May 26, 2006

2006 Vacation/Travel Supplement

Underwater adventure:
Indianapolis Zoo has only dolphin viewing dome in the world

By Mary Ann Wyand

Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking.

As two dolphins soar out of the water toward the ceiling of the Indianapolis Zoo’s newly remodeled Dolphin Pavilion, the capacity audience of children through senior citizens collectively holds its breath.

After the dolphins flip high in the air in perfect timing then splash back into the 1.1 million-gallon performance pool, everyone starts breathing again.

“The kids really love the new show because it’s entertaining and educational,” explained Judith Gagen, director of communications for the Indianapolis Zoo, located at 1200 W. Washington St. in White River State Park.

Adults also are thrilled by the dolphins’ expertly timed “tricks,” she said, which are a variety of jumps, flips and tail-walking skills that are routine behaviors for them in the wild.

Last year, on Memorial Day weekend, the Indianapolis Zoo opened the world’s first underwater dolphin viewing dome, and the zoo’s nine dolphins continue to attract big crowds for performances.

Gagen said the dolphin trainers are preparing another new theme for the mammals’ popular show, which will premiere on Memorial Day weekend. The stars of the show are four adult females—Nova, China, Phoenix and Ripley—and two adult males named Sundance and Kimo. Three juveniles—Jett and females Kalei and Indy—are also crowd-pleasers.

“Their skills are based upon behaviors that you would actually see them do in the wild,” Gagen said. “They are very graceful and very powerful. They’re not Flipper. People should stay away from dolphins in the wild because they can be dangerous.”

But at the Indianapolis Zoo, she said, people can register for the new Dolphin Adventure, which enables them to work with a trainer and get into the water for a special “hands-on” session with one of the dolphins.

(For more information about Indianapolis Zoo hours, fees and attractions, log on to


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