SeaWorld is a marine/theme park that is located only 20 minutes from Orlando International Airport.The only entry/exit to this park is dominated by a light house entry statement that sets the tone for what is nautical theming throughout the entire park. SeaWorld is positioned around a large central lake with a Sky Tower being the central feature. Standing at 400 feet or 122 metres the Sky Tower is a perfect location reference point whilst exploring the park.
Clustered around the central lake, left of the Sky Tower via the entry is the Waterfront precinct, where the majority of restaurants and shops are located. Moving left from this location is where you will find larger attractions including rides, dolphins at Dolphin Cove and the dolphin theater, and sea lions at Pacific Point Reserve next to the Sea Lion Theater. This immediate area also includes Antarctica Empire of the Penguin and a good selection of other marine animals.
As you move around the park clockwise you will come across Shark Encounter, home to sharks and other fish, Shamu Stadium where you can watch the killer whale show and view the killer whales from underwater viewing areas. Still moving clockwise you will find polar bears, walruses and the very friendly beluga wales.
As this is a theme park, you will be spoilt for choice with rides, shows and many food options. Animals encounters include the feeding of dolphins and stingrays or having lunch with Shamu the killer whale are available and are subject to availability.
The SeaWorld Conservation fund has donated over 10 million dollars in 10 years.They also assist in the rescue of injured or displaced marine animals.
Stu’s Favorite Bit
I really loved the atmosphere at this park – maybe because it was the holiday season so the park was dressed up with holiday decorations galore.
My favorite attraction was by far Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin. This ride allows you to immerse yourself in the Antarctic landscape thanks to the impressive theming. A trackless ride takes you on a journey following the adventures of (animated) Puck a baby Gentoo penguin . The ride peaks with the revealing of colonies of real Gentoo, King, Adelie and Rockhopper penguins. At the end of the ride visitors can then go to viewing areas inside the penguins enclosure for a closer look. What I loved about the experience, is how SeaWorld had been able to incorporate great story telling and an up close experience, cold climate and all. It is very immersive and has some sound educational elements.
Go HERE to see a selection of animals found at SeaWorld Orlando at Stu @ the Zoo TV
|King Penguins at Empire of the Penguin|
Stu’s review and tips
Over the years I have watched with interest the unfolding dramas that have been SeaWorld’s killer whale program including horrific trainer deaths and the subsequent controversy of the treatment and housing of the park’s killer whales. I visited this park trying to keep as open a mind as possible – including not watching the documentary Black Fish prior to my December visit. I wanted to experience SeaWorld as any visitor would, so I made an effort to have as little preconceived expectations as possible. Secretly however, I imagined that I would love SeaWorld. That I would get what they were trying to achieve in their efforts to educate people in the conservation of all marine animals and their environment.
I attended two shows whilst visiting SeaWorld, the dolphin show “Blue Horizons” and the killer whale show “One Ocean”. My observation is that SeaWorld places a lot more emphasis on entertainment than conservation messages. The dolphin show was a mix of dolphin tricks, acrobatics and birds swoops. (sample video). If you took the dolphins out of the equation the show would have still been very entertaining – So I have to ask, what was the point? As an example of contrast, the Sea World Australia dolphin show “Imagine” takes advantage of having a captive audience to talk about conservation, caring for marine environs and the history and care of dolphins. The tricks are all natural things a dolphin will do in the wild, or things they need them to do in order to undertake required medical tasks, so when you leave the show you are informed and entertained. In negative contrast, I found SeaWorld Orlando dolphin show to be all about entertainment and thus they lost a useful educational opportunity.
|Blue Horizons dolphin Show|
The killer whale show was a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong – I loved seeing these beautiful animals, but for me the show was a loose message on how we can all live together followed by the killer whales soaking the audience and performing tricks. I would have thought that with all the negative media on SeaWorld, that there would be more of an emphasis on the conservation aspect built into the show. I recently saw an interview with Jack Hanna where he defended SeaWorld Orlando. He said that “SeaWorld was relevant and important because it introduced people to the animal world”. This fits comfortably with one of my favourite Hanna quotes “ Zoo animals are ambassadors for animals in the wild”. A philosophy that I strongly uphold. I need to be honest here and say I can’t imagine being terribly inspired though after simply being soaked to the core by killer whales kept in small enclosures, and I definitely did not learn one thing from this show about killer whales, apart from the fact they will do tricks for fish. (sample video)
|One Ocean – Killer Whale Show|
Sea World Australia has whale watching boats that take people out to see the whales in their natural habitat. No tricks -just beautiful nature and educational commentary – and thus much more relevant and important experiences.
Apart from some impressive enclosures like the penguin and shark enclosures I found most enclosures to be small and stark, sterile to a point and all falling short when it came to conservation messages. I won’t name them all individually but the stand out is the North Pole exhibit housing the polar bear amongst other animals. Terribly bleak and depressing with little information on the animals.
On a more positive note – The staff were all very friendly and the grounds through the whole park were impresive.Try and get to the park for the opening – they play the USA national anthem and as a visitor to the USA it is really stirring hearing everyone sing.
I truly believe that without zoos and aquariums, people will not get the opportunity to learn about animals to the point where they will be motivated to do something to protect their environment. As I have said in the past many times – zoos and aquariums should inspire you to want to be a better person and to do something for all the animals that call this planet home (and their environs). SeaWorld fails in meeting their stated public mission: “to celebrate and conserve the natural world”, and in my opinion, does not strive to educate but simply to entertain.
If you want to see elephants and tigers do tricks you go to a circus, if you want to see orcas and dolphins do tricks you can go to SeaWorld Orlando. Very entertaining I’m sure, but not a reason to keep these beautiful animals in captivity.