SeaWorld Orlando trip report – January 2014 (dolphin encounters, Wild Days Sea Rescue & Shamu Up Close)
Even with temperatures below what any Floridian would call comfortable, we couldn’t miss the Wild Days Sea Rescue at SeaWorld last weekend. As we arrived, all bundled from head to toe, we noticed the crowds were much heavier than we had expected in this weather (we had forgotten it was a holiday weekend!), but found SeaWorld was efficiently moving everyone through the turnstiles and into the park.
Our first stop was at the dolphin nursery, where all the pregnant dolphins and mothers with young calves are kept. Whether it was the dark blue of our jackets, or the fact that we moved away from the crowds towards the end of the pool, it seemed that we had somehow gotten the dolphins complete attention. Every time they swam by our group, they repeatedly popped their heads out of the water as if to say “hi”, and they seemed to enjoy the fact that we all waved and said hello in response.
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In fact, several times the dolphins stopped swimming in circles, swam right up to the edge, and repeatedly popped their heads out of the water to see us over the concrete edge. They were so entertaining that eventually the crowd moved down towards our end of the pool in hopes of saying hello to the dolphins as well.
As we continued our journey through the park, we heard quite the commotion coming from nearby and decided to investigate. Turns out the Long Shore Men had come out with their bucket and ladder to clean a statue. With their Laurel and Hardy antics, they entertained the children and adults in the crowd that had stopped to watch.
After repeated problems with the ladder, and after violating safety rules in hysterical ways, they were unable to clean the statue and wished us all a great day in the park.
We were still talking about them as we passed the Sky Tower (which was closed due to high winds), went through the Shark Encounter (always a cool sight to see), and even as we stopped for lunch (Spice Mill Restaurant as usual).
We finished our lunch with 15 minutes until the next Clyde and Seamore show – and, as we were directly across from the stadium, we decided to grab some seats for the next show.
Even with the crowds, we managed to grab some great seats (although the benches were really cold in the frigid temperatures of the day). We watched the mime as he had fun with the guests, and then watched Clyde and Seamore’s clever antics as the show progressed.
The SeaWorld employees in this show have always amazed me with their ability to improvise when things don’t go quite as planned (they are working with animals after all), but their improvisation with the bird that dropped in to steal some fish was some of the funniest I’ve seen yet. Captain Squid even chased the bird with a sword at one point – the crowd couldn’t stop laughing!
The Wild Days Sea Rescue event was the special event of the day. Chuck Cureau (supervisor of animal training at SeaWorld San Diego) talked with members of SeaWorld’s rescue team regarding their various rescues. They told stories of orphaned baby manatees, mass beaching of whales, sea turtles affected by the cold, and how they helped save an entire generation of flamingo chicks in Mexico.
They also brought out some animals that had been rescued, including a few Bald Eagles that had fallen from the nest as chicks and were hand-raised, which led the government to deem them unreleasable (turns out Bald Eagles grow into their bald heads as they mature – just like humans do!). It was really amazing to hear their stories and learn of their successes.
Our next stop brings us to the biggest change at SeaWorld this month: Shamu Stadium is closed for maintenance until April. The main tank is having the acrylic reapplied, and repairs and cleaning are being performed throughout the entire tank. While we couldn’t see inside the stadium due to the fences and tarps that surround the building, we could see some large air ducts going into the stadium, and the construction cranes could be seen throughout the park.
With Shamu Stadium, SeaWorld’s marquee attraction, closed for so long of a time, the park has come up with a way that everyone can still see the killer whales.
The “Shamu Up Close” experience was created, and the backstage area of Shamu Stadium has been converted to hold crowds. When we first walked in, we saw the whales from above the water just being themselves. (The number of whales, and which whales are on view, varies each day) Then, each hour, the trainers put on a 5 minute mini-show where they showcase some of the whales skills and teach guests a little more about killer whales.
Aside from the mini-show, the other 55 minutes the whales are just swimming around being themselves. It was fascinating to watch the young whale sun it’s belly, and another whale swim around sticking her tongue out for no apparent reason. What I didn’t know was that the best was still to come…
From the above ground viewing, we followed down a short path lined with conservation statements and statues, leading us to an area where we could see those same whales from under the water. I’ve been going to SeaWorld since I was a child, and never have I seen the whales this closely.
The grace with which these giant creatures swim is absolutely awe inspiring – and they’ll swim right up next to the glass, giving you up close views of the whales like you’ve never seen before. Simply breathtaking!
As we left Shamu and continued our journey through the park, we hit Antarctica, Turtle Trek, and the Manta Aquarium (the giant manta finally came out where we could see it!).
While these sights were really cool, we all agreed that nothing could compare to the amazing time we’d spent at Shamu Up Close.
We left the park as it closed and talked of nothing but the amazing views at Shamu Up Close all the way home. We can hardly wait to return next month to see them again!
I hope you enjoyed this trip report! To keep learning more, you can view SeaWorld blog archive, or you can catch up on all of our trip reports (Orlando Informer now publishes monthly trip reports for Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and one of the four Walt Disney World parks).
SeaWorld Orlando trip report – photo gallery
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