Memory Makers Captain LarryLarry Salkin


Tampa Water Taxi

With all the urban excitement downtown Tampa offers, it's easy to forget a world of wildlife lies just a few feet from the Tampa Riverwalk. As founder, owner and operator of Tampa Water Taxi Co. LLC, Captain Larry Salkin (that's him on the left with CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg) knows that world intimately. He travels the waters of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River taking visitors on tours of the sparking waterfront and on the hunt for the many bottlenose dolphins who call the bay home. Over the years, he has become a real "dolphin whisperer" and can tell each dolphin from its neighbors.

Where are you from? New York City

How long have you been in Tampa? 14 years

What brought you to Tampa? I started visiting Florida 25 years ago to spend my weekends scuba diving on the east coast. I liked it so much I bought a second home there.  After 9/11, I left NYC for good and moved down full time. But I found that the east coast of Florida was "New York with palm trees" -- not what I wanted. I had friends in St. Petersburg and north of Tampa. I saw what a nice friendly city Tampa was. So, I stayed.

Who's your hero and why? Captain Sully, because of his skills he used to save his passengers in the Hudson River Crash.

What do you do for fun or hobby? Study Tampa history and scuba dive.

What’s your favorite Tampa fun fact you’ve learned in your studies? The story how Mr. Davis got his arm twisted by the city [in the 1920s] to give the land for Tampa General Hospital and city parks on [Davis Islands] "or you will never finish the island" to quote the former mayor of Tampa.  

Tell me about your job, how long have you done it for? 12 years

What do you do there? I am the "Dolphin Whisperer of Tampa" and one of our five tour guides.

How did you get started with giving tours? I started doing tours in Port Richey, but there was not enough population there. I was hired as the head Captain for a boat thrill ride here in Tampa. But they had no tours for guests that did not want a speed boat experience. I moved my tour boat here and worked both. The speedboat did not last, but I did.

What do you like about your job? I love meeting guests from around the world, seeing dolphins EVERY day and giving tours in French to guests that speak it.

You speak French? Where did you learn it? I lived and worked in Paris for a year. I have always enjoyed the French culture and food. I have been back many times and traveled to all parts of the country. Even Euro Disney.

What's something people don't know about your job? People don't know that a group of dolphins lives downtown Tampa.

Can you identify the dolphins by their markings – do you have names for them? I can identify most of the dolphin that live near downtown. They have markings on there dorsal fin that is like a fingerprint. I do not have names for them as THEY have there own names that they address each other by. We cannot understand it as it is a series of squeaks and clicks. I just tell our guests their age, how many calves they have had in the years I have known them. 

What's the funniest thing that has happened to you on the job? On our history tour of Tampa, a 96 year-old-man who lived here all his life said he learned new things about Tampa he never knew before.

What do you recommend your visitors do for fun when they come to Tampa? See Tampa from the water. 

See Captain Larry's interview with CBS Travel Detective Peter Greenberg here.