As a Florida girl for 18 years, I fell in love with a seemingly magical place. No, I’m not going to be talking about Disney – in fact, I’ve only been there twice in my life. I’m not even going to be talking about the beach –this place is still inland. Instead, I’m going to tell you all about a place I would go, when we had season passes, up to once a month and never get tired of – Sea World in Orlando. There are three main types of attractions that I think will give you the best idea of this water-filled park; the shows, the exhibits, and the rides. I’d also like to give you a small rundown of the other features after that.
First, there are the shows. Although there are several shows, I’d like to highlight just the two I considered best. One of the funniest shows offered is the show entitled “Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island.” A Walrus and a pair of Sea Lions steal the audience’s hearts in this show, guided by several trainers. Of course then there’s the most famous show, which is Shamu’s Show: Believe. If you dare you may get in the Splash Zone during the end of the show, and Shamu will splash you with his gigantic side fin! Shamu will also wave to the audience, jump on command, and even take a trainer for a ride on his nose! Shamu is really a stage name for several different Orcas, or killer whales. These massive creatures are beautiful and intelligent, following hand commands from their trainers and sometimes even guests who pay to get in on a part of a show.
Now that you know about the shows at Sea World, I’m going to tell you about some of the places you can view animals up close and personal. First, there’s the Shark Encounter. As you walk through a totally glass enclosed tunnel, you can see a shark or numerous other sea creatures swim right above your head, or to your left and right! You may get the eerie feeling that you are actually underwater with them! Another animal exhibit is the Penguin Encounter, where penguins run and slip and slide and play as if they were putting on a show just for you. Come up close to the glass and you will likely have only the glass separating you from these curious chilly birds; they will make sure they check you out face to face and seem to enjoy the attention. Probably the most crowded attraction is the Shamu Underwater Viewing, where, if you are lucky, one or more of the Orcas will swim right against the glass tank. This is the very best way to realize just how massive these creatures really are. All around you will be the recorded sounds of Orcas, and the darkness of the man-made structures resembles a cave, in which it’s easy to get lost in the sight of the very blue water.
If there was an award for the noisiest place in SeaWorld, Pacific Point Preserve would win, hands down! Here the Sea Lions and Harbor Seals bark and howl with incredible intensity in a pit below you. As you see how many people are feeding them fish you may wonder if these creatures ever stop eating. Truly these sea lions and seals are very playful and can entertain you for quite a while jumping off their rocky perches and competing for the food you drop in. In the same way, the smelliest award would have to go to the Stingray Lagoon. Don’t be afraid – if you follow the directions, you won’t get hurt while petting these bottom-feeders. The first time you stick your hand into the water that fills their tank, with your hand parallel to the bottom and your fingers close together with the small dead fish standing up in between your middle and ring fingers, like so, you might be shocked when the smooth and slightly slimy creature slips by stealing your offering. Quick, or you will miss your chance to pet its back! Don’t tempt or tease this animal to try to make it linger nearby you, or you might be sorry, but not even usually because of the poisonous barb on the tail; did you know sting rays actually have teeth? Another step up in the interaction is the Dolphin Cove. At select times of day you can feed these playful mammals! They will come right up to you, and often, if you know the right signs to make, you can persuade them to do tricks for their snacks! Some dolphins actually seem to enjoy being petted and rubbed, so you may find a friend for a few moments even if you don’t buy some fish.
So far we have discussed shows and exhibits, and now I’d like to talk about rides. While you may have heard of rides such as Journey to Atlantis or Kraken, I would like to tell you about two lesser-known rides available at Sea World. One is a very gentle ride that has quite the view – the Tower Ride. Once up in the air, this ride shows you the whole park and more of the immediate surrounding Orlando area. The best time is at sunset, where you can look out over the lake and see brilliant colors from the evening sky. Also, the Wild Artic simulates a helicopter ride to the land of ice and …polar bears! On display with them are Beluga whales and walruses. When this portion originally opened, the bears, Klondike and Snow, were twin cubs. They soon grew big and strong! You might want to take a jacket for this part of SeaWorld, because after being out in the warm sun, this cool environment filled with man-made ice walls and snow will seem quite a contrast.
Let me take a moment to give you a brief list of the many other attractions, such as the wonderful Shamu’s Happy Harbor, which is a playground for kids with high nets to climb across and water tunnels to slide through; fancy dining if you please; Clydesdale horses pulling carriages; tropical gardens with Hawaiian-sounding music lightly playing from stone speakers along the paths; a brewery; little huts selling jewelry and snacks and drinks; and numerous shops to get figurines and stuffed animals, books and apparel, hats and more.
Although it’s not the most typical place you might think of when someone mentions the Sunshine State, Sea World has a huge assortment of shows, exhibits, and rides featuring the animals of the ocean. With plenty of water and not to mention all the extra shopping, dining, and activities packed in between the main auditoriums and stadiums, Sea World brings to life several worlds that might otherwise seem far off, yet still keeps up some of the mystery that goes with the great deeps of the sea.