Last Thursday, I drove to Orlando, which is about an hour north of me. I knew while I was there I’d be going to Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove on a sponsored press junket but that’s all I really knew. Honestly, I figured we’d ride the rides, see the animals and do all the things you normally do on such a trip.
I was wrong.
We did do those things but even more so, I spent time getting an education…
Without knowing all the facts, it’s easy to assume that a place like Seaworld keeps all these cool animals, makes them entertain us and gets rich off of them.
The fact is, Seaworld does some wonderful things for animals—one of them being treating injured animals from the wild.
Thousands of manatees, dolphins, seabirds, turtles and more are brought to Seaworld each year and they use their own resources and incredibly knowledgeable staff to nurse them back to health and then release them back into their habitat.
If they’re injured in such a way that they can’t be returned to the wild, they sometimes stay at Seaworld or are placed somewhere in which they can continue to live as normal a life as possible.
Seaworld does this because they have the staff and facilities available but also because, from my observations, they truly do care about animals.
I also learned about the training methods they use for all their animals.
When I asked if the handlers are ever, physically,in the same space as the elephants, I was told no. At first I thought that was kind of sad but it was explained to me that in order for a human to be able to remain safe in the presence of any wild animal, they have to establish dominance and the methods necessary to establish dominance are methods Seaworld does NOT use.
Basically, you have to make the animal fear you and this involves things that are not kind, compassionate or respectful to the animal. It’s my understanding that these methods are more common with training circus animals, for example, which is why we never go to the circus.
But I digress…
At Seaworld, only positive reinforcement and rewards are used and the animals always have a choice to comply or not with their trainer’s request. I witnessed this firsthand at Busch Gardens (part of the Seaworld family of parks) at the new Cheetah Run.
There is a certain time of day when the cheetahs eat and then when they’re done, they’re released back into the area where they chill all day. When released, they run super fast (they are the fastest animal on land at an average speed of 75mph) and we are there to see it live. But when we were there, the cheetahs didn’t want to run.
Now, their handlers could have forced them if that were part of their philosophy but it’s not.
Yes, some people were bummed but you know what? I like knowing the animals never have to do anything they don’t want to do.
Seaworld and Busch Gardens use their positive training philosophy with all the animals including the killer whales and dolphins. Again, I observed this firsthand when we went swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove (an awesometastical place!).
We were educated all about the bottlenose dolphins and under the guidance of the dolphin’s trusted trainers, we got to kiss them, pet them and ride with them by placing our hands on their fins and having them pull us through the water.
The entire time the trainers used hand signals to communicate with the dolphins while allowing us to give them lots of frozen fish rewards. What I observed was a very respectful, loving relationship between dolphin and trainer.
We did plenty of other awesome things with animals at all three parks (while getting a full education on all of them) and of course, there was the riding of the newest rollercoasters at Seaworld (the Manta) and at Busch Gardens (Cheetah Hunt). I confess that *I* didn’t actually ride either one because rollercoasters always give me incredible headaches but most of our group of 18 did and had a blast.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I loved every second of it and cannot thank Seaworld enough for inviting me on the trip. I’d also like to thank John and Suzanne, our intrepid tour guides. You guys were wonderful!
My trip to Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove was paid for by Seaworld but my account of this trip, which was not required, is based solely on my own experiences and opinions.
Discovery Cove is a fabulous choice for a family vacation. There are two pricing levels, depending on whether or not you opt to include the dolphin swimming experience (I highly recommend it). Once you are there, all food, snacks and beverages (non-alcoholic) are included (and the food isn’t bad) which makes it really nice as you’re not pulling out your wallet every time someone is hungry or thirsty.
Each Discovery Cove pass also comes with fourteen days of unlimited access to Sea World, Busch Gardens Tampa or Aquatica water park or for an extra $50 per pass you get 14 days of access at ALL THREE parks.
If you break it down, it comes to about $250-300 each person to have the dolphin swimming experience and a super fun day at Discovery Cove PLUS 14 days at all the other aforementioned parks. There are nice hotels affiliated with Seaworld that are right next to the park and will shuttle you directly to the entrance of the park and there is also a shuttle to make the one hour trip between Orlando and Tampa quick and easy so you can visit Busch Gardens Tampa and be brought right back to your hotel in Orlando.
For more information on all the options available, visit Seaworld’s web site.
If you’d like to read my personal blog post about this trip, you can check it out here.