Sabrina Gordon, Business Writer
Dolphin Cove has become the second known marine attraction worldwide to allow guests to interact underwater with its dolphins - known as dolphin trek.
Using specialised equipment supplied by SeaTrek, participants can walk along the sea floor surrounded by dolphins and are instructed on how to communicate with them using hand signals.
The equipment is not recommended for children under eight years.
The only other known dolphin trek is offered in Mexico.
Operators of the Jamaican marine park say the Ocho Rios lagoon was already perfectly engineered at the appropriate depth for the trek, which cost US$200,000 to launch.
"Guests will be able to walk on sea floor and see the incredible underwater scenery alive with fish and other exotic sea life. They will also be able to observe the dolphins up close," said Roger Kerr, executive assistant at Dolphin Cove.
The trek costs US$195 plus tax for tourists. A pricing structure is being finalised for local clients.
"We have also launched another new tour called 'Wild Fun Jet' which is a tour on a jetboat that takes guests on a high speed tour along the coastline," Kerr said.
The two new products will eventually be expanded to Dolphin Cove's other marine parks.
The company operates attractions in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Lucea.
Plans for three new attractions
There are also plans to build three new attractions outside Jamaica by 2016, one of which is likely to open for business next year.
"We have located and purchased a site in another Caribbean island and are currently looking at a site in a second island," said Kerr. He declined to name the locations.
Being a non-swimmer does not disqualify participation in the trek.
"To implement this, we needed specially designed helmets and an air-delivery system," said Kerr. "Persons experiencing the tour will wear the helmet which will be attached to the air-delivery system via an air hose. The helmet is ergonomically designed and rests comfortably on the shoulders," he said.
The jetboat seats a maximum of eight persons for a 20-30-minute ride across the coast and to the Dunn's River Falls at US$95 plus tax per person.
"The custom-built boat blasts across the water at up to 65 kilometres per hour and does high speed turns, twists, spins and slides," said Kerr.
"We have one jetboat now which will make several trips and we will look to expand depending on the demand and success of the current tours," added Stafford Burrowes, chairman and chief executive officer of Dolphin Cove.