key West, is the perfect jumping-off point for visiting attractions both north and south along the chain of islands. In addition, Marathon’s laid-back lifestyle provides the perfect ambience for a vacation spent relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, boating or diving.

Sombrero Reef, just off the coast, is protected as part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. With an average depth of 25 feet, the waters surrounding the reef accommodate beginning divers’ skill level nicely, and divers of all levels can thrill to the colorful sights of the marine life weaving around them. Local tour companies offer regular half-day trips as well as diving and snorkeling excursions to the shallower waters of Sombrero Reef and other nearby hotspots.

The reef along the Florida Keys is the world’s third-largest coral reef and part of the only living coral barrier reef in North America. It attracts a wide variety of international visitors whose purchases help support the local economy. Often called “the rainforests of the sea,” the Earth’s coral reefs are home to about one-quarter of all known marine species. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary safeguards dozens of distinct varieties of coral, including Elk and Staghorn corals, as well as hundreds of species of fish and other animals. In addition, the spur and grove formations of Sombrero Reef are among the most stunning in the entire Keys system.

Nearby Sombrero Key Lighthouse, an antebellum structure, is still in operation and offers buoys for mooring along its southern edge. Popular with snorkelers and divers, the waters around the lighthouse vary from five to 35 feet in depth.

The Dolphin Research Center – A Place of Fun and Learning

The Hammocks at Marathon, Bluegreen Resorts’ vacation haven in the center of the Florida Keys, is the ideal spot for enjoying diving, snorkeling, swimming, sailing, and boating excursions. However, Marathon also offers other attractions, including shopping, dining, the Sunset Celebration every evening at Mallory Square, and chartered jaunts out to the sites of a number of picture-worthy shipwrecks, to name only a few. Travelers with a love of animals, science, and nature will love spending a day at the Dolphin Research Center. Here, visitors can observe the playful, intelligent California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that make their home at the center.

With advance reservations, visitors ages 5 and up can partake in a daily dolphin encounter. Families of all ages can also enjoy a “dolphin dip,” which involves interacting with the animals while standing on a raised platform in the water. In addition, for $30 above general admission fees, anyone can walk in and “hug a sea lion.” Aside from special programs like these, general adult admission to the center costs only $25 per person. The center welcomes people with disabilities and is wheelchair-accessible.

The Dolphin Research Center was established to facilitate dolphin rescue and to foster understanding, communication, and cooperation among human beings, the natural world, and the animals of the sea. Founders Armando “Mandy” Rodriguez and Jayne Shannon-Rodriguez hoped to provide a lifelong sanctuary for rescued dolphins within the infrastructure of a full-service research and teaching center.

The first person to bring dolphins to Grassy Key was commercial fisherman and self-taught animal trainer Milton Santini. Santini’s love for the dolphins he cared for was so great that he even brought them into his home during a hurricane, keeping their bodies moist with wet towels for the duration of the storm. Santini’s dolphins were so well trained that several even served as the lead character in the original film that sparked the popular television show Flipper. After the death of his favorite dolphin, Mitzi, Santini sold his dolphin-training academy to a company that renamed it Flipper’s Sea School. Mandy and Jayne Rodriguez, who arrived on Grassy Key in the 1970s, followed in Santini’s footsteps by getting jobs at the school and later founding the Dolphin Research Center. Today, the center hosts 70,000 international visitors every year.

Sombrero Reef – An Underwater World for Every Diver

Stay with Bluegreen Resorts at The Hammocks at Marathon and enjoy all the activities available in the family-oriented community in the Florida Keys. Marathon, a city comprising several small islands and situated equidistant between Key Largo and Key West, is the perfect jumping-off point for visiting attractions both north and south along the chain of islands. In addition, Marathon’s laid-back lifestyle provides the perfect ambience for a vacation spent relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, boating or diving.

Sombrero Reef, just off the coast, is protected as part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. With an average depth of 25 feet, the waters surrounding the reef accommodate beginning divers’ skill level nicely, and divers of all levels can thrill to the colorful sights of the marine life weaving around them. Local tour companies offer regular half-day trips as well as diving and snorkeling excursions to the shallower waters of Sombrero Reef and other nearby hotspots.

The reef along the Florida Keys is the world’s third-largest coral reef and part of the only living coral barrier reef in North America. It attracts a wide variety of international visitors whose purchases help support the local economy. Often called “the rainforests of the sea,” the Earth’s coral reefs are home to about one-quarter of all known marine species. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary safeguards dozens of distinct varieties of coral, including Elk and Staghorn corals, as well as hundreds of species of fish and other animals. In addition, the spur and grove formations of Sombrero Reef are among the most stunning in the entire Keys system.

Nearby Sombrero Key Lighthouse, an antebellum structure, is still in operation and offers buoys for mooring along its southern edge. Popular with snorkelers and divers, the waters around the lighthouse vary from five to 35 feet in depth.