Destin-Fort Walton Beach, FL. – Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, located on Okaloosa Island in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida is embarking on a large, multi-million-dollar expansion project this winter and is excited to share the news with the community.
The project will add a brand-new dolphin habitat to the park. Construction is scheduled to commence in late December of this year and will take roughly 14 months to complete. Park operations will continue as normal throughout the construction process, as the new habitat will be located on undeveloped land on the north side of the park. Dolphin Oasis will hopefully make its debut during the 2023 season.
A staple within the local community, the Gulfarium is also proud to have welcomed visitors from the region, country, and all over the world since 1955. From the moment guests walk through the doors, they are immersed in an underwater world where they can view and interact with animals they may not otherwise have the opportunity to encounter.
“Our main dolphin habitat was one of the first of its kind and has stood proud for over 65 years,” statesWill Merrill III, President of the Gulfarium. “A pioneering habitat in the 1950’s, built with robust battleship steel, it has allowed us to provide dolphins the top-notch animal welfare that we offer all of our resident animals. Today we are excited to build expanded habitats fully suited to an animal’s long-term needs through all stages of their lives, and so the time has come to create something new.”
After many years in the making and two years of design engineering through a team of individuals from Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, a design firm based in Seattle, WA, MIG|Portico, and PCL Construction, a company based out of Orlando, FL, the work to construct the brand-new habitat has begun.
Dolphin Oasis will be an immersive, natural-themed experience reflecting our Emerald Coast and consisting of three large, interconnected habitats, totaling over one million gallons of gulf salt water designed with animal welfare, the guest experience, and conservation education in mind.
The new environment will be dynamic, possessing the ability to suit each animal’s welfare needs in a variety of ways, such as offering the animals the option to move throughout the many different areas of the Oasis, providing various social groupings. There will also be a large maternity suite and nursery for mothers and calves as well as multiple locations for animal care specialists to interact and play with the dolphins, utilizing the additional enrichment features included in the design.
Each of the three main habitats will differ in size and depth, one habitat being the deepest, one being shallower, and one having a sloping beach, all mimicking areas dolphins would naturally venture to in the ocean. Dolphin Oasis will also have three husbandry habitats connected to the main areas, as well as a medical lift for the animals. Additionally, the new habitat will be supported by a cutting edge, state-of-the art life support system using Defender Filters in addition to sand filters, lowering energy usage by 50 percent. The Defender Filters will also provide the ability to cut oxidants from the water, allowing the habitat to house live fish for further animal enrichment and welfare.
Dolphin Oasis was designed around the desire to continue to provide education and inspiration, as well as fun and relaxation for Gulfarium guests. The new presentation habitat will provide seating for 480 guests, while still providing the intimate, up-close presentation experience that visitors have come to know and love. The exhibit habitat, which will serve as a nursery for the birth of new calves, will also feature split-level viewing through a 27-foot acrylic window where guests will be able to observe the dolphins from above and below the water’s surface. The encounter habitat will provide new and improved interaction opportunities for guests of all ages to play and learn through interactive, in- and out-of-water, hands-on experiences with the resident dolphins.
When visiting the Gulfarium, a facility accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums and the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association, guests will journey past the C.A.R.E. Center for sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, through Expedition Trail, a world of crocodilians, and arrive at Dolphin Oasis. Once they step foot on the pathway, they will be greeted by 2 acres of sandy dunes, palms, and the pristine emerald waters of the Florida coastlines where the dolphins reside. The new habitat will also provide a beautiful and unique event experience for weddings, celebrations, or any special occasion worth celebrating.
“We may have opened our doors more than 65 years ago, but our story is just beginning,” exclaims Patrick Berry, Gulfarium’s Senior Vice President. “We look forward to the enhanced welfare opportunities the new habitat will offer our animals. We are grateful to be able to move forward with this expansion and look forward to welcoming our guests into Dolphin Oasis in 2023.”
Dolphin Oasis at a Glance
2 acres of land
Three interconnected guest viewing habitats
Three back-of-house husbandry habitats
1,042,855 gallons of water
Presentation seating for 480 guests
State-of-the-art life support system
Unique event space for groups of 10-1000
New and improved in and out-of-water interaction opportunities
Dolphin Oasis will be an immersive, natural-themed experience reflecting our Emerald Coast. When guests enter Dolphin Oasis they will be greeted by 2 acres of sandy dunes, palms, and the pristine emerald waters of the Florida coastlines where the dolphins reside.
Are admission prices going to increase once the new habitat is built?BlueIvoryCreative2023-03-15T17:51:53-05:00
Our current dolphin habitat has a total capacity of 480 guests, consisting of sitting and standing room combined. Dolphin Oasis will provide room for 480 guests to sit comfortably while still providing the intimate, up-close presentation experience that visitors have come to know and love.
How many people can the new habitat seat/accommodate?BlueIvoryCreative2023-03-15T17:51:53-05:00
Gulfarium’s main dolphin habitat, and Dolphin Point, have now outlived themselves while providing dolphins the top-notch animal welfare that we offer our resident animals. Today we can build even better habitats fully suited to an animal’s long-term needs through all stages of their lives, the time has come to create something new.The new habitat will provide further enrichment opportunities, more social variation capabilities, more space, improved medical/husbandry functionality, and improved environments for reproduction and calf rearing.
What are you going to do with the old habitat?BlueIvoryCreative2023-03-15T17:51:53-05:00
The new habitat will be three interconnected environments, consisting of just over 1M gallons of saltwater (in contrast to the current main dolphin habitat that is roughly 300,000 gallons). It will also include three back-of-house habitats, and a medical area.
Northwest Florida Daily News - An oasis is taking shape in the white sands behind the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.
Specifically, it's the Dolphin Oasis, a multi-million dollar project to build a new habitat for the Gulfarium’s seven Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
“It’s one of the largest expansions that we’ve ever had here at the Gulfarium,” said Patrick Berry, the park's senior vice-president and chief operating officer.
Construction began in January and, as of this week, workers with Orlando-based PCL Construction have poured the foundations for the habitat and are forming up and pouring the 12-inch thick, steel-reinforced walls.
It may not look like a lot has changed since our groundbreaking, but important advancements have taken place in the construction of Dolphin Oasis. New water and sanitation lines have been placed, grade work for the site has been completed, and of course the irrigation system is already in place controlling dust! Foundations for the life support building are under way as well.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, located on Okaloosa Island in Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida is embarking on a large, multimillion-dollar expansion project this winter and is excited to share the news with the community.
The project will add a brand-new dolphin habitat to the park. Construction is scheduled to commence in late December of this year and will take roughly 14 months to complete. Park operations will continue as normal throughout the construction process, as the new habitat will be located on undeveloped land on the north side of the park. Dolphin Oasis will debut just in time for the 2023 Spring and Summer seasons.