The Dolphin Reef is a unique site in terms of the conditions in which the dolphins live and the Human-Dolphin relationships that are formed as the result of our way of interacting with them. The dolphins are able to maintain their social structure, living as a permanent group, and they are free to choose whether or not to approach any person who enters their world.
The program "Supportive experience with the aid of dolphins" has existed since 1991 and was initiated by Sophie Donio, M.A. The program is suitable for children from 6 to 16 years old who face various challenges and mental difficulties with problems such as: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism, Dyslexia, behavioral problems, Down-Syndrome, depression, cancer patients, and victims of sexual-abuse, among others.
This is a long-term program, lasting about a year, running all year round. Families from Europe come for two weeks, working 4 days a week. It is recommended that families come every two months for two weeks at a time. The work with the children is done early in the morning during “Privilege Time” (the time in which the children can work alone with the trainer and the dolphins without regular visitors observing) before the Dolphin Reef opens its doors to the public.
The concept and the core of this program are to give the children an opportunity to experience positive moments and be themselves. The children feel, and respond to, the freedom given to them, so they more easily accept our working framework; they receive love so they become more open; they feel their success and they receive personal attention which makes them more confident; they receive strong emotional stimuli which strengthens them and they walk on the moving pier which improves their movement and balance.
Motivation is the word to describe what the Dolphin Reef is creating for the children in this program. When the children feel better about themselves, they become motivated to accomplish greater things.
But, how does this happen?
One type of activity is held on the pier alongside the dolphins, and the other type of activity is held in the water with the dolphins.
On the platform: while sitting on the platform with the trainer, the child can play with the dolphins or pet them, depending on what the dolphins prefer. The child will start to know and recognize the dolphins, to learn about their way of life and their environment. The time spent on the platform is for playing games, talking or teaching, all with fun and laughter.
In the water: the child enters the sea with a wetsuit and wears a mask, snorkel and fins if they can. Together with the trainer, the child interacts with the dolphins and plays or pets them, observes them under the water, along with the colorful corals and fish. These are spontaneous encounters which deeply touch the heart of the children.
Whatever we teach, on the platform or in the water, learning is not obligatory! First of all, we play with the children, we have a lot of fun, a lot of positive experiences, and then the drive to learn comes.
The children learn responsibilities as they assist the trainers in their tasks in caring for the dolphins. We offer all kinds of activities, which require small and coordinated movements, and as well as great balance while walking on the rocking pier or crossing from the pier to the platform to sit and meet the dolphins. We also work on the children's social skills, as we bring other children to play and participate. They get close to the trainer, to the dolphins, and to the other people who work with us.
Another aspect to the program occurs with the parents who come and enjoy the place. When they see their child happy and progressing, they relax. It's family time, real quality time as a family.
Who works with the children?
The dolphin trainer is the person who works with the children. They are not psychologists, nor therapists but specialists in working with the dolphins. Sophie Donio directs and teaches them what is necessary for each specific child.
One dolphin trainer will take the same child for the entire year, and introduces that child to the dolphins.
The dolphin's freedom of choice gives the children joining this program a strong feeling that they are the chosen one when a dolphin approaches and lets himself be touched. Their attention and concentration span increases, their self-esteem and self-confidence rise, their ability to deal with frustration and with a "no" answer improves as does their ability to sit and learn.
The level of personal attention given to each child requires that the program remain relatively small, and we therefore only accept twenty children per year. In order to reserve a place for your child, please fill out the application forms at the link below. Responses to the applications go out at the beginning of the New Year. From March onwards the year is already fully booked, so you will need to wait until the end of the year.
The cost of the program is €100 per session on the platform and in the water, which includes entrance to the Dolphin Reef for two weeks for the whole family.
We can assist you in finding accommodation at lower prices than those in local hotels.
for the application form for the Supportive Experience program, click here.
Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the Basic Course details click here