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Gulfarium on Okaloosa Island reopens

Devon Ravine
Northwest Florida Daily News

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OKALOOSA ISLAND — The animal residents of the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park got their first new human guests in more than seven weeks Wednesday.

The Gulfarium, which has been closed since March 20, reopened to its regular hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week, but is operating under the 25% capacity guidelines issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis in Phase 1 of his plan to reopen Florida.

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“So far it’s been a nice, manageable flow,” Gulfarium Senior Vice President Patrick Berry said of Wednesday’s crowd.

Berry said that in addition to taking care of the animals while the park was closed, staffers have also been busy instituting additional safety measures to protect guests and themselves once the park reopened.

Some of the safety precautions include face masks for employees, plastic screens at cashier locations, new hand sanitization stations around the park and regular sanitizing of surfaces. Also, QR bar codes have been posted around the park that people can scan with their smartphones to pull details about the Gulfarium, including a map and show times.

“We try to make it as touchless as possible,” Berry said.

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The Gulfarium encourages guests to make online reservations and ticket purchases at least one day ahead of their visit to help manage park capacity. The park is only accepting credit card transactions at this time.

Berry pointed out that the majority of the Gulfarium’s space is outside, so there’s plenty of room for social distancing.

However, the 25% capacity rule also applies to the dolphin and sea lion show spectator areas as well, so guests will now need to select the available show times they wish to attend when they purchase their tickets.

Berry said he wasn’t sure what to expect after being closed for seven weeks, but seemed to be pleased with how things were going Wednesday.

“It feels great,” he said. “The staff is excited. We’re ready to go, and so far today the reaction of our guests has been fantastic.”