Elayna and Onyx!
First the negative, then the positive... Miami Seaquarium should be ashamed of itself. The whole place is run-down and crappy. They don't have *much*, and what they do have is often obscured by murky water. This is Miami. The ocean is right there. And you're supposed to be a world-class city. This is a third-world aquarium. So yeah. Pounding heat, poor organization, peeling paint; an aquarium that, to borrow mangosteen's turn of phrase, "time forgot, but entropy didn't."
Contrast this to entering the dolphin area. "This is a new building!" we were perkily informed numerous times. To which I say yeah, no shit. It's spacious and well-lit. It was honestly a mild shock going back and forth from the dolphin area to the rest of the Seaquarium.
Okay. Swimming with the dolphins. :) We received official Miami Seaquarium wetsuits and waddled out to orientation, where we learned very little that Elayna hadn't already known - but she has written papers on dolphin sociology. So. She was able to answer most of the trainer's questions, much to the delight of the trainer - and of everyone else, as she was clearly the youngest participant (there were two mid-teenage boys). She became the darling of a Dutch family in our group... there was, once we got dolphin exposure, a lot of "Let Elayna go first!" and "Oh, oh, let Elayna through!" (The patriarch of said family occasionally forgot that there was a shy little girl there - he was forcibly reminded by his daughters.)
Followed the trainers into the water... and met our dolphins. :) We worked primarily with Onyx and Echo, but also got to see Noel and Bimini after the "ride". We did pictures first - they have a set of poses. Kiss the dolphin, shake hands with the dolphin, hug the dolphin, okay, next! After they finished pictures, it was a lot of silly dolphin tricks - they made seagull sounds, they splashed us - and some trainer-tricks, having us tell the dolphins to do various sorts of flips via hand gestures. We got to rub and pet the dolphins. Elayna learned some new things about dolphin musculature.
And the ride!
The Dutch girls insisted that Elayna go first. She did the eyes-wide "Me? First?!?" thing, but had no time to object, as the trainer was already positioning her, and Onyx zipped alongside her, and like a natural, she let the dorsal fin slide into her hand and pull her along. :)
She was absolutely elated. Me too - that was fun. Fast, but fun. I managed a wave to the camera, but otherwise - just concentrated on the dolphin, lean and smooth and merry and strong.
We got to play with the dolphins some more after the ride - playing catch, rubbing their bellies. And then we emerged into the decrepit Seaquarium, blinking in the harsh light.
We want to do this again. :) At a better place - we'll save up for Discovery Cove or Pennekamp State Park next year.