Dolphins are remarkable creatures. As smart as they are cute, they use sonar to "see" and can tell from 100 feet away whether an object is made of wood, plastic or metal. They can hear frequencies 10 times the upper limit of adult humans, jump 20 feet in the air, recognize themselves in the mirror and understand as many as 60 human words. Plus, they have the longest memory of any creature in the animal kingdom.
Clearly, dolphins are amazing. If you're wondering what they have to do with meetings and events, however, you should ask Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Fla., which hosted a "Whale Done Educational Retreat" for meeting and event planners Sept. 20-23. During the retreat, meeting professionals experienced firsthand a unique teambuilding experience engineered by animal trainer Thad Lacinak, co-author with Ken Blanchard, Chuck Tompkins and Jim Ballard of Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships.
Although it was hosted by Hammock Beach Resort, Lacinak's presentation took place at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, a marine mammal park that's known for its dolphins. During the program, Lacinak used 15 Atlantic dolphins as a metaphor for how to create positive communications between corporate team members.
It's just one example among many of unique ecological experiences that groups can take advantage of when they're meeting in Florida. Here are four others:
• TurtleTrek Reception at SeaWorld Orlando: SeaWorld Orlando offers a variety of educational venues and experiences that are available to groups. A favorite is TurtleTrek, a 3D 360-degree dome theater experience during which audience members get a turtle's-eye view of the ocean. Available for evening receptions of 50 to 200 people, the experience includes not only a viewing of the 3D film inside the theater, but also up-close encounters and photo opportunities with rescued animals and their trainers.
• Teambuilding Retreat at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park: Nothing says "Florida" quite like gators. At St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, groups can experience them close-up as part of a teambuilding retreat that includes not only alligator education and viewing, but also activities like a climbing wall, a zip line adventure, a free-fall-jump and more.
• Backcountry Kayaking Tour in the Keys: Groups meeting in Key West can arrange a private backcountry kayaking tour with Key West Eco Tours. Tours take place 15 minutes from Key West in Geiger Key, where groups learn about the Keys' tropical ecosystem from an expert nature guide who leads them paddling through mangrove islands and sea grass beds, past dolphins, turtles, rays, fish, iguanas and birds. Tours also are available via standup paddle board.
• 1,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge Tour: In case kayaking is more work than your group wants to do, there are plenty of other ways for it to get intimate with Florida's tropical ecosystem. For example, it can take the 10,000 Islands Wildlife Refuge Tour from Eco Endeavors Expeditions in Goodland, Fla. Groups of up to 16 people can board the company's custom skiff for a three-hour excursion to the 10,000 Islands Wildlife Refuge during which they'll explore over 30 miles of coastal ecosystem in search of aquatic wildlife. Common sites include Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Florida Manatees and numerous bird species. The tour also includes a stop at a private barrier island where attendees can snorkel, swim and search for rare shells.