When you visit the Orlando area, SeaWorld is a treat that you do not want to miss! It’s not only fun, but educational as well. I’ll share with you experiences from some of my many visits to this fun attraction.
Located just off Interstate 4, SeaWorld is easy to access. The signs on I-4, regardless of which direction you are driving, will direct you right to the exit for your short trip to the parking areas. We drove across State Road 528 (the Beeline) from the east coast beach and turned west on I-4. Then just a short hop and we’re there! You’ll know you are going the right way because you will see Sea World’s 400 foot Sky Tower viewing pavilion rising in the sky from far away.
Shamu, the most famous of the family of Orcas -- also known as Killer Whales -- is probably the most popular attraction at Sea World and a personal favorite of mine. Located toward the rear of the park, we head to see The Shamu Adventure, the daytime show. We’ll return later for the nighttime show, Shamu Rocks America. The shows are run periodically throughout the day, and while awaiting the next seating, we go to see the Shamu underwater viewing area.
Of course, Shamu isn’t alone. An entire family of Orcas share a tank that can be viewed through a huge Plexiglas window. You are actually seeing them while they are underwater in their home. Sometimes the Orcas will come right up to the windows and look at you. The whales are black and white in color and huge, but very friendly and playful creatures. Killer Whale is a bit of a misnomer since they do NOT kill people. They do eat fish, but not people!
Going into the Shamu show seating, which is stadium seating, there is a section near the front marked “Don’t sit here if you don’t want to get wet”. Being a hot day, we sit in the section near the front for a great view and a cooling splash as the Orcas perform a wonderful show. They dance, jump and perform tricks with grace and beauty unmatched by almost any other water creature. They obviously love their trainers and have as much fun performing as we do watching! And when Shamu does his famous “tail slap”, we get a nice mist of water from the splash!
Since my last visit to Sea World a huge video screen has been added which I’m certain makes the Shamu experience even more wonderful! We were, on another trip, fortunate enough to see a newly born Orca, on of the first successfully birthed at Sea World, and a video of the actual birth!
The Penguin Encounter is our next stop. This animal exhibit houses over 200 penguins: king, gentoo, chinstrap and rockhopper species are represented. Their natural environment has been recreated for them with rocks and actual real snow! Over 6,000 pounds of snow fall daily in the penguin’s home! The air for their environment is maintained at 30 degrees and the water stays a continual 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A moving walkway carries you through the Encounter slowly so that you get a great view of every aspect of the cute, whimsical penguins. Thankfully, it is NOT 30 degrees outside the Plexiglas enclosed habitat. It is however, a nice air conditioned building and a great spot for cooling off on a hot Florida day!
The Shark Habitat is a large building housing an enormous aquarium. Moving through the aquarium is a Plexiglas tube which is 60 feet long and people pass along on a slowly moving beltway. Sharks, barracuda, eels, and venomous fish can be viewed in their natural setting of a true, living coral reef. The coral alone is worth the visit! The actual water tank holds over 500 tons of water! Many different shark species are represented. If you happen by at feeding time you can see the shark frenzy when fish and “chum” (chopped up fish pieces) are dropped into the water to feed the sharks. Great White Sharks are fearsome to watch when feeding! Those multiple rows of teeth in that huge evil-looking “grin” of their mouths are scary.
Next stop is at the underwater full-service restaurant, Sharks Underwater Grill. Located in the same building as the Shark Habitat, it has a panoramic view of the shark tank. Featuring “Floridaribbean food”, the menu features seafood with a Caribbean twist. Of course, shark is not on the menu, even though it is a great choice for Florida seafood if prepared properly. But, who wants to eat shark while they are eyeing you through the viewing window! The food is good and resting a bit is nice also before we return to our travels throughout the park. There are many other dining options from quick snacks, ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs to seafood and barbeque. Specialty needs dining is available, also.
Being bird lovers and also being owned by a parrot, we have to go to the Tropical Rain Forest exhibit to see the beautiful birds. Exotic banyan trees, bamboo soaring toward the sky, and a natural rain forest setting houses some gorgeous species of rain forest parrots.
The Dolphin Nursery is the spot to view baby dolphins and their mothers. So cute that you want to hold them, these babies stick close to Mom. The number of babies depends entirely on how many births have occurred recently, but it is one of the most popular Sea World stops.
The Sky Tower pavilion is a stop that allows you to sit in a sealed pavilion which will rise slowly 400 feet into the sky, allowing you to see for miles and miles over the flat Florida landscape. It’s a comfortable ride and not scary at all. I’m afraid of heights, but I really enjoy this ride because it moves slowly and the view is so great, I never get a sense of the possibility of falling.
For those who want something scary, there’s the floorless roller coaster known as Kraken. It looks really scary, but everyone that enjoys roller coasters says it’s one of the best anywhere. Other rides include Journey to Atlantis which is a water ride, and Wild Artic, a simulated helicopter ride through the artic.
There are child-oriented exhibits, rides and activities for families with young ones. Pets Ahoy is an animal show including dogs, cats, birds, pot bellied pigs - even skunks and rats - and is truly hilarious. It is a great stop for families or anyone interested in cute animals. The Oyster’s Secret is an exhibit that is educational and fun. Pearl divers show how oysters are harvested to obtain natural pearls as you view from an underwater window. Great for the kids!
Before we know it, the day has passed and we’ve not had time to do everything we wanted. There are many things to see and do on each and every visit to Sea World. Being fortunate enough to live nearby, we will return again to catch the places we missed today.
After grabbing a snack, our final stop is the nighttime Shamu Rocks America show. The music is loud and the Orcas dance and perform while a beautiful light show highlights the event. Absolutely a show you do not want to miss.
After a long and wonderful day, it’s time to go back to the car and return home. The next time we decide to take a day at one of the Orlando area attractions, I’m certain to say “Sea World again, please!”