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Dreamlander Tours Private Dolphin Tour on Marco Island OverviewDuring our recent trip to the southwestern coast of Florida (stay tuned for more features on our trip!) we booked a private family dolphin tour with Dreamlander Tours on Marco Island. We did quite a bit of research beforehand, speaking with and analyzing reviews for the many groups that offered dolphin tours in the area, given the additional concerns we had with regards to riding jet skis with both of our boys and their grandmother in tow. We certainly didn't want to lose anyone along the way! As many of you know, we have additional concerns to consider whenever we travel. Our youngest has very low muscle tone, Auditory Processing Disorder and he fatigues quickly, so we knew he wouldn't be able to hold on to one of us unassisted. Both of our boys have severe ADHD combined type and Sensory Processing Disorder, so we wanted to make sure they were safe and comfortable as well. Additionally, my mother in-law has MS and also required a gentle ride at a reasonably low speed.
While the majority of groups we spoke with sounded concerned with their abilities to accommodate our group, Dreamlander Tours was fully confident that they could work with us and go at a pace that suited everyone in our little party. Aside from their ability to accommodate our additional concerns, we loved the fact that they offered private tours rather than group tours only. Many of the water sports groups we contacted only offered dolphin tours to mixed groups of 8 jet skis at a time rather than private tours--especially during peak tourist times. We found that in a group tour the pace tended to be quicker, you struggled to see everything and if you needed to head back to shore unexpectedly for any reason it wasn't really possible as you had to be escorted by a guide and the guides couldn't leave the rest of the group unattended. Perhaps for a family with older kids and/or those without any physical concerns this wouldn't be as much of an issue, but after days of research we agreed that a private tour with Dreamlander Tours was the best bet for us!
Where We Booked: DreamlanderTours.com
Location: Marco Island, FL
Cost: $150 per jet ski
Tour Length: 90 minutes
Restrictions: 400 lb max per jet ski; up to 3 family members per jet ski if under weight limit
Note: Riding on the jet skis can be very loud. If you have a child with auditory sensitivities you may want to inquire about whether or not noise canceling earphones can be worn to reduce sound. Our youngest is sensitive to some loud sounds, but did well largely due to the fact he was so excited it distracted him.
The DolphinsWe are still at a loss for words to truly describe how amazing it was to experience this tour--especially together! I think our boys have said it best:
"I'm better than okay, I just saw dolphins!" - Seamus (oldest)
"This is the best vacation ever!" - Liam (youngest)
Riding the jet skis in itself was incredibly fun, but seeing the dolphins (so many dolphins!), local wildlife, mangroves and open waters together was something we'll forever cherish. Yes, we've seen dolphins in captivity and in the wild at a distance, but never in such close proximity in their natural habitat! We knew we'd likely get to see a few, but we had no idea just how many we'd see and how close some would get to us. In fact, several swam right next to our oldest and I, which Patrick caught on video as you can see above.
Some of the things we saw while on our tour included:
- sting rays
- Florida coastline
- various birds (sorry guys, I'm not a birder so I wasn't able to identify many of them!)
Our GuideOur guide's name was Sean (yes, spelled correctly for you fellow Irishmen) and he was fantastic! Friendly, engaging, super informative and very good at making sure everyone was having a great time and going at a pace that kept everyone comfortable. He pointed out all the dolphins and other wildlife, educated us on the newest mangrove to begin to take root and took some great pics of us as we went along. In fact, everyone we came in contact with at Dreamlander Tours was phenomenal! While Sean will definitely be our pick for our next tour (we plan to go again the next time we have the opportunity to head back down to Florida), I'm sure any of the guides Dreamlander Tours employs would be fantastic.
The Jet SkisThis was actually my first time on a jet ski (the boys as well), though Patrick and his mom had been on one before. While I'm short and find my inseam is often an issue on bikes, motorcycles, and whatnot, I was able to ride this fairly comfortably. It was a little bit of a stretch, but nothing I couldn't handle. The seats were actually quite comfortable and curved to accommodate up to 3 passengers. There was a compartment just below the dashboard where water bottles were stored, which was fantastic! Overall, I'd say that as someone that knows how to ride a motorcycle, but has never ridden a jet ski, that the jet skis provided by Dreamlander Tours were fairly easy to maneuver. We did not exceed speeds over 40 mph (it probably would have resulted in a child or grandmother taking a dip), so I can't comment on their performance at higher speeds. I found our oldest and I were quite comfortable on ours with plenty of room and Patrick, our youngest and his mom fit nicely on theirs.
Capturing the Tour on FilmWhile we were fortunate enough to have our GoPro with us to capture our tour, if you don't have an action camera to bring along you don't have to worry about missing out on freezing some of those memories on film as Dreamlander Tours guides snap pictures for you as you go--from launch to return. We thought this was an incredibly valuable perk, given the fact most of us don't get the opportunity to go on tours like this very often and pictures make it so much easier to share and relive your experience when you get back.
Thanks again for the great time, Sean!
Final ThoughtsOverall, Dreamlander Tours exceeded our expectations in every way. The tour, guide and general experience was exceptional and unforgettable for all the right reasons. Everyone made it through the entire tour and got to see so much! We loved that Dreamlander clearly put effort into both large and small details, going so far as to supply bottles of water in our jet skis while we were out cruising and snap pics throughout our tour for us, which they sent to us within 24 hours. We also loved that they donated a percentage from each tour to various charities and organizations.
While we drove a little over an hour to get to Marco Island from Fort Myers Beach, it was well worth it and we would have driven double if we had to! Absolutely amazing from start to finish. We highly recommend giving them a shout if you're anywhere near the area and think your family would enjoy this kind of experience. Make sure to ask for Sean if possible--he's a wonderful guide for families like ours!
What do you think? Would your family enjoy going on this kind of tour?
Don't forget to check back soon! Now that we're back from our marathon of spring travel, we'll be publishing additional features from our time in Florida in our Florida Family Travel Guide in the coming weeks. We'll also be updating our San Diego Family Travel Guide and Canada Family Travel Guide soon as well.
Note: This post was in no way sponsored. All activities featured in this post were paid for by members of FamilyADHD.