Guest Author - Lorel Shea
My kids are animal lovers, and they could hardly wait to explore SeaWorld. My 11 year old son had once seen humpback whales on a whale watch, but he was too young to remember much about it. He wanted to see whales up close. My daughters were excited about the dolphin nursery and the manatee rescue project. And so we set off for SeaWorld!
SeaWorld blended entertainment and animal conservancy and care so well that it was hard to tease out exactly what their mission might be. It was more than a zoo or an aquarium, far different from any other amusement park, and altogether unique. SeaWorld featured artfully choreographed live animal performances, modern animal exhibits, and ocean themed carousels and roller coasters. Two full days at Seaworld was not quite enough time for my family to take in everything.
The tremendously popular Shamu show, currently called, “Believe”, is something you won't want to miss if you go to SeaWorld. Killer whales performed amazing feats and the entire performance was wrapped up in a story about a young boy who grew up to be a marine biologist. My family sat in the “splash zone” and proceeded to get soaked. It was fine for all but the youngest member of our crew, our three year old who cried a bit despite the advance warning that this might happen.
The whale and dolphin show, which featured costumed performers doing aerial stunts and high dives, had a Cirque du Soleil feel to it. The beluga whales and dolphins in this show performed their parts flawlessly. It was truly inspiring to see these magnificent animals up close.
Like most gifted children, my kids had a lot of questions about the various animals and exhibits. I was very impressed with the staff response to my children's questions. Despite the fact that they must get similar questions a hundred times a day, every SeaWorld staffer we came across was enthusiastic and was willing to answer as many questions as my kids could ask. They seemed passionate about their jobs and the animals in their care.
Many of the exhibits were designed so that visitors could see the animals both above and below the water. Several allowed visitors to feed animals with special food available for purchase at the exhibit. I loved feeding the Stingrays by hand, but my kids were a bit reluctant to try. They did enjoy gently petting their backs. Dolphins and sharks could also be fed by hand, though these animals had to have food thrown to them.
My kids appeared most entranced with the Penguin Encounter. We actually went through the “people mover” conveyor belt three times, in order to allow them what they considered adequate penguin viewing time. We also sat on the floor for nearly an hour watching films related to penguin rescue and study of the different breeds and their habitats. This is a fantastic exhibit containing an incredible assortment of breeds.
Another great exhibit was the Wild Arctic base station replica. The exhibit began with a helicopter simulation for the thrill seekers, and a plain old video clip in a separate room for the less adventurous group members. The exhibit was set up to look like a real arctic base camp, with the added feature of display tanks for polar bears, walruses, and beluga whales. The kids saw what personal quarters might look like for arctic explorers or biologists.
All in all, SeaWorld was a great place to take our young naturalists and animal lovers. I highly recommend it.