Making Lifelong Memories
Founded in February 2001, by the husband-and-wife team of Stafford and Marilyn Burrowes, Dolphin Cove was born with the intent of bringing a new and enthralling tourist attraction to Jamaica. 14 years later, Dolphin Cove has expanded from one location to three, establishing themselves as one of the country’s leading tourist attractions. The stunning property includes a natural cove which is surrounded by five acres of lush tropical rain forest which guests can enjoy, as well as Star Buccaneers coffee shop, the Dolphin Cove gift shop and the boardwalk of “Little Port Royal”. The environment is designed to be a fun and entertaining place, while also striving to educate guests about not only dolphins, but the island of Jamaica as well.
Marilyn Burrowes, Co-Founder, explains how Dolphin Cove came to be, a process which transformed the Burrowes’ family home into a three-acre marine park, and the creation of an award-winning experience that guests will remember for a lifetime.
“At the time, my husband and I were looking for something to do in the tourist industry,” says Marilyn. “We did our research and visited several countries to look for attractions that would suit Jamaica, but an attraction that Jamaica did not already have.”
The idea for Dolphin Cove struck while researching in Florida, where they found marine attractions – and particularly dolphins- to be among the most popular. The island of Jamaica did not have a marine attraction until the Burrowes’ revelation, and the pair knew to seize the opportunity.
“Everywhere we went to try and get into a dolphin facility,” she says. “We couldn’t get in because it was always booked three months in advance. We said ‘this is it’. “
What came next was deciding the location for their new marine attraction. Fortunately for the Burrowes’, the decision was quite simple. The pair decided that their home in Ocho Rios, situated adjacent to Dunn’s River Falls & Park, would be the best place to set up shop.
“We had a home on the ocean, right next to the cruise ship area, and across the street from Dunn’s River Falls,” Marilyn explains. “Because of where we lived, we thought our home was the most suitable location. We turned our home into Dolphin Cove, and we’ve expanded and expanded since. “
As Marilyn notes, the number of dolphins has naturally increased as well. “We started with four dolphins and we now have 32,” she says.
Further expansions to Dolphin Cove included bringing in other aquatic species for guests to interact with including sharks and stingrays, in addition to programs like the “Trainer for a Day”, where guests can experience the life of a dolphin trainer at Dolphin Cove.
Beyond Ocho Rios, Dolphin Cove has experienced growth, establishing two additional locations across the island. Founded in 2005, Dolphin Cove operates a park at the Half Moon Resort in St. James. That particular park is an exclusive attraction, available only to Half Moon patrons in order to provide a more intimate experience. The third operation, Negril, opened in 2010 and is based out of Lucea. Negril offers guests an expansive 23 acres of ocean front to marvel over, while offering many of the same activities as the primary location.
A World-Class Experience
The Burrowes’ passion for providing an outstanding experience to guests from around the world has led Dolphin Cove to become an award-winning destination in the tourism industry. At the 2014 World Travel Awards, an annual gala which celebrates excellence in the tourism and hospitality industry, Dolphin Cove took home the award for the Caribbean’s Leading Adventure Tourist Attraction for a second straight year. Their award-winning pedigree continues with back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012 for the Caribbean’s Leading Adventure Tourism Excursion Operator, in addition to a number of nominations between 2007-2013.
Of their most recent award win, Marilyn says, “It puts us high on the map with our stellar competitors in the attraction business, it make us stand out. Internationally, it’s an award that’s recognized world-wide.”
In addition to Dolphin Cove’s success as a leading tourist attraction, Stafford and Marilyn Burrowes have also earned personal acclaim for their leadership savvy in 2014. The couple were named Jamaica’s Business Leaders by the Jamaica Observer, a publication based out of Kingston.
“We’re quite proud of winning these awards,” Marilyn says. “I’d like to thank everyone for their support and for recognizing us.”
The Dolphin Cove Team
Operating three locations across Jamaica is no easy feat, as such, Dolphin Cove requires a large and highly skilled team of employees including specialists in the field of animal care and environmental protection: specialist marine mammal veterinarians and consultant compliance advisors on environmental matters. Though their team is already robust with talent, from dolphin trainers to guest services, Marilyn says that Dolphin Cove continues to bring more members on board. “We employ between 200-220 people,” she says. “But we’re expanding all the time.”
At Dolphin Cove, training is a key priority, especially when it comes to the trainers handling the dolphins and other aquatic species. Since beginning, the Burrowes’ have remained committed to operating a safe experience for guests, trainers and of course the main attraction, dolphins.
“We have almost like a school for dolphin trainers,” Marilyn explains. “We take young people who love the water and animals, and we train them.”
Aside from training and working at the gorgeous Jamaican destinations, Dolphin Cove opens up opportunities for trainers to travel around the world, sharing their knowledge and experience with dolphins in exotic locations.
“They’ve grow with us since the beginning,” she says of Dolphin Cove’s trainers. “They also have opportunities to go elsewhere; we have a trainer in Turkery, one in Dubai, and two in Venezueala.”
Expanding the Brand
Of the many aspects that make Dolphin Cove a unique place, one of their proudest points is their commitment to the environment, and having their dolphins swim in natural Caribbean Sea. As opposed to a tank like many aquatic parks, dolphins here can enjoy their habitat accompanied by different fish, rays, and other forms of sea life much the same as they would in the wild. By showcasing the animals in a natural environment, Dolphin Cove have also taken the initiative to educate their guests on how to help preserve environments such as these.
“Our brand is to have the dolphins in the ocean,” says Marilyn. “Which is their natural habitat, and we educate our guests on the environment and solutions to protect it.”
When it comes to marketing, Dolphin Cove has partnered with a nearby attraction to help draw even more people to experience the wonders of their park and its activities. As well, Marilyn notes that by watching the market with an attentive eye, they’re able to offer the best prices to guests who want to see the very best of Jamaica.
“We’ve partnered with Dunn’s River Falls,” she explains. “Which has been very beneficial for us. We also market heavily through the hotels, and we’re always doing a promotion or incentive like buy one, get one free.
“We watch the market very closely,” Marilyn continues. “So that when things are slow, we can offer great deals to the consumer.”
Moving forward, Dolphin Cove has no intent of slowing down. The Burrowes’ have revealed their 2015 plans to build two new locations outside of Jamaica, on the Turks & Caicos islands Grand Turk and Providenciales. As well, they have a third location in Jamaica in development in St Lucia. In addition to the new locations, a breeding program for its Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins was put in place in 2010, with the goal of making the company self-sufficient in the supply of their dolphins.
It’s clear to see that after 14 years in the tourism industry, Dolphin Cove have truly established themselves as a leader in the tourism industry, and will continue on their reputation for delivering an unforgettable experience to visitors from around the world.