Underwater Life In the Desert: Las Vegas

July 13, 2013

Step back from the chaotic sidewalks of the Las Vegas Strip and the lights and sounds of the casino floors and you can find yourself in a whole other world, even one of marine and exotic animals. The Mirage is true to its name – wander through and enjoy a walk under lush greenery and alongside misty waterfalls. The beautiful creatures of the Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat awaited us on this day, ready to play and have fun.

dolphins at mirage

the mirage dolphins

mirage hotel dolphins

We were greeted by three of the dolphins as we wandered up to the edge of the pool. The reason for today’s visit was actually to paint with them and they were clearly as excited as we were. One of the trainers greeted us and took us back to the preparation room where we were asked to choose three colors for our artworks and paint the backgrounds ourselves.

painting with dolphins mirage

painting with dolphins mirage

The paints are water-soluble and completely safe for the dolphins. John would be painting with Cosmo, a 10-year old male bottlenose dolphin who paints up and down. I worked with Maverick, also 10 and who was actually born at The Mirage, who tends to paint right to the edge of the canvas.

dolphins at the mirage painting

Photo courtesy of The Mirage staff

painting with dolphins mirage

Photo courtesy of The Mirage staff

We weren’t sure what to expect from the dolphins. After getting into position kneeling at the edge of the pool we were delighted when they swam right over, ready to go. They took the little paintbrush balls into their teeth and started to brush the canvases as we held and turned them. The trainers helped us change colors as we wanted and the dolphins did an amazing job of making interesting strokes and beautiful paintings.

dolphins at mirage las vegas

Photo courtesy of The Mirage staff

dolphin painting mirage

Photo courtesy of The Mirage staff

painting with dolphins las vegas

Photo courtesy of The Mirage staff

painting with dolphins mirage

Photo courtesy of The Mirage staff

After our art session finished, we got to do some cool things with the dolphins like pet them and send them off to do tricks with signals learned from the trainers. I even got to give Maverick a few kisses, which he seemed to love. The painting activity is supposed to be very stimulating for the dolphins and they seemed to love it.

dolphins at mirage

It’s easy to experience Painting With Dolphins, simply make a booking through The Mirage website. The experience also includes admission to the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, where we spent some time checking out the underwater viewing area where you can see more of the dolphins.

mirage dolphins underwater

mirage dolphins underwater

The Secret Garden is also home to lions, tigers and other beautiful big cats. They were, not surprisingly, asleep in the heat of the midday sun, though one lion did open an eye to gaze at me as I snapped his photo. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you might remember that my last encounter with a lion was a little scary, so I was glad that this one did not get up.

mirage lions

The trainers at The Mirage are constantly interacting with the dolphins, training and feeding them. As we left, we had a chance to watch a little of the Trainer For a Day program, where guests work with staff to train, care for and get in the water with the dolphins. Next time we’re in Vegas we’re definitely going to participate in that experience!

mirage trainer for a day dolphins

Hungry from our time with the dolphins, we headed to BLT burger for lunch. This Mirage restaurant serves up one of our favorite meals: burgers – of all kinds of meat and toppings. John started off with a spiked milkshake called the Night Rider, made with Kahlua, Chocolate liqueur, Oreos and chocolate ice cream.

blt burger night rider milkshake

Then we tucked into our burgers and fries: a melts-in-your-mouth Wagyu burger with skinny fries for me and the BLT burger with waffle fries for John. Delicious! At BLT Burger it’s easy to mix and match your toppings and, if you have room, they have some tasty-looking starters and desserts as well.

wagyu blt burger

American Wagyu burger at BLT Burger, The Mirage

Another fun marine life experience in Las Vegas is located at the other end of The Strip at Mandalay Bay. The Shark Reef Aquarium is home to sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, a huge variety of tropical fish and exotic underwater creatures, including piranhas, sea turtles, octopus and horseshoe crabs.

aquarium mandalay bay

stingray touchpool mandalay bay

Pet stingrays in the interactive touchpool.


We really enjoyed wandering through this magical underwater world and seeing all the different species of animals. It’s hard to believe that so much life is happening under water in the middle of the desert but Las Vegas is one of those places that often surprises and delights.

Which is your favorite dolphin painting?

Disclosure: We were guests of MGM Resorts International for all three of these experiences.

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  1. Comment by Mike Carlson

    Mike Carlson Reply July 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I didn’t know Vegas has this wonderful place to visit. When I hear of the place Vegas, what immediately comes to my mind are the casinos and night life it offers. Now I know there is more to it other than that. More interesting things to visit and get interact with — the amazing marine life that are well-taken cared of.

  2. Comment by Heather

    Heather Reply July 14, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I haven’t been to Vegas, and was never very keen on going until reading this. I’ll travel anywhere for an incredible animal encounter!

  3. Comment by Flipper

    Flipper Reply July 15, 2013 at 12:57 am

    ee ee ee ee, ee ee ee. ee ee eeee. ee ee x

    • Comment by John

      John July 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      Pipe down, Flippy :)

  4. Comment by Freya

    Freya Reply July 15, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I feel really bad now that I did not know about this unique experience when I was in Vegas a couple years ago. WoW that is incredible would love to paint with dolphins one day.

  5. Comment by Shawna

    Shawna Reply July 16, 2013 at 6:51 am

    I’ve been to Vegas twice now and every time I stare at Mandalay Bay and their aquarium, but I’ve never actually been able to get there. After seeing these pictures and reading your review now I know I’ll have to carve out some time for this the next time I’m there!

    • Comment by inspiringtravellers

      inspiringtravellers July 17, 2013 at 11:57 am

      You should definitely check it out – the sharks are amazing plus I love exotic fish so it was really a nice place to visit for me…

  6. Comment by Jennifer

    Jennifer Reply July 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    We lived in Vegas and had our very first date at the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, so it holds a special place in my heart. The Mirage had various interactive shows with the dolphins, but paint with the dolphins is new to me. What a cool experience and a unique work of art you get to take home! I’d love to do this!

    • Comment by inspiringtravellers

      inspiringtravellers July 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

      How sweet! Definitely head back for the dolphin activities at The Mirage – they are awesome!

  7. Pingback: 10 Attractions In Las Vegas Besides Gambling :: InspiringTravellers.com - Travel the World

  8. Comment by Michelle

    Michelle Reply July 17, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Painting with dolphins looks so cool! I’d love to go there one day!! :P

    • Comment by inspiringtravellers

      inspiringtravellers July 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      You definitely should check them out if you are in LV – it’s an awesome experience that I haven’t seen elsewhere…

  9. Comment by Ali

    Ali Reply July 18, 2013 at 9:07 am

    The dolphin painting thing is so weird! I’ve never heard of anything like it, sounds like fun! Also, that spiked shake sounds AMAZING!!! My best friend lives in Vegas, I might have to convince her to try some of this (including the shake) next time I’m out there.

    • Comment by inspiringtravellers

      inspiringtravellers July 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      I had heard of painting with elephants before but somehow that makes sense, right? The dolphins were amazing!

  10. Comment by Sophie

    Sophie Reply July 19, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I love dolphins. Wouldn’t have expected to see any in Las Vegas, though, so far from the ocean. But I suppose you can find anything in Las Vegas :)

    • Comment by inspiringtravellers

      inspiringtravellers July 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Just about everything, yes, I think so, haha. It was so amazing to get so close to them!

  11. Comment by Andi

    Andi Reply July 20, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Seriously this is the coolest experience EVER!!!!!!! LOVE that you two did this!

  12. Comment by TammyOnTheMove

    TammyOnTheMove Reply August 1, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Your dolphin was definitely the most talented! Love your picture. :-)

  13. Comment by Ayelet - All Colores

    Ayelet - All Colores Reply August 3, 2013 at 7:08 am

    I’ve never heard of dolphins painting before. Clearly, besides being super adorable, they’re also very talented.

  14. Comment by Emily in Chile

    Emily in Chile Reply August 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    What a cool experience! I would love to spend time hanging out with dolphins like this. And on a totally different note, your hair is so long, and it looks great!

    • Comment by inspiringtravellers

      inspiringtravellers August 13, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      It is getting long, isn’t it? Thanks for noticing – glad you like it! =)

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