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.

Dolphin Oasis Project Timeline

Berry said the project is about halfway done, and he anticipates opening in the spring of 2023. When completed, Dolphin Oasis will have three large distinct habitats that are connected to one another so that dolphins can easily move among them.

The first habitat will be for the park’s dolphin presentation programs. It will have seating for 480 people and room for others to stand and watch. A short walk downhill leads visitors to the exhibit habitat, where guests can watch the dolphins from below the waterline.

“We’ll have a 27-foot-long acrylic viewing window here where guests can look into,” Berry said. “We’re excited about the possibility of having births in this habitat as well.”

He said the new habitat can accommodate anywhere from 11 to 15 dolphins and offer plenty of room for expansion.

“I’m sure over time we’ll continue to grow the number of dolphins that we have here, either through births or working with other facilities as well in the breeding process,” Berry said.

The third habitat area will be used for park’s dolphin encounters. One side of the habitat is edge-less to allow guests to easily walk into the water for their up-close visit with a dolphin. There are also additional behind the scenes areas where the staff can tend to the dolphins’ health needs.

“We also have a life support system that will be state of the art, and we’re very excited about that,” said Berry.

In their new home, the Gulfarium’s dolphins will swim in about 1 million gallons of water pumped from the Gulf of Mexico. Berry said the water will be cleaned using the Defender filtration system, which will cut energy costs by up to 50%. The new system will reduce the amount of oxidants used in the water, which will allow fish to use the tank as well.

“Were looking forward to the possibility of having live fish in with the dolphins as well,” Berry said. “It will be great environment enrichment not only for the guests to see but for the dolphins to experience as well.”