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Marathon Dolphin Sanctuary

Last revised March 23, 2000.
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Seven Mile Bridge

Utilizing Marathon as a home base, visitors may take easy day trips to Key West and the Upper Keys. No island or attraction in the Keys is more than 60 minutes away. And just south of Marathon, the new Seven Mile Bridge, which runs parallel to its venerable forerunner, is the longest segmental bridge in the world.

Marathon boasts the conveniences of a modern community - a 58-bed hospital, shopping plazas and the only commercial airport between Key West and the Florida mainland - but retains the charm of its roots as a 19th - century fishing village.

Numerous certified charter boat captains take visitors diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing and touring along the only living coral reef in North America, several miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

For the less nautically inclined, an 18-hole championship golf course is open to members of country clubs elsewhere, with proper club identification. And all the trappings of outdoor subtropical living abound in Marathon - from bicycling to lounging on a hammock in the shade.

Marathon is home to Crane Point Hammock, a 63.5 acre land tract that is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. The area contains evidence of pre-Colombian and prehistoric Bahamian artifacts, and once was the site of an entire Indian village. On site is the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and an adjoining children's museum. Marathon Dolphin Sanctuary

Located at mile marker 59 in Marathon, The Dolphin Research Center (DRC) is a not-for-profit education and research facility that sustains a pod averaging about 15 dolphins in a natural marine environment. Many of the dolphins were born at the facility, the remainder came from other facilities or were taken from the wild by other management many years ago.

In existence for more than 30 years, DRC maintains liaisons with university research programs and independent investigators on an international basis. It has developed a worldwide reputation as an organization committed to increasing public awareness about dolphins and the issues that affect them.

As a member of the Southeast Stranding Network, DRC staff and volunteers respond to stranded whales and dolphins throughout the Keys island chain. More recently, DRC has extended its commitment to include the endangered manatee.

Believing that experiencing dolphins on a personal level provides a vital link to environmental consciousness, the center offers a variety of educational programs ranging from one hour to an entire week.

Educational walking tours are offered five times daily, except holidays, when the center is closed. The cost is $9.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, and $6 for children age four to 12. Those age three and under are free.

For $75, visitors may participate in DolphInsight, a three-hour program offering opportunities to touch and communicate with a dolphin. To experience dolphins in their environment, the center offers Dolphin Encounter, which provides participants a unique opportunity to join dolphins in structured swim sessions for $90. Children, ages 5 to 12, may participate when accompanied by an adusive insight into these marine mammals.

The world's dolphin population has been reduced by several factors, including the nets of tuna fishermen, but they are a common sight around the Florida Keys and form the star attraction of the state's many marine parks - though watching them perform somersaults in response to human commands gives just an inkling of their potential. By contrast, at the Dolphin Research Center they are used in therapy programmes for cancer-sufferers and mentally handicapped children; the exceptional patience and gentleness displayed by the dolphins (all of whom are free to swim out to sea whenever they want) in this work suggest that their sonar system may allow them to make an X-ray-like scan of a body to detect abnormalities and perhaps even to "see" emotions. Averaging seven feet long, dolphins look disconcertingly large at close quarters - and will lose interest in you long before you tire of their company - but if you do get the opportunity to join them, it's an unforgettable experience.

For more details, contact Dolphin Research Center at P.O. Box 522875, Marathon Shores, Fl33052, or call for information at (305) 289-1121.

As well as the Dolphin Research Facility, Marathon also is home to the Turtle Hospital. Both play important roles in the preservation of indigenous Keys' marine life.

Other Dolphin Encounter Locations

In Key Largo: Dolphins Plus, MM100 (tel: 305/451-1993).

In Islamorada: Theater of the Sea, MM84.5 (tel: 305/664-2431).

In Marathon: Dolphin Research Center, MM59 (tel: 305/289-1121).



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