My Florida trip was full of firsts, including my first trip to SeaWorld. Carrying on our theme from the previous day, we arrived in the morning and started off with a thrill ride as our very first activity. Despite the fact that I don’t usually get much of any sleep during trips, nothing jolts you awake more than a heart-pounding ride at 9 AM! We started off on the Manta, an extreme roller coaster that speeds you around and around in every direction. I don’t usually enjoy even mild roller coaster rides, but my attitude on this vacation was that I wanted to challenge myself and have as many new experiences as possible, so I got strapped in, turned upside down, and began my flight through the park:
I kept my eyes shut for most of this ride. Why, you ask? Just watch this first-person video of the ride and you’ll see why. Aaaahhhh!! Not that you could tell I was scared or anything:
Later that day, we also took a ride on the Journey to Atlantis. When the ride started, I was expecting another steep drop and let out a scream as soon as it started. The ride then proceeded to gently go straight. 😉 All my buddies on the ride were cracking up!
The ride DOES have some big drops that happen later on, though:
Let’s get a closer look at that:
This is a water coaster, so you get splashed at the bottom, which feels good cooling off in the warm Florida climate!
Much less intimidating ride to me was Antarctica: Empire of The Penguin. This ride spins you gently around as an interactive cartoon penguin movie plays and leads you to the exhibit of real, live penguins which you then get out and take a closer look at.
When we weren’t twirling around on rides, we were walking through some of the many, many aquarium exhibits on hand:
Tip For Parents:
Each member of SeaWorld’s educational staff carry trading cards about animals, with each person being assigned their own animal. When your children see one of these guides and ask them a question, they can get one of these cards and try to collect them all.
Their sea turtle exhibit, TurtleTrek, includes a 360 degree 3D movie experience. As you stand inside this dome, you watch an animated movie made from the perspective of a turtle swimming through the ocean. It’s really interesting to watch the effects in this setting – it gives your brain the sensation that you’re actually moving at times, and it’s cool to turn around and see all of the panoramic action.
We also got to meet several dolphins!
We watched mommy & baby dolphins swim and jump at the Dolphin Nursery – talk about cuteness!
I also got to feed a dolphin:
There are boxes of fish available for purchase so that visitors can feed and gently stroke the dolphins; it was a really neat experience for me.
SeaWorld is perhaps most known for its shows, and we saw “Blue Horizons” while we were there. I didn’t really know what to expect, and wasn’t aware that the show was also full of aerial acrobatics, music, birds, and costumed performers with a script. It’s pretty over-the-top!
Download the Seaworld Discovery Guide app for iTunes or Android to do a scavenger hunt around the park and earn a little prize. The app also has information about the parks, maps, and other helpful information to make your trip easier.
Dolphins weren’t the only animals we got up close and personal with – I was surprised to learn that at Stingray Lagoon, you can actually pet and feed stingrays.
Stingrays are so cute and have such smooth skin. As they swim by, they’ll flap their fins towards you and splash you with water! This is another activity where you’ll get soaked, but again, it feels good in the Florida sun since you dry off pretty quickly.
Feeding the stingrays is an odd sensation, as you can see in this video! It was so much fun and one of the highlights of my visit.
Right by the feeding station, you’ll find a display where you can observe baby stingrays. Awwwww!
We also took a behind-the-scenes tour of SeaWorld where we saw the in-house veterinarian and heard about how they handle things like a walrus’ dental appointment! The animals are checked for a wide variety of things during their medical appointments, and much of this information is also used for research. Many of the employees are also working on their PhDs, and use their findings in papers. One recent project was researching sea turtle digestion by examining samples that were taken in order to check up on the health of the turtles.
During this portion of the tour, they talked about some of the processes that go into maintaining the facility, such as the myriad of water samples which must be taken three times a day, every day.
They also took us to see some of the vehicles used for transportation between facilities and also animal rescue projects.
What you are looking at here is a portable aquarium that is used to move whales, usually due to a facility closing or to avoid inbreeding. This one is decommissioned, so it doesn’t have glass panes on the sides as it would when being used. This “Whale mover” has been loaded onto planes. Forget snakes on a plane – imagine a whale on a plane! It’s pretty incredible what modern inventions can do.
This truck is a “Manatee Hospital”! The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a local government agency, will contact SeaWorld when there is an animal in distress and either transport the animal to them or have SeaWorld dispatch their crews on-site. SeaWorld then cares for and rehabilitates the animal in this area “Behind the scenes”. When the animal heals, the government will dispatch someone to examine them and decide if they can be released back into the wild or are too injured and should remain at SeaWorld; this final decision rests with the government.
The goal with these rescued animals is always to rehabilitate them to where they can be released back into the wild. We were instructed to stand behind a specific yellow line when we observed these animals, so that they won’t get too acclimated to people and interfere with their release. We were lucky enough to visit the manatee pool at feeding time, and observed the carers quickly dumping the lettuce into the water and retreating so that the animals wouldn’t have too much human exposure.
SeaWorld’s rescued manatees are purposely kept in a pool without too much stimulation, as they want them to use all of their energy on healing. Manatees are commonly injured in collisions with boats.
This is a special holding tank for rescued baby manatees, where we caught an adorable peek of a baby manatee snout popping out of the water.
We also saw the tanks for rescued sea turtles.
This tortoise had plaster applied to fix his broken shell!
While we toured this section of the facility, our guide shared an interesting conservation tip with us. She recommends cutting the tops off plastic water and soda bottles prior to recycling them, because loose plastic trash is easily blown out of dumpsters and into the water; small sea animals will crawl inside plastic bottles that end up in the ocean and end up trapped. Many of these creatures are babies that grow up with a plastic bottle around them, causing deformities. I had never heard this before, so I told her I was going to share it with everyone and that made her happy!
SeaWorld’s practices regarding conservation, ethical treatment of animals and human safety has been the subject of much debate and controversy recently after the release of the documentary Blackfish. For further information on this topic, you can click here to watch Blackfish on Netflix, then click here to read SeaWorld’s point by point rebuttal posted on their “Care For Killer Whales” page.
For More Information:
7007 Sea Harbor Drive
Orlando, Florida 32821
Click here for park hours & show time information
Admission varies depending on when you visit, what package you buy and what sales are available – click here for current ticket prices.