Enter a tropical sanctuary in the heart of Central Florida and encounter incredible animals during your visit to Discovery Cove. With included and add-on options available, there's something for everyone at this oasis. Become captivated with these residents you can meet during your stay at this day resort.
Discovery Cove is one of the best experiences Orlando has to offer. This all-inclusive escape from reality is unlike anything else you’ll find in the City Beautiful. Within its borders is a tropical paradise secluded from the bustle of its surroundings, where guests can eat, drink, swim, and sway the day away. This day resort offers guests the opportunity to meet some of nature’s most awesome animals and get to know how they’re taken care of while gaining a better understanding of them.
While a wide array of birds and mammals await you as part of the Discovery Cove Resort Package during your visit, others are available as part of an upgraded experience, like their famous Animal Trek and Shark Swim packages. As big fans of Discovery Cove, we wanted to share some of our favorite animals that reside at the park and how you can meet them.
Taking a glance at their logo, Discovery Cove is expected to feature a porpoise or two on the list of animals you can find. As such, the resort is home to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. Guests wishing to meet them can do so by purchasing the Discovery Cove Resort Package with Dolphin Swim, which includes a meet-and-greet with one of them, and a memorable photo opportunity, and “swim” session. While this is the only way to have an up-close interaction, guests can always catch them doing tricks and swimming throughout the day from the shore of Dolphin Lagoon.
As a pro tip, those interested in purchasing the Dolphin Swim package will want to remember to be at the resort during the start of check-in, which is at 7:30 AM daily. This may seem a bit early, especially when you’re on vacation, but doing so will help ensure the best selection of return times to select from for your interaction and photo session. Take it from this writer– Florida sunlight can be intrusive that afternoon. If you opt for a more leisurely morning, no need to fret! Return times are typically still available if you arrive later than 7:30 AM.
Imagine swimming alongside some of nature’s most fearsome-looking predators. Shark fans visiting Discovery Cove can face their fears while living in the thrill of encountering reef sharks with their Shark Swim upgrade! This package takes place in the resort’s Grand Reef, home to four species of reef sharks: Blacktip Reef, Nurse, Zebra, and Bonnetheads. Each is unique from the other and a necessary part of the ocean’s vast ecosystem. While they can reach upwards of 12 feet in length, don’t worry – Discovery Cove’s trained experts will teach guests why they shouldn’t fear them right away, their care at the resort, and that there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Discovery Cove’s Shark Swim upgrade begins at $169 plus tax. Those interested will be proud of their purchase knowing that five percent of the proceeds go towards the Guy Harvey Foundation, which helps fund oceanic scientific research and educational programs. Alternatively, shark enthusiasts wanting to simply catch a view of the park’s 20+ reef sharks can also do so via a plexiglass window in the Grand Reef.
One of the easiest ways to meet one of Discovery Cove’s many aquatic denizens is to simply head over to the Grand Reef. Here, visitors will come across one of the biggest and most energetic creatures on the property – rays! Of the two varieties, the park has six Southern Rays, which are famously massive in size, and 34 speedy Cownose Rays. Both tend to swim across the entirety of the Grand Reef, but the Southern Rays tend to stick to the deeper, more spacious end while the Cownose will usually be found near the shore.
While the opportunity to interact and take pictures with the rays of the Grand Reef is included, Discovery Cove offers an upgrade that allows guests to assist in their morning feeding. This typically takes place at around 8:30 AM and has a starting price of $59 plus tax.
If you swim far enough through the Grand Reef’s waters, you’ll come across a hidden grotto full of some amazing moray eels. As impressive as they appear, one cannot deny the incredible photos you can snag of them lurking from the crevices of the habitat they call home. These eels live with friends like the Balloon and Lion Fish behind the plexiglass of their designated reef area. Interestingly, moray eels tend to vary in appearance, either covered in spots or blended into their surroundings.
As the Grand Reef is this writer’s favorite aspect of Discovery Cove due to how many animal encounters are available here, I can say that readers will want to cover every corner of it. Those in search of its eels will want to swim along the right side of the Grand Reef as the tank is built into the reef’s walls.
Asian Small-Clawed Otter
The Freshwater Oasis has been a part of Discovery Cove since 2012. From its opening, it’s been home to one of the most adorable creatures you’ll find on the park’s property: the Asian Small-Clawed Otter. These clever critters can be found scampering, swimming, and playing with the rest of their romp at just about any time of the day. While guests can’t directly interact with them, the otters will sometimes swim right up to the viewing glass. Even when they aren’t up close, there are still plenty of moments guests can take advantage of for some cute photos to take home.
As the Freshwater Oasis is part of their habitat, taking in the sight of the Asian Small-Claw Otters is included as part of the Day Resort Package experience. In addition to their play times, there are also “enrichment sessions” that take place. These vary daily but can be found in the Discovery Cove app.
Discovery Cove’s Freshwater Oasis is also home to Geoffrey’s Marmosets. These playful, small monkeys are easily recognized by their puffy, white manes surrounding their tiny faces. Their habitat, Marmoset Island, features tons of bridges, houses, and hammocks for them to lounge, play, and leap between. A moat surrounds their open-air home that they may approach closely but never cross.
During certain hours of the day, guests can also speak with one of the resort’s zoological professionals who can inform them about the resident marmosets. These times, as well as their enrichment hours, can be found via the Discovery Cove app.
Within the Explorer’s Aviary of Discovery Cove are hundreds of members of 12 species of birds. One of the most amazing types are Parrots. The most popular of these is the colorful Macaw, which can be seen in the blue and red varieties. However, there are many other parrots as well, like Sun Conures and Cockatiels. When they aren’t found in the free-flying sanctum, this writer will usually find the latter when floating along the intersecting streams of the Wind-Away River.
Guests wanting a more up-close encounter will want to opt for the Animal Trek upgrade. Like many of the other animals, the thirty-minute experience includes an informative photo session with one of Discover Cove’s Macaws. Additionally, there are also moments when one of these feathery friends can be found during an Avian Animal Connections session in the park.
Of the list of nature’s wondrous creatures seen at Discovery Cove, one of the most unique is the Two-Toed Sloth. The park is home to both the Linnaeu’s and Hoffman’s varieties. While they don’t have a publicly accessible habitat, they can be seen during the park’s Animal Connection sessions and as part of the Animal Trek upgrade. During either opportunity, guests can ask the handling expert anything they’d like to learn about the leisurely critters.
The Two-Toed Sloth spends its entire life hanging upside down from trees and is incapable of walking. While guests of Discovery Cove aren’t able to hold or carry them, they are able to take photos with them.
Another one of the more uncommon animals that Discovery Cove is home to is the Southern Tamandua, or “anteaters” as they’re commonly called. Much like other animals found across their family of parks, these are usually brought in by the parent company’s conservation partners. Similar to the sloths, their habitat isn’t accessible to the general public. However, anyone wanting to meet a Southern Tamandua (and seriously, who wouldn’t?) has a few options. Southern Tamanduas are sometimes part of upgrades like Animal Trek and Trainer for a Day, like Celeste who is their newest resident. They can also be seen as one of the spotlighted mammals during the Animal Connections sessions.
Eastern Screech Owl
Among the many feathered friends you’ll make at the resort, the Eastern Screech Owl stands out among the rest. While they’re called “Screech Owls,” these birds have two kinds of calls that aren’t actually screeches. The first is called a “tremolo,” an even-pitched trill typically used between mates. The other is a “whinny,” which has been compared to the sound of a high-pitched, tiny horse. Their most recent Eastern Screech Owls is Henry, a displaced rescue brought in with his family by the Audobahn Center for Birds of Prey. While his family could return to the wild, he had to remain due to his beak not developing correctly. Thankfully, he now has a home at Discovery Cove with some of the best caretakers he could have happened upon.
Interacting with owls like Henry is minimal due to his species’ nature. However, this allows you to capture memorable moments through photography, making it a unique and enjoyable experience. Like many other animals at Discovery Cove, anyone wanting to meet Henry can have the opportunity as part of the Animal Trek upgrade.
Are you ready to meet these extraordinary animals while making memories that last a lifetime? Orlando Informer offers discounted admission for your visit to Discovery Cove. Secure your key to wonder and excitement at Discovery Cove today!