Swimming with Dolphins at Fort Desoto State Park


My kids got their first close encounter with wild dolphins. We took a day trip to Fort DeSoto (Florida). My husband has been dying to go fishing for ages (it’s in his blood). Me, just give me the sea- I usually end up running after the kids anyhow. My fishing license expired when my son (now six) was able to walk. There hasn’t been much point to renewing it, as my daughter came soon after and I am still squeamish about live bait, let alone taking the caught fish off the hook! So, when my husband suggested we go to the beach- where he could fish and we didn’t have to, well, I jumped at the chance.

We drove through the rain on our way towards Tampa (It has been raining everyday in Florida now), but luckily, we drove out of it as well and headed south to Fort Desoto State Park. My husband and son, loaded down with poles and tackle box, headed out on the fishing pier while my wild daughter and I hit the beach- past the NO SWIMMING: RIP TIDES signs. There were only a couple of others on the beach, and no one in the water- hmm, must have been the signs. My daughter can not resist water, so we were wading in before we knew it- only minutes later we spotted the dolphins- there must have been ten of them- some with babies! They were flipping around near pier’s end. I knew my husband was cursing them- fishermen hate dolphins because they scare away the fish. My little girl and I were loving it, and we stood in the water, squealing and squeaking the way we imagined dolphins talked- goodness knows what we said to them, because three of them split from the big group and headed closer to the beach to us!

I remember reading a story when I was young about a girl and dolphins- Island of the Blue Dolphins I think, by Scott O’Dell. It was a good book, but sad. I really wanted to swim out and touch a dolphin (kinda like wanting to connect with that snake- where is my head?) But not wishing to risk  the rip tides or put dear daughter in risk, I did not. My son had given up on the fishing by then and raced down to the beach for a closer look at the dolphins. After a while, the children’s interest waned (the dolphins even flipped out of the water- they wanted to play!!!!) and thoughts had turned to building a sand castle and finding as many shells as possible. The dolphins soon moved away, but stayed in the area for most of the day (much to dear husband’s chagrin).

The beach at the state park was beautiful and clean, the water warm, but no swimming, as the sign cautioned. I found two sharks teeth, but I’m convinced they must be dolphin teeth as I didn’t see a shark all day. Do people hunt for dolphin teeth? It doesn’t have the same awe/fear factor as saying sharks teeth, though. We toured the fort later in the day, after dear husband gave up on the fishing (the dolphins won in the end), and slowly meandered home. We might go back again. There’s a campground ($33.00 a night) and a ferry to a nearby island- ah, new adventure!


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