I confess I had misgivings about going to SeaWorld. I wasn’t sure how I felt about all those magnificent creatures held in captivity and forced to learn tricks to entertain the masses. After spending a wonderfully enlightening day there, I still have mixed feelings, but I also have a better understanding of SeaWorld’s purpose. Their mandate is huge. They rescue, rehabilitate and often release many marine animals every year. They also educate the public on the part they can play to better the environment for marine life. But this post is not about the political/moral rights and wrongs of keeping animals in captivity, it’s about enjoying how amazing, intelligent and beautiful these creatures are.
Hubby and I eagerly arrived right when SeaWorld opened. The first spectacle we came across was a group of flamingos right out in the open. Usually when you think of flamingos, you envision something like this.
What we saw were these comical characters strutting their stuff. I had no idea flamingos were so tall, some came close to six feet. And very personable too.
Next we went over to Dolphin Point, to watch the frisky little characters cavort and entertain. This friendly fellow came right up to the window to say hello to me.
Apparently dolphins can develop kidney issues as they age and they need to stay hydrated to prevent this. Part of the staff’s husbandry duties is to insert a tube down their throats and pour fresh water directly into them. The dolphin seemed completely relaxed and okay during the procedure.
Next stop was the Bat Ray feeding station. They’re very friendly and would allow us to pat them as they came begging for food. This big guy practically climbed out of his pool in hopes that I might give him a snack.
A bat ray viewed from below.
We really enjoyed the Story of Shamu, put on by SeaWorld’s education department. It explains the purpose behind their programs and introduces the killer whales in a casual setting.
This isn’t the clearest picture, but the height that immense mammal reached was impressive.
This is one of my favourite photos of the day. Take a look at the white heron just to the right of the trainer’s shoulder. Mr Hopeful, looking to scrounge any leftovers.
Tidal pool creatures:
We saw all kinds of turtles:
Walking through the submerged viewing tube at the Shark Encounter exhibition was very cool, but difficult to photograph because of the low lighting, and well, because you can’t exactly ask the menacing creatures to stop swimming for a moment while you snap their picture. This poor quality picture still manages to give me shivers. Cue the Jaws music.
I LOVE penguins. They’re just too cute. These little fellows are from warm climates such as South Africa.
This is a baby penguin. He’s about the same size as the others, but doesn’t have his markings yet.
The Antarctic penguins are kept inside, in an icy polar environment they’re accustomed to. I found them so very entertaining and comical, I could’ve sat there for hours – but it was darn cold.
These striking fellows are the largest of the penguin family, the Emperors, and they stand a good three feet tall.
There was also a Puffin exhibit. Such cute little sea birds with their bright orange beaks, but my photos couldn’t do them justice.
At the Wild Arctic exhibit, there was supposed to be walruses, polar bears and belugas. I was disappointed to only find a single walrus. He was a fine large fellow but, like a child, I wanted to see the bears and whales too.
The Animal Connections exhibit offered up some common and not so common creatures. Who would’ve thought a porcupine could be so cute?
I’m not sure what exactly this big guy was, but he looked as though he’d been assembled with beads. The pattern of his scales (?) was incredibly intricate and beautiful. (Edit: He’s called a Water Monitor)
We returned to the killer whale stadium for the afternoon show. These large mammals are affectionate and intelligent, as well as beautiful, and I really fell in love with them.
After that show, we rushed across the park to the Blue Horizon Stadium to catch the dolphin show. I love dolphins about as much as I love penguins (and I really love penguins). I was very impressed with the story, the setting and the skill of the people, dolphins, pilot whales and birds involved in this production.
Another of my favourite photos of the day. Just look at the happy expression on that dolphin’s face.
Then we had another mad rush to get to the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium for the final show of the day. And, surprisingly, I have to vote it as my favourite. I’d heard of trained seals, but had no idea the intelligence of Clyde and Seamore, the Sea Lions, and bright little OP Otter stole the show. First came an entertaining and amusing skit.
Then came their own version of Survivor.
The tribe speaks.
Finally the sea lions performed some dance acts with their trainers.
As would be expected, SeaWorld is filled with a multitude of aquariums. We spent hours gazing at every type of sea life imaginable. I’ll leave off with a few of my favourite shots.
This purple blob is actually a rock fish.