Dolfinarium Harderwijk

Dolfinarium Harderwijk
Day at Dolfinarium, experience the magic of dolphins
Dagje Dolfinarium, beleef de magie van dolfijnen (English:Day at Dolfinarium, experience the magic of dolphins)
Entrance to the Dolfinarium Harderwijk.JPG
Entrance to the Dolfinarium
SloganDagje Dolfinarium, beleef de magie van dolfijnen. Day at Dolfinarium, experience the magic of dolphins.
Date opened1965
LocationHarderwijk, the Netherlands
Coordinates52°21′15″N 5°37′01″E / 52.35410°N 5.61695°E / 52.35410; 5.61695
Volume of largest tank15 million liters [1]
Annual visitors586,300 (2016)[2]
Memberships"Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums". AMMPA. Retrieved 18 August 2013.

"Dutch Zoo Federation". NVD. Retrieved 18 August 2013.

"European Association of Zoos and Aquaria". EAZA. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
OwnerAspro Ocio S.A.

Dolfinarium Harderwijk, better known as the Dolfinarium, is a marine mammal park in Harderwijk, the Netherlands. It is the largest marine mammal park in Europe.[3][4] Visitor numbers were steady from 2005 to 2011, numbering between 700,000 and 800,000, with only the opening of new attractions responsible for a surge in numbers.[5][6] In 2012 the Dolfinarium made €12 million in sales, which was around €2,4 million lower than the year before. This was mainly due to a decline in visitor numbers because of orca Morgan leaving the park, and the park temporarily closing down due to the start of construction at the end of the year.[7]


Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, Netherlands, Dutch newsreel from 1966

In 1955 businessman Frits den Herder together with his brother Coen, the owner of a local shipping company and playground, started collecting sea mammals. They started by building a dolphinarium (in Dutch: dolfinarium). In 1965 the park was opened to the general public. The goal of the park according to Frits was to "make the Dutch population show respect for these most special and mythical sea mammals".[8] In 1969 the characteristic dome was built, and in the year after opening the Dolfinarium welcomed one million visitors.[5]

In the seventies the Dolfinarium expanded its collection of animals and built more enclosures. In 1976 the Icelandic orca Gudrun was added to the collection. At the end of the decade the Dolfinarium started setting up dependencies abroad. As these dependencies did not have financial success, the Dolfinarium went bankrupt in 1982. At the insistence of the mayor of Harderwijk a new foundation was set up to continue the Dolfinarium and in 1984 the shares of the company were sold to a new owner. In 1987 Gudrun was sent to SeaWorld Orlando. In 1989 the Dolfinarium once again changed hands and the new owner invested money in the building of new attractions. The largest of the constructions was the building of a lagoon in 1997, which cost around 12 million euro.[5]

In 2001 the Dolfinarium was bought by Compagnie des Alpes, which owns another amusement park in the Netherlands, Walibi Holland, and formerly owned Avonturenpark Hellendoorn [nl]. In 2005 the park underwent major renovation for the fiftieth anniversary of the park. During the boreal winter of 2012–2013, further renovations, including refurbishment of the old dome, were made.[9] On 17 December 2014 the director of the Dolfinarium said that the ownership of the Dolfinarium would likely pass from Compagnie des Alpes to Aspro Parks, with negotiations being in the final stages.[10]

In 2016 the Dolfinarium announced to decrease the number of dolphins at the park, citing that the population had gotten too large. It also announced a new playground for children.[11] The number of visitors decreased to 586,300 in 2016.[2] In 2018 the Dolfinarium opened a new attraction and turned a profit for the first time in five years.[12]


DolfijndoMijn dome of the Dolfinarium Harderwijk as seen from the outside of the park.
Dolphins at the Dolfijnendelta performing in a show.

The park is open each year from spring to autumn, with winter being reserved for maintenance. The park is divided into several areas for different species or wider groups of animals. The animals in some areas perform in shows.[13]

  • Bruinvisbaai: Harbour porpoise
  • DolfijndoMijn: Main show area for common bottlenose dolphins. Set in the blue dome, which has a capacity of 2000 people.[6]
  • Dolfijnendelta: Formerly known as the lagoon, this is the living area for common bottlenose dolphins, most dolphins live in this area, including the newborns. The area can also be observed from underwater (at the Onderwater Odiezee), which provides a 60 meter long glass wall, with the dolphins often coming close due to their curious nature.[14] The aquarium holds 15 million liters of water.
  • Krabbenkust: Crabs, lobsters, sea anemone, fish.
  • Roggenrif: Rays, Sharks, European seabass, Thicklip grey mullet, other fish, crabs, lobsters, oysters, lugworms and sea anemone.
  • Stoere Stellerstek: Steller sea lion
  • Walrussenwal: Walrus, Walrus Igor lived here until he died in 2013.
  • Zeeleeuwenzee: California sea lion
  • Zeehondenzand: Harbor seal and Grey seal
  • Zotte Zeeleeuwentheather: Show area for California sea lions.

The park has numerous restaurants, shops and playgrounds and a beach located on lake Wolderwijd. An in-park hotel is planned.

Additional experiences

In cooperation with a foundation, the Dolfinarium offers therapeutic sessions with dolphins for children with autism or Down syndrome.[15] Commercially it offers a program called "Sleeping with dolphins" for children aged 8–12.[16]

SOS Dolfijn

SOS Dolfijn is an independent foundation based in the Dolfinarium dedicated to the saving of stranded porpoises, dolphins and whales. Porpoises (85%) are the most common patients at the recovery facilities in the Dolfinarium.[17] The goal of saved animals is to let them recover and then release them into the wild again.[18] If porpoises are deemed unfit to be released into the wild, they are sent to the Bruinvisbaai or to facilities at Ecomare on the island of Texel.[19]

In 2016 the cooperation between SOS Dolfijn and the Dolfinarium stopped, with SOS Dolfijn announcing it was looking for a new location.[20]


In 2010 the Dolfinarium attracted worldwide attention when young killer whale Morgan was found exhausted and emaciated in the North Sea. She was rescued and sent for recovery at the Dolfinarium. After her recuperation opinions were split between those who wanted to return her to nature, and those who saw no chance of Morgan surviving in nature and thus wished her to go Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain, where she could be better taken care of. The Dolfinarium wished to see Morgan go to the Loro Parque as well. Those who wished to see Morgan return to nature united in the Orca Coalition. Sentiments ran high and in the end a Dutch judge decided that Morgan should be transported to Loro Parque.[21] Morgan was moved to Loro Parque on 29 November 2011. The Dutch police provided an escort from the Dolfinarium to Schiphol Airport. The date of the transport had been kept secret as the city of Harderwijk feared confrontations between opposers of the transport and police.[22] The city had issued an emergency ban on 'Free Morgan' protests.[23] The costs to the Dolfinarium of the rescue, upkeep, and transport of Morgan to Spain were over €1 million.[24]


Dutch broadcaster Nickelodeon aired a show intended for children called Spetter! during 2006. The show was based around the dolphin called Spetter in the Dolfinarium. Spetter was the first dolphin born by artificial insemination in the Dolfinarium.[25] While shooting the series, a plastic model of the dolphin was at times used so as to not exhaust the animal.[26] A subsequent season called Spetter and the Romanov Mystery was aired by Jetix in 2007. Tess Gaerthé, Dutch contestant to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2005, provided the titlesong for the second season. Re-runs of the Spetter series have been shown by different RTL channels. The airing of the Spetter series led to a higher number of visitors for the Dolfinarium.[26]


  1. ^ Henk de Koning (29 March 1997). "Lagune Dolfinarium nu al bekroond". De Telegraaf (in Dutch). Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Dolfinarium in Harderwijk trekt stuk minder bezoekers" (in Dutch). De Stentor. 16 December 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Visit Dolfinarium". Municipality of Harderwijk. Archived from the original on 6 February 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Dolfinarium Harderwijk". Parkscout. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Dolfinarium" (in Dutch). Zoosite. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  6. ^ a b Hans van der Lugt (18 August 2009). "Conjuctuur heeft op Dolfinarium geen vat". NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 21 July 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Registration Document & Annual financial report 2012" (PDF). Compagnie des Alpes. 31 January 2013. p. 27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  8. ^ "Over Dolfinarium" (in Dutch). Dolfinarium. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Dolfinarium later open wegens verbouwing". De Telegraaf (in Dutch). 15 March 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Dolfinarium krijgt Spaanse eigenaar" (in Dutch). RTL Nieuws. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  11. ^ Hester Ramaker (2 July 2016). "Dolfinarium Harderwijk wil minder dolfijnen" (in Dutch). METRO. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Dolfinarium voor het eerst sinds jaren uit rode cijfers" (in Dutch). NOS. 27 October 2018. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Animals at the Dolfinarium". Dolfinarium. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Onder Odiezee" (in Dutch). Dolfinarium. Archived from the original on 9 August 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  15. ^ "FAQ". Dolfinarium. Archived from the original on 17 July 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  16. ^ "FAQ" (in Dutch). Dolfinarium. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  17. ^ "Strandingsgegevens" (in Dutch). SOS Dolfijn. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  18. ^ "Terug naar zee" (in Dutch). SOS Dolfijn. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  19. ^ "Niet uitzetbare dieren" (in Dutch). SOS Dolfijn. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  20. ^ "SOS Dolfijn stopt samenwerking met Dolfinarium en vertrekt uit Harderwijk" (in Dutch). Omroep Gelderland. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  21. ^ Anna Holligan (21 November 2011). "Dutch judge rejects pleas for killer whale freedom". BBC. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  22. ^ "Vliegtuig met Morgan onderweg naar Tenerife". Trouw (in Dutch). 29 November 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  23. ^ "Rescued killer whale en route to Spanish park". CTV News. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
  24. ^ Hanna Gersmann (22 November 2011). "Rescued killer whale bound for amusement park following legal tussle". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  25. ^ "Babydolfijn krijgt hoofdrol in televisieserie". de Volkskrant (in Dutch). 19 April 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  26. ^ a b "Spetter is net een echte filmster" (in Dutch). De Stentor. 13 April 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2013.

External links

  • Website of the Dolfinarium
Retrieved from ""