Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Have a whale of a day!

A day-long visit to Sea World concluded our vacation to Orlando.  2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Sea World.  I didn't notice any "special" events or exhibits to mark this occasion, but it was interesting to see what was still the same from the last time I visited a Sea World park (which was a LONG time ago!).

Always interested in squeezing in a little education, we arranged for a behind the scenes rescue tour figuring it would give us an opportunity to see animals up close without the crowds.  We started near the sting rays while we made our way to the tour meeting location.

We all tried to touch them as they swam by.  Then it was on to the tour which took us back behind a fence into what looked like a parking lot for a series of warehouses.  The tour guide explained that Sea World is like a mini city and it employees many different kind of workers such as chemists who maintain the filtration system and check the tank water 6 times a day and mechanics who keep the machinery and vehicles running smoothly.  We saw specially designed boats, a marine animal ambulance, and this sling which was custom built to transport, Kayla, one of the killer whales. 
A short walk brought us to some of the rescue animals.  The guide explained that Florida Fish and Wildlife will often call Sea World to rescue animals in distress.  There were sea turtles (two of them were blind), manatees, and dolphins in tanks behind the scenes.  Some of the animals were injured and others (like the female manatee) were brought to Sea World due to malnutrition. They try to rehabilitate and return as many as possible back to their natural habitat. 
The manatees are fed romaine lettuce. It is similar to what they would eat in the wild and it is readily available to purchase. 

We touched a shark and a penguin on this tour, too!  All of the animals "on stage" have a place behind the scenes where they are cared for.  Their enclosures look a lot like this one for the penguins - plain and functional.  These penguins are tagged on their wings to indicate their gender and name.  
Rico was patient and let everyone pet him.  I don't think he has too thrilled about it, though! They were very specific about staying away from his beak and only using two fingers to touch him.  And, everyone was asked to remove their hats before we went in since he didn't like hats!

Although they have rides, Sea World isn't really a park you visit for the rides. I always thought it was more about the animals and shows.  We managed to get a little of all of this into our day.
 Nana and Grace waited a long time for the jellyfish ride.


And Kyle rode the Shamu roller coaster with Grace a couple of times.
Finally, we visited the Shamu Up Close "show", which really wasn't a show. They were working on the big Shamu stadium when we were there.  Instead of the traditional Shamu show, the trainers let people watch their sessions with the whales.  At times they had a few in the pool at the same time...
...and other times they worked with just one whale.  We watched a play session with Kayla.  They gave her a blue ball and let her explore it for a little while.

The trainer also gave her some signals of things to do and she was rewarded when she did them.

It certainly was a whale of a day!


Phyllis said...

Love all the interesting things that you found to do at Sea World...I haven't been there in many many years, but I can see that not too much has changed. It looks like lots of great memories were made for you and Ba and Nana and Mommy and Daddy.

Nana said...

I think it was a Whale of a Trip!! One of my best parts was that Eddie was able to do alot of the events too!