So a little disclaimer is due before I tell you about this place: I was very hesitant to go to Selwo Marina in Benalmadena, and to even write about it.
The main reason is that I don’t like the idea of exploiting animals living in captivity for entertainment disguised as education, no matter how well it’s marketed and wrapped.
But, for one reason or another, I found myself at the gates on a Saturday morning, hoping it won’t be as bad as I expected.
I actually planned just to check the zoo and not go and see the dolphin show, but I’m glad I did. It just made me realize my gut feeling was right.
So why am I including it here?
I don’t want this article to serve as a slamming review about the place. Everyone is free to make up their own mind, and I know 90% of holidaymakers won’t be bothered by the moral aspect of the story. BUT, I hope that some of those who will read this will question whether the money and time are better spent elsewhere.
If you do want to see animals in their natural (nearly!) habitat, I recommend a visit to Bioparc in Fuengirola – while the tickets are also not cheap, part of the fee is directly donated to supporting biodiversity and conservation projects of endangered species.
I will touch on this later in the article.
Things started off on a great note.
I knew the tickets were cheaper online, but thinking it couldn’t be such a big difference, we walked right up to the ticket office to purchase them from there.
A few minutes and many deep breaths later, we were out of 70 euros for a family visit of 3 people. If you buy the tickets online, you don’t save just a few pennies, the difference is nearly 10 euros per ticket. If that’s not a tourist trap I don’t know what is.
The tickers online have different pricing, the cheapest ones are around 15 euros, and go up to 22 euros if you buy them online on the day. If you buy them on the spot, they are 25 euros per person, and kids between 3 and 10 pay a little cheaper, but not by much.
After visiting the Bioparc in Fuengirola, which looks and feels like a natural environment and a visit to a rain forest, Selwo Marina looked like a tourist trap.
There are toy machines on every corner, and a big toy shop right by the entrance. The way the whole place was designed reminds me more of an entertainment park rather than a place designed for well-being of animals.
It looked like one of those tourist resorts that sprang up in the 90s, and has just been retouched.
There is a restaurant right by the entrance which opens around noon, but looking at the prices and what you get it looked very overpriced. I’m sure the food quality would also match the prices.
What I loved was that there was a lot of greenery and plenty of shade, and the entrance was framed by a gorgeous big old tree.
For a ZOO, there was a surprisingly small number of animals.
I mean the park is pretty small and the enclosures are certainly not generous. There is an enclosure with birds and monkeys right by the entrances, flamingos right by the dolphin pools, and an indoor enclosure with penguins and a few other animals.
It will probably take you well under an hour to see it all.
The Dolphin Show
The main attraction of the park is the dolphin show.
I can honestly say I never felt more like a tourist than when I sat down on the bench in there. People hurried to take the best seats and as the music started playing, the dolphins (after hearing it for gazillion times before) started swimming around in the tank.
They were looking very healthy and happy, and their trainers seemed to have a very nice relationship with them, being kind and gentle to them at all times. They were all introduced by names, and then a short explanation about the species.
There was a narrator who was explaining everything during the show, and even though he translated everything into English I could not make up what he was saying.
Some bits that I caught were about the conservation projects and protection, and the high care standards all the animals in the park receive.
When you look it up on their website, they just show a bunch of organizations they belong to, without any specifics in terms of what they do or how they contribute to the preservation of species. It all reads like well-crafted marketing content to make you feel better about spending money watching dolphins perform tricks.
The things these clever animals could do were truly impressive – and shockingly if you read TripAdvisor, some people were left ‘bored’ by their performance and said it wasn’t very ‘entertaining’. Safe to say this place attracts a certain type of crowd.
I will let you pour over the pictures and continue below.
So in addition to the dolphin show, you can also book a personal experience where you go to a VIP area, and for mere 75 euros, you get a chance to get up close and personal with the dolphins.
The experience is marketed as an educational visit, where they tell you about the animals, but in reality, it’s just an overpriced selfie with a dolphin.
I know I promised that I will try to keep this review as an unbiased report and leave you to make up your own mind. Reading it back now it doesn’t sound very positive or impartial, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when the whole experience leaves you with a weird feeling.
For once, I was very impressed by the skills of the trainers and their relationship with the animals. The animals seem to be well taken care of and all of the people involved genuinely looked like they loved interacting with them.
Most Popular Activities & Day Trips in Benalmadena
Here is a selection of some fun activities and day trips from Benalmadena – these are independently organized tours with pick-up from the town. To see available dates and check the prices please click on the link for each activity.
- Caminito Del Rey Guided Tour – with pick up from Benalmadena, a guided tour of the famous walkway along the El Chorro Gorge, with transportation, entrance fees and tour guide included.
- Dolphin Watching Boat Trip in Benalmadena – explore the coast of Benalmadena from a boat, enjoy a trip that includes spotting dolphins in their natural habitat, swimming and sunbathing on the boat.
- Day Trip to Ronda and Setenil de las Bodegas – see one of the wonders of Andalusia, the Puente Nuevo in Ronda with one of the oldest bullrings in Spain, and admire the houses built into massive rock formations in Setenil. Includes pick up from Benalmadena, a tour guide, a glass of Ronda wine, and entry to Palacio Mondragon.
- Day Trip to Granada with Tour of Alhambra – see one of the most famous monuments in Andalusia, the palace complex of Alhambra with a tour guide with a pick up from Benalmadena.
- Day Trip to Gibraltar – enjoy a trip to the UK territory with free time for shopping and an optional visit to the Nature Reserve with a guide.
Explore More in Benalmadena
Southern Spain Travel Tips
BEST CAR RENTAL
To rent a car, I highly recommend Discover Cars, an award winning price comparison site for car rentals.
BUS & TRAIN TICKETS
To get the cheapest bus or train tickets, take a look at Omio to find the timetables and prices.
Local travel companies offer many day trip options from almost all the destinations in Southern Spain. You can check them out here.
I have been using booking.com for all my trips in Spain and abroad, and it’s the best place to book your hotel.
If you would like to leave your luggage behind to explore the city on your last day, you can use Radical Storage service, which lets you book luggage storage in all the destinations in Spain.
LOCAL SIM CARD
If you want to avoid surprising extra charges from your operator, you can use a service like Airalo, where you can buy digital packs for e-sim cards.
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