Panama City Beach’s coastline is full of incredible wildlife; from dolphins swimming close enough to touch them on a catamaran to baby sea turtles making their way down to the water, you’re bound to find something beautiful living among the waters.
Gulf World is a local marine park, located right next to the water on Front Beach Road. The park offers a variety of interactive experiences for visitors and locals alike, including its famous dolphin shows. At intervals throughout the day, visitors can even feed sharks, turtles, and stingrays in the animals’ habitats.
Explore the aquarium
When we arrived at the marine park, we spent the beginning of our time simply exploring the grounds. Birds, turtles, penguins, and other species were on display throughout the park, similar to your traditional aquarium. While the park did have a fish tank located toward the beginning of the exhibits, its main focus is on larger species like penguins, seals, string rays, and dolphins.
Shaking hands with a sea lion
Next, we sat down for one of their wildlife shows. These shows take place on rotating intervals throughout the day; we stepped into a show that was about to begin, taking the front row seats in the potential “splash zone.” (Spoiler alert: we got splashed.)
Sitting in the front row put us right in front of the action. When a beautiful sea lion came out to entertain the audience, the sea lion’s handler asked for a volunteer, choosing a member of our party. She was able to learn a few of the sea lion’s tricks; she even got to shake its hand!
Interacting with dolphins
While we didn’t opt to actually swim with the dolphins, our group decided to have a face-to-face with some of Gulf World’s famous dolphins with the Dolphin Encounter. The dolphins were eager to perform a variety of tricks alongside us; we rewarded them with fish, of course.
Gulf World offers several choices when it comes to dolphin interactions. Visitors can choose between the Royal Swim, Swim Adventure, Swim Journey, and the Dolphin Encounter. However, keep in mind these interactions do require an additional fee.
Later on in our visit, we attended the coveted dolphin show (we made sure to stay out of the “splash zone” this time). The dolphins used their tails to completely soak the front half of the auditorium, giving audiences an unforgettable experience.
Gulf World does have an admission cost, but if you’re looking for an up-close-and-personal encounter with some of these animals, Gulf World is the place to do it. There are opportunities to interact with many kinds of animals, including penguins, seals, stingrays, dolphins, sea lions, and more. There’s something for everyone at Gulf World!