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Close encounters with dolphins

(Eden Batki)

Since the birth of their son, Pranav, two years ago, Dhananjay and Madhu Tekumalla of Mansfield, Mass., haven't had time for vacations. They finally got away, to San Diego.

"It has sentimental value for me," says Dhananjay. "My first job was there, plus it's an awesome place."

At the top of the family's must-see list was SeaWorld, so we arranged an extra-special tour led by the park's animal ambassador, Julie Scardina. Pranav was nervous at first, but once he saw Mom and Dad feeding the dolphins, he wanted to try it. "He got a real kick out of throwing the fish," says Madhu. At the end of the tour, the Tekumallas were invited to lunch with Julie and Shamu--or Shampoo, as Pranav calls the orca--where Dhananjay was surprised with a birthday cake. (He was turning 32.)

Madhu says it was a day they won't soon forget. "Now, when we go for a walk at home and we see a dog or a cat or a skunk, Pranav wants to pet it!"

SeaWorld, 800/257-4268, seaworld.com. Information about tours (from one-hour guided walks to private VIP access) is on the website.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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