Marathon Dolphin Sanctuary
Last revised March 23, 2000.
Utilizing Marathon as a home base, visitors may take easy
day trips to Key West and the Upper Keys. No island or attraction
in the Keys is more than 60 minutes away. And just south of
Marathon, the new Seven Mile Bridge, which runs parallel to
its venerable forerunner, is the longest segmental bridge
in the world.
Marathon boasts the conveniences of a modern community -
a 58-bed hospital, shopping plazas and the only commercial
airport between Key West and the Florida mainland - but retains
the charm of its roots as a 19th - century fishing village.
Numerous certified charter boat captains take visitors diving,
snorkeling, fishing, sailing and touring along the only living
coral reef in North America, several miles offshore in the
For the less nautically inclined, an 18-hole championship
golf course is open to members of country clubs elsewhere,
with proper club identification. And all the trappings of
outdoor subtropical living abound in Marathon - from bicycling
to lounging on a hammock in the shade.
Marathon is home to Crane Point Hammock, a 63.5 acre land
tract that is one of the most important historical and archaeological
sites in the Keys. The area contains evidence of pre-Colombian
and prehistoric Bahamian artifacts, and once was the site
of an entire Indian village. On site is the Museum of Natural
History of the Florida Keys and an adjoining children's museum.
Located at mile marker 59 in Marathon, The Dolphin Research
Center (DRC) is a not-for-profit education and research facility
that sustains a pod averaging about 15 dolphins in a natural
marine environment. Many of the dolphins were born at the
facility, the remainder came from other facilities or were
taken from the wild by other management many years ago.
In existence for more than 30 years, DRC maintains liaisons
with university research programs and independent investigators
on an international basis. It has developed a worldwide reputation
as an organization committed to increasing public awareness
about dolphins and the issues that affect them.
As a member of the Southeast Stranding Network, DRC staff
and volunteers respond to stranded whales and dolphins throughout
the Keys island chain. More recently, DRC has extended its
commitment to include the endangered manatee.
Believing that experiencing dolphins on a personal level
provides a vital link to environmental consciousness, the
center offers a variety of educational programs ranging from
one hour to an entire week.
Educational walking tours are offered five times daily, except
holidays, when the center is closed. The cost is $9.50 for
adults, $7.50 for seniors, and $6 for children age four to
12. Those age three and under are free.
For $75, visitors may participate in DolphInsight, a three-hour
program offering opportunities to touch and communicate with
a dolphin. To experience dolphins in their environment, the
center offers Dolphin Encounter, which provides participants
a unique opportunity to join dolphins in structured swim sessions
for $90. Children, ages 5 to 12, may participate when accompanied
by an adusive insight into these marine mammals.
The world's dolphin population has been reduced by several
factors, including the nets of tuna fishermen, but they are
a common sight around the Florida Keys and form the star attraction
of the state's many marine parks - though watching them perform
somersaults in response to human commands gives just an inkling
of their potential. By contrast, at the Dolphin Research Center
they are used in therapy programmes for cancer-sufferers and
mentally handicapped children; the exceptional patience and
gentleness displayed by the dolphins (all of whom are free
to swim out to sea whenever they want) in this work suggest
that their sonar system may allow them to make an X-ray-like
scan of a body to detect abnormalities and perhaps even to
"see" emotions. Averaging seven feet long, dolphins look disconcertingly
large at close quarters - and will lose interest in you long
before you tire of their company - but if you do get the opportunity
to join them, it's an unforgettable experience.
For more details, contact Dolphin Research Center at P.O.
Box 522875, Marathon Shores, Fl33052, or call for information
at (305) 289-1121.
As well as the Dolphin Research Facility, Marathon also is
home to the Turtle Hospital. Both play important roles in
the preservation of indigenous Keys' marine life.
Other Dolphin Encounter Locations
In Key Largo: Dolphins Plus, MM100 (tel: 305/451-1993).
In Islamorada: Theater of the Sea, MM84.5 (tel: 305/664-2431).
In Marathon: Dolphin Research Center, MM59 (tel: 305/289-1121).