9th September 2018
As you know, my favourite opportunity thus far here in the Sunshine state is swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove. I couldn’t believe how intelligent these creatures are and how much I would learn just being up & close to this incredible species. So, of course, I wanted to add more opportunities to my resumè. I am only in Florida for 2 weeks after all, and I want to return with all of these thrills & experiences to reflect on. I need to make the most of it. A holiday isn’t worthy unless you manage to do something you have never done & America is the land of the free, so why not I do multiple opportunities that I would never get at home.
Yesterday, was the perfect example of this. We turned up at SeaWorld with the idea of being here for a little while, then going shopping, then heading to Universal. But that never ceased to exist. Which I am happy about, as I enjoyed SeaWorld an awful lot. As soon, as we made it into the aquarium theme park, we all paced up to the guest services office to book some excellent encounters. We were going to half up these encounters, so we all have something to discuss once meeting back up. So my Dad & I already had our mindset that we were going to pay $30 and meet the walrus. My sister & Mum were going to pay that for the sea lion encounter but unfortunately, it was fully booked.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, though, and they slotted themselves into the beluga whale encounter. I was a bit gutted, I couldn’t do both, but I was really excited to meet the walrus family at SeaWorld. I was wanting an animal quite different to the dolphin, so that was my reasoning towards going for the walrus. My appointment with the creature was at 1pm and the beluga whale encounter was at 1.45pm.
We all also got booked into the animal ambassador encounter at 4pm for $15. In this encounter, you get to meet 5 animals they don’t normally bring out into the public eye.
Firstly, we headed over to the stingray area. After swimming beside the elegant birds of the sea, my Mum was wanting to actually touch the rays. We all done it last time, but my Mum isn’t really a sea animal person and stingrays may have terrified her with their big electric tails that follow their flat floating bodies. Before we touched, we saw the stingray pups, and they were adorable. I was shocked that something so small can grow to something so big such as the leopard ray. Then we touched their slimy, smooth bodies. My Mum wasn’t a fan & preferred the feeling of a dolphin.
After this, our next destination was meeting the sea turtles and manatees. We stood in the queue for the 4d sea turtle show and got to meet the fantastic species. The sea turtles were so peaceful in nature, you wonder why people try to hurt them. They are the calming of the ocean.
The manatees were also amazing. Manatees are also known as sea cows and were once known as myths similar to mermaids. They are native to Florida and are so humongous! They are massive grey creatures with a curved back fin. They were very curious, going under the glass to watch what we were doing. So elegant for its size and I am glad I have got to not just meet manatees but see baby ones too!
After this, we were close to going to our 1st encounter. We saw enough time for a ride though. So we went to the shortest queue. (Not Kraken for sure, that had a 75 minute wait time) so we all went on Mako. Still my favourite rollercoaster, but it aggregated me that you have to pay for a locker even just for one 5 minute queue. We had to half our party up so someone can hold the bag. I understand the money goes towards looking after the animals but, each item/activity in that park has a cost.
After Mako, Lauren & my Mum disappeared as my Dad & I waited for the walrus encounter to begin. The staff member turned up; who was very kind, generous, and considering with each question we asked her. She loves the walruses, so I saw her as the most suitable tour guide. We had to wait a little while for another group of 2 to turn up. I was hoping for just me & my Dad but only a group of 4 isn’t that bad.
I loved this experience. They took us to the back, away from the general public, I actually felt like a SeaWorld employee. I got to enter rooms that had labelled across the door “Team members only”. It was awesome. We also saw the dieting requirements board which looked a little more complicated than you think. It had each animals name and the amount of each type of food they need a day. This is when realisation kicks in that, this job isn’t just playing with animals, it is caring for them, and understanding each of them. It takes a lot of time & effort to be an effective animal worker. Unfortunately, I had to leave my camera behind as it would be a walrus toy, but I captured the experience in my memory.
After running through the routine of this encounter we stood behind the door into the walrus sanctuary. They have 2 adult walruses & 2 baby ones. Kaboodle was the 16-year-old Mum in her prime years. We got to see her first. The 1st thing I noticed was her toy. Apparently, her favourite game is chucking a bit of plastic out of her enclosure then using her fin to bring it back to her. We were not getting to meet her as much as I wanted though, as it was her turn to head out into the public. I was surprised when I saw her face. I never knew that female walruses have mighty tusks. It was amazing just watching her slide down the hallway over to what the workers call “habitat”. Even though we never got a personal greeting to Kaboodle, the walrus we did get to meet was particularly interesting as he was so enormous.
It was Kaboodle’s partner – Garfield. He was 36 years of age; which is quite old in walrus years. He has been living in SeaWorld for 35 years when he was taking in as a walrus orphan, lonely and cold up in the heartless conditions of the Arctic. He was a fantastic animal to meet. They only had to call his name, and we heard him come sliding into the room. They used yellow lines on the ground to show you shouldn’t go beyond that line as Garfield forgets his huge size & posture as he is only a puppy in his personality. So he could accidentally squish us.
I was just jaw-dropped at the size of him. I can’t even put into words how enormous he was and how graceful his movement was even with the big size. The only clumsy movement was him slipping into the pool which actually was creating waves, some even reaching out of his enclosure and covering my feet. I got to feed him fish; hearing him make a sucking noise like it was a bit of pasta. He wasn’t the prettiest of animals but the way he tickled my hand with his whiskers when I fed him was cute. He was quite a noise-maker. Making roaring noises, trumpet sounds and even duck sounds. This wasn’t really the most attractive things to an animals skills but something kept me amazed at how incredible he is.
I never knew much about walruses and he was extremely interesting to learn about. I never knew the whiskers are used for blood supply and they use them similarly to how a cat would use theirs.
After meeting Garfield we were introduced to the babies. Ginger was the baby girl & Garfield’s & Kaboodle’s daughter. Aku was an orphan similar to Garfield and he is Gingers best friend. They were in a separate area, away from the public as they are quite mischievous, so we were the only ones getting to see them play with each other in the cold pool. For being 1 year old they were quite huge!
This was a fabulous experience which I am very grateful I was allowed to enjoy. I couldn’t believe walruses could be so wonderful to watch.
My Mum & Lauren also told me they loved getting to meet the beluga whale, which I may put myself down for in the future.
After these encounter’s we watched the ‘Dolphin Days’ show. I was annoyed I missed the electric ocean one, but I remember enjoying this one last time so I was pleased to witness it again. The dolphins leaped out the water with extraordinary ease, it was really impressive to watch.
After this show, we awaited the final encounter of the day. The animal ambassador encounter. Thankfully, the worker was my photographer of the day, and I now have amazing memories captured on my camera.
The 1st out of 5 animals on this endeavour was an owl. Owls are always stunning to stare at and I adore their big glowing eyes.
The next animal was a pelican. She was quite nervous at first, but after a while, she became quite friendly. She followed her owner around like a dog which was cute. She also played catch with a bit of paper which was funny. The amazing thing about all of these animals I was getting to meet, was that they were all rescues and SeaWorld is the reason they are still alive today. That is the reason, they never pinpointed out which animals I was getting to see. It was up to themselves if they were coming out to grace us with their presence.
The 3rd animal made my eyes love-hearts. It was a 2-toed sloth! I was disappointed I never got to interact with a sloth at Discovery Cove or Busch Gardens, but I was getting to do it here. I felt her fluffy fur. She was adorably slow & at peace with everything around her. She was in a total sense of zen.
The next animal was an Iguana lizard. His tail was astonishingly long. I got to feel his scaly skin. He was great.
I was hoping for a bald eagle as the last animal but I was graced by a boa constrictor. He was pretty awesome too!
That was an amazing way to spend our time in SeaWorld, and I loved each encounter. The highlight of my day was getting to meet Garfield and the sloth.
To end the evening, a storm came in as we munched a foot long subway. I shopped till I dropped buying new jeans, tops, and a pair of Adidas shoes. Yesterday was a really successful day and I hope you enjoyed this blog. The next blog will feature Busch gardens & clear water beach, so I hope you give that a read! See ya!!