Dolphin Swim and Sea Turtles at Sea Life Park Hawaii, Honolulu

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Kendall Brown enjoys an interactive dolphin swim at Sea Life Park Hawaii in Honolulu, Hawaii


Sea Life Park Hawaii Dolphin Swim

As I ungracefully paddled my way into the center of the salt water tank, I felt something move in front of me in the water. The theme song from Jaws briefly floated through my mind. I reached out to grab a flipper and was gently pulled through the water by a 450 pound dolphin.

My daughter had wanted to swim with a dolphin during our recent trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. Located in East Oahu, Sea Life Park Hawaii is about a 30 minute drive from Waikiki and has the only interactive in-depth program with dolphins on the islands of Hawaii.

Is it right for humans to hold animals captive for our viewing enjoyment?

As an animal and nature lover, I have an inner battle going on inside my brain when I visit animal parks, aquariums, wild life compounds and zoos. Is it right for humans to hold these animals and sea creatures captive for our viewing enjoyment and pleasure? While the answer to that question is a personal decision, I can tell you that places such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Sea Life Park Hawaii have a vested interest in the well being of their “family members.”


Interactive Dolphin Swim at Sea Life Park Hawaii

Our interactive dolphin swim was with Itsy Bitsy. Itsy Bitsy was born at Sea Life Park Hawaii, and at 32 years old, she is living longer than she would in the ocean. Itsy Bitsy, along with her companions, continues to provide “teachable moments” to children and adults about the different marine life and how we need to protect the ocean and their environment for future generations to come.

“If she didn’t want to interact with us,” said Sea Life Park Hawaii Dolphin Trainer, “she would swim away. It’s that simple. The dolphins enjoy the stimulation and interaction.”

Green Sea Turtles are a threatened species

Green Sea Turtles have been swimming in the world’s oceans for more than 200 million years.  The ancient Hawaiians called the Green Sea Turtles in Hawaii’s waters honu – the name that is still used today.  Many early Hawaiian legends tell stories that credit the honu as being the guides for the first voyagers to Hawaii.  Adult honu can measure more than three feet straight in length and weigh up to 450 pounds.  The sea turtles grow very slowly in the wild and typically don’t reach sexual maturity until they are around 25-30 years old. While the life span of the honu remains unknown, today the honu is regarded as a threatened species and is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

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Turtle Independence Day on the Big Island

Since 1989, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows has received 3-5 month old juvenile honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle) from Oahu’s Sea Life Park and has raised them in the saltwater ponds of the resort. The honu are cared for until they grow to a size and weight that is appropriate for release into the ocean.  Mauna Lani raises the honu for 2-3 years until they grow to a minimum shell length of 35 cm. The release occurs every July 4 at the ocean’s edge fronting Mauna Lani.  Over the years Mauna Lani has released 206 honu.

The honu are gathered at the ponds before joining a procession down to the beachfront for release, proceeded by a Hawaiian ceremony.  The annual Turtle Independence Day celebration honors the honu and educates the public about the threatened Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

Have you visited Sea Life Park Hawaii? Have you participated in a turtle release or dolphin swim program? What are your favorite things to do in Honolulu? Leave a comment below.

If You Go:

Sea Life Park Hawaii 1 (808) 259-2500

41-41-202 Kalanianaole Highway #7
Waimanalo, Hawaii 96795 USA

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Horseback Riding at Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii

Article written by and video courtesy of Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Sea Life Park Hawaii and Oahu Visitors Bureau.

3 thoughts on “Dolphin Swim and Sea Turtles at Sea Life Park Hawaii, Honolulu”

  1. After watching “The Cove”, I come to realise the economics behind the dolphin trade. In some cases, these sea life parks exist as a form of entertainment rather an educational resource. From a moral standpoint it will be difficult to justify the captivity of animals. Sadly, mankind has always dominated over lesser beings and even among some humans we take advantage of each other to further our causes. This is not something that is going to change anytime soon.

  2. I wonder if people see the bigger picture. I studied cetaceans in the wild and worked with them in captivity. Ironically the behaviors don’t change…even with animals that are born in a captive environ. Having said that the sea doesn’t offer the best perfect environment for them either in many respects. From pollution to gill net fishing and other issues. But the real point here is that you wouldn’t have the passion and understanding most people have if it weren’t for the marine parks. When you get people close to the animals and being able to see them close up. Something they wouldn’t be able to do in the wild. You find that they are much more willing to understand them better. So no the situation may not be perfect. It’s the best option we have for the general public to better understand, appreciate and become more passionate about these animals and others that would be outside the realm of most to see or learn about.

  3. @Jeffrey
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment regarding dolphins and sea turtles. As a journalist, I see that there are both sides to the story of cetaceans in the wild and captivity. I appreciate sea parks, aquariums and zoos for their educational purposes and understand that not all sea creatures or land animals thrive in the wild, but I certainly appreciate when I am able to observe them in their natural setting.

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