International Basic Dolphin Course: 2020-2021
May 4th-13th 2020
June 8- 17th 2020
The unique mutual curiosity and fondness in men-dolphin interactions are in the base of world wide dolphins' studies and dolphins assisted therapies.
In this 10 days basic course we will introduce the principles of dolphin biology and dolphin assisted therapy.
The course will consist of lectures and observations. The lectures are presented by the scientists of the research laboratory, the training team and invited experts.
Observations of dolphin behavior and therapy sessions will be performed.
The course will be held in English with possible assistance in Hebrew, French and Italian.
The program will start in the morning (8.00) and will finish in the afternoon\evening (16.00 to 19.00), including two half days off. Additionally, we offer a fringe program at some of the evenings.
It is a basic, interdisciplinary course, with the aim of gaining knowledge and opening a window to the dolphins’ world and to the world of dolphins’ assisted therapy. It is not however “Hug the Dolphin” course.
A certificate of attendance will be provided at the end of the course. Students, who take the course for academic credit, may be required to take a final examination.
The course is accredited by the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, University of Caen, Normandy, France and University of Augsburg, Germany.
Participants will come from different backgrounds: Physiologists, Social workers, Biologist, Researchers, Students and interested laymen.
Our own backgrounds are also diverse, from biology and psychology to animal trainers.
The course will be held at the Dolphin Reef Facility in Eilat. It is situated in the southern part of Israel on the coast of the Red Sea. The Dolphin Reef is a special tourist place with the possibility to swim and dive with the dolphins.
At the Dolphin Reef, the dolphins live together the whole year in a spacious area about 14.000 square meters separated from the open sea by a net.
These dolphins are not behavior modified nor deprived from any of their habits; hunting, playing, mating or fighting - while the humans are merely visitors in their world. Thus, the Dolphin Reef, Eilat offers a unique chance to observe the impressive social life of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and the voluntary friendship between humans and dolphins.
The bond between the trainers and the dolphins is built on trust and affection.
This relationship makes a very special program possible called ‘Supportive Experience with the Aid of Dolphins’ for children suffering from many different disorders and diseases: cancer, behavioral problems, sexual abuse, Down's Syndrome, autism, ADD, ADHD, and all kinds of mental retardation.
The program initiated by Sophie Donio (Established in 1991), is a long term program for children aged six years and above.
It is called 'Supportive experience' instead of 'therapy' because the aim is to encourage emotional, social, cognitive and/or physical improvements by giving a moral support and by making the children smile, rather than healing them.
The research facility, also situated in the Dolphin Reef, is called ‘Dolphin Behavior Research Laboratory’ and was founded in 1992, in special cooperation with the University of Berlin, Germany led by Dr. Frank Veit, till 2006. Since 2007 the research laboratory is under the supervision of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, as part of its Eilat Campus and is headed by Dr. Nadav Shashar.
The scientific research facility examines various aspects of dolphin behavior, communication and dolphin assisted therapy. The SEADO (Supportive Experience with the Aid of Dolphins Observation) form was made to assess and follow the improvement of the children during the year they participate in the therapy program. The form was presented in the congress of the child development and rehabilitation in Jerusalem in January 2019. To view the form click here.
The work of the lab is strictly non-invasive, meaning that no experiments are carried out here that could possibly harm or harass the animals.
The course contains 3 modules (all three):
Dolphin Biology and Behavior Module
•Introduction to Marine Biology
•Introduction to the Gulf of Aqaba
•Methods in ethology: Systematic collection of data, with special reference to social behavior
•Ethogram workshop: Observing animals
•Guided project in dolphin behavior based on observation
•Dolphin vocal communication
•Cetacean social behavior and ecology, with special reference to Bottlenose dolphins
•Cetology: Evolution of whales and dolphins, adaptation to the marine environment
Dolphin Training and Husbandry Module
•Veterinary considerations in maintaining dolphins in captivity
•Animal training and training dolphins in Dolphin Reef
•The open sea project
•Evaluating the human experience in swim with dolphin programs; methodological approaches
•Dolphin recognition and identification. Identification of the dolphins at Dolphin Reef
•First aid to marine mammals: How to deal with stranded cetaceans
Dolphin Assisted Therapy Module
•Animal assisted therapy
•Supportive experience with the aid of the dolphins
•Preparations, executing and discussion of systematic observations of therapy sessions
•Swims with the dolphins
•Autism and therapeutical methods with the assistance of dolphins
•Scientific seminar on dolphin therapy
•Observation of therapy sessions
The exact program will be hand out in the beginning of the course. Variations and changes in the program are possible.
Aim of the course
Main goals of the course are:
•To give an introduction to the mentioned subjects.
•To demonstrate the work that is done here, both for the behavioral work and the therapy.
•To have researchers from all over the world at the Dolphin Reef.
Who can participate?
The course is open to all people from the age 18 and above, with no special requirements for qualifications or scientific experience. To ensure individualized instructions, the number of participants is limited.
A successful participation in the course will be on accreditation for participation in our internship program offered by the therapy and the research departments.
If you want to participate in our internship program it is necessary to mention this when you register for the course. It is important to specify whether you are interested in the Dolphin Therapy or in the research work on Dolphin Behavior, as well as for how long you want to stay (minimally three months).
There is also the possibility for carrying out your own research, in which case you would need to inform us beforehand about your research plans, or in what way you would like to intensify your experience working with dolphins. If needed we are for questions and to help making the choice (Of course the aim, subject and methods of the experiments require the approval of the Dolphin Reef, and all collected data is the property of the Dolphin Reef).
Swimming in the dolphins' enclosure
As mentioned, the course is an educational one, nevertheless two guided snorkeling with the dolphins are included to provide a better insight into the underwater world of the dolphins. For more information and FAQ about the swims, please click here and read (without making any reservations of course)
For those who want to take more swims or an introduction dive, they can do so on the half days off for a reduced fee.
The Course Fee
The price for the course itself is 5,800 ILS including all lectures, course material, excursion to the Underwater Observatory, two swims with the dolphins, two meals during the days - (breakfast and lunch), and coffee and tea.
A deposit of 1000 ILS is required for reserving a place in the course. Full refund will be given in case of cancelation in 30 days prior to the course, 50% refund in case of cancelation up to 14 days prior to the course. No refund will be given at later cancelations but the deposit will be reserved towards participation in a course during the 2 following years.
Students of educational institutions who accept this course for credit as part of the study requirements will receive a discount of 10%. An acknowledgment letter from the institution will be required.
The course will open with a minimum of 8 students. If the course will not open, full refund will be offered.
Experience has taught us that it is best if the booking of the accommodation would be done by us; we get for our students and their guests a group price, which is significantly lower than the normal tariff, and is it also very much advised logistically and morally, for the students to stay at the same place. However, the accommodations are not included in the course fee, and you are free to stay wherever you chose.
M.Sc Sophie Donio - Head of the Therapy Department at the Dolphin Reef.
Dr. Nadav Shashar - Marine Biologist at Ben Gurion University and Head of the Dolphin Behavior Research Laboratory in Eilat.
For registration form click here.
For further information or questions, please click here.