From the Phillies game, we headed back to Clearwater Beach to catch the 5pm Dolphin Encounter cruise. They promise dolphin sightings or you get a free additional cruise. Luckily, there was no need for a 2nd outing as we saw so many jumping and playful dolphins on our 1 ¼ hour trip.
Before we left the dock, we were worried. There were only a handful of paying customers on the large boat and we wondered if we chose the wrong cruise line (there are numerous options down there near Pier 60). One that looked cute was called Little Toot. It was very small and was packed, but they did not offer unlimited free drinks – in fact they did not offer any beverages. We had no idea why so many would have selected that boat. What didn't we know?
That little boat played a large role in our journey. We went out into the Gulf and immediately saw a pod of Dolphins. The boat picked up some speed in an effort to entice the animals to dance in our wake. And they did, a bit, but it was not until Little Toot arrived by our side, with it’s smaller waves, that the Dolphins went crazy. They were leaping through the air, one after another. It was a spectacular show. I snapped about 60 photos and these are the best. It is miracle I was even able to capture these, I didn’t even know what I was focused on at times!
What was neat about seeing so many dolphins was that it was made possible by a successful collaboration between our larger vessel and Little Toot. We paralleled each other and created what must have been an amusement park for the dolphins as they were in quite a festive mood. Our Dolphin Encounter captain admitted that he cannot create the type of waves that Little Toot can and that the Dolphins go wild for that tugboat-turned-tour boat.
On our way back to dock, we were supplied with white bread and were encouraged to hold out smallish pieces for the Hitchock-ian flock of swarming birds overhead. It is a bit too much for our little one. She gave it a whirl but was freaked out that the bird touched her fingers when it snapped up the bread.
There are $2 off coupons for the Dolphin Encounter cruise ($19 pp and kids under 4 are free) in every tourist brochure/booklet for the Gulf Coast/Tampa/Clearwater areas. Do try to head out to sea on this boat, timing it for when Little Toot will be sailing as well...and bring extra film or clear space on your memory card beforehand!