Dolphins in the middle of the desert? Yes! And there are seals too. Inaugurated in May 2008, Dubai Dolphinarium is a modern marine mammal facility located in the Creek Park. This is the Middle East’s first fully air conditioned indoor dolphinarium and has a 1,250 seat capacity.
Even before this Dh33 million ($9 m) project opened to the public, the Dubai Municipality received numerous criticism from animal rights organizations. They questioned the source of its Black Sea bottleneck dolphins, claiming that one of them was not born in captivity but rescued from fishermen’s nets, and therefore should have been re-released.
However, the managing director says:
“These are third generation dolphins who were born in artificial conditions and don’t know what it’s like to be in the wild. All dolphins are perfectly happy in their current environment and role, and are healthier all year round than their wild counterparts. One clear indicator of their welfare is the fact that they perform in the shows – apparently, unhappy dolphins let you know they are unhappy.”
Besides the daily shows, Dubai Dolphinarium has special educational programs for schoolchildren and preschoolers. At the facility, kids learn about marine life and marine conservation through interactive lessons and classes. Summer camps and birthday parties are also organized. There’s also a therapy session for children with learning or physical disabilities.
We arrive to watch the 6 pm show that runs for 40 minutes. In the picture above, one of the dolphins brings a ball really close to the audience and then hits it with its tail, sending the ball flying to the cheering crowd. This interactive part of the show is really fun! Dolphins are trained based on the concept of positive reinforcement. This means that a dolphin is reinforced (rewarded) if it performs a desired behaviour correctly.
But before the dolphins comes Max the Illusionist:
He comes all the way from Paris to perform everyday at 6 pm for the entire month of October. We see him poke blades in a box that contains his assistant, retrieve three ladies from a tiny box that initially contains only one lady, frees himself from chains in the water, and several other tricks.
But the main attraction remain the dolphins…
One of the dolphins takes colored markers in its beak and begins to paint. It’s just a random sketching of colors, really. But it is immediately sold for Dh150 during an auction that’s held during the show.
I have a really great time. My entire family is there (well, almost) — my mom, MIL, Masood, his brother Mushtaq, and sisters Sophia, Sanaf, and Saima. My mom and Sanaf actually postponed their flight to Karachi to see this show with us. Thank you, ladies!
Masood says the show is better than the one he saw in Houston, and Sanaf says the show is better than the one she saw in Singapore. Tickets are priced at Dh100 plus Dh5 entrance free to the Creek Park.
They also have a program called Swim with the Dolphins, which has received a lot of positive feedback and it popular among children. It is highly recommended by Phoebe.
For more information visit their official website.