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Meet SeaWorld Orlando's amazing dolphins



Dolphins, dolphins and more dolphins! If you or someone in your family just cannot get enough of these adorable mammals, SeaWorld Orlando has a number of dolphin experiences to fill your entire day.

My almost-8-year-old daughter's love of dolphins prompted our family to purchase SeaWorld passes this year, and we have been exploring all the ways in which she can get close to her favorite animals. Here is a little bit of what we have learned from our visits.


Blue Horizons

Blue Horizons, the show where you see dolphins and their trainers perform amazing feats together and individually, is a fun show for all ages. The performance, which happens multiple times each day, also features tropical birds and ariel acrobats that fly toward the audience. There really are no bad seats in Whale & Dolphin Theater, but if you want a center spot, be sure to line up at least 30 minutes early, especially with the summer crowds. Also, know that employees will be walking through the stands selling snacks and drinks, so there's little need to stand in a line elsewhere -- unless you want to refill your soda mug.

Finally, if your child is a little starstruck by the human performers and would like to meet them, you're in luck. They usually line both sides of the walkways leading out of the stadium and are happy to pose for photos and talk with guests.


Dolphin Cove

To meet some of the park's dolphins, guests can head to adjacent Dolphin Cove, where they can choose from three experiences. There's an underwater viewing area for this large dolphin pool, plus two interactive areas on the surface. On the far side of Dolphin Cove, guests can see the dolphins as they swim by and possibly pet them if they stop. In our experience, this doesn't happen often because these smart animals know they will be fed on the other side of the pool.

Dolphin feedings that are open to guests usually take place five times per day on the gated side of Dolphin Cove. Because of the limited space and popularity of these interactions, queues can form as much as an hour before the event, so plan accordingly. (Unfortunately, most of this line is in the sun, so at least grab a drink to keep hydrated.) Each guest entering the feeding area MUST purchase a tray of fish for $7 ($6 for annual passholders). There are no exceptions to this rule -- even if you just want to take photos of your kids petting the dolphins. Our solution is to purchase four trays and give each child two so their experience lasts longer and we have more opportunities to videotape and capture images.

Even with double the fish, the feeding goes by quickly. The dolphins will swim right up to the edge of the pool and open their mouths, waiting for the fish, not unlike dogs begging for food. Guests are instructed to pet them under the chin as they drop the food in. My daughter never gets tired of doing this, even though she finds the dead fish gross. Sometimes when she's feeding I manage to sneak in a friendly pat -- no fish for me, thanks!

During the dolphin feedings, SeaWorld photographers will stand on the opposite side of the pool and take photos, which you can view immediately afterward. We haven't had much luck with the professional photos but we have managed to take quite a few memorable shots on our own. When the group feeding is finished, guests are directed to the hand-washing station to clean up.

Dolphin Nursery

A short walk from Dolphin Cove, guests will find the Dolphin Nursery, an area for pregnant dolphins, mothers and babies to bond without interference from the males of their species. This is a smaller dolphin pool, but the view from the sides is quite good. SeaWorld Orlando recently announced that mom dolphin Starkey gave birth to a baby on June 30, and both can be seen in the nursery.


Dolphins Up Close Tour

If you want to interact with the moms and babies, it's time to sign up for the Dolphins Up Close Tour. This experience begins at the nursery where guests learn how SeaWorld cares for dolphins and then they participate in a scatter feed. The technique of dropping fish all over an area of the pool at the same time mimics feeding in the wild and helps teach baby dolphins to hunt for food. Trainers then guide the older dolphins through a few tricks for the viewers.


Next, the group walks to the gated area of Dolphin Cove for the most exciting part of the tour -- some one-on-one time with a dolphin and a trainer who will teach participating guests basic hand signals. My kids were thrilled when our dolphin responded to their motions. They also had plenty of time to pet the dolphin and we got some great photos.


My family participated in the Dolphins Up Close Tour at the beginning of the year during the Just For Kids festival, when children were free with a paid adult. Normally tickets for the tour are $50 for an adult and $30 for a child ages 3 to 9.

Other dolphin experiences

We are planning to go to two other SeaWorld Orlando properties this year for dolphin experiences, and I'll be bringing you the details on what to expect if you are planning similar trips. We're heading to Discovery Cove, where both kids will swim with the dolphins for their birthdays, and Aquatica, where we plan to slide right by all those smiling creatures when we're playing at the water park.

If you're going to be visiting Walt Disney World, there are a couple of dolphin programs there, as well.

The previous post in this blog was Finding the magic for kids at Downtown Disney's Marketplace.

The next post in this blog is Ideas for unusual family photos at Walt Disney World .

Comments (3)

MaryAnn Eckenrode:

Have you done the swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove. What an experience! I have just finished doing all 7 grandkids with this experience. it can get expensive, I been doing 2 of them each time we do Discovery Cove. The whole day is fantastic. The food is great. Everything is included even 7 days at Sea World. I recommend this experience to everyone. Even took my 78 year old father down and he even enjoyed it until I told him the price. Not only do you swim the dolphins, you can swim in the coral reef and you have hands on experience with the birds there. They even bring other animals out for everyone to see. THere is a lazy river but there isn't any tubs to float around in and it gets deep in some areas. I know your daughter would enjoy it.

KRISTIN: We are going to Discovery Cove for my kids' birthdays in September. Can't wait! So happy to hear you enjoyed it.

Kelly M:

Hi Kristin, great blog. I have enjoyed all of your recent blogs and the variety they bring to the already fab allears.
I am a huge Seaworld fan and this is a highly informative blog.
I just felt I had to say I highly recommend the Dolphins Up Close tour. I have been lucky enough to participate in most of Seaworld's tours over the past few years and dolphins gave the best value.
I took the tour on my own and instead of being paired up with a couple for the interaction at Dolphin Cove, I had a trainer and 2 dolphins to myself. This was an exceptional experience and one I will always remember.
If you want the best experience, I would rather pay the $50 for this than line up in the summer sun for the fish trays.

Back in the 'old days' prior to Discovery Cove, I participated in the dolphin interaction program which tookplace in the pool at Whale and Dolphin Stadium. Every time I watch Blue Horizons now I say - I have swum in that pool!!

Again - great blog, thank you!

KRISTIN: Thank you, Kelly! It sounds like you love dolphins as much as we do :)


we just went to SW at the end of June (sad to see we JUST missed the birth of the baby dolphin! We were there on 6/25!). We went on the day Tropical Storm Debby set in (they even closed the park early due to the non stop rain!). The entire park was very empty EXCEPT Dolphin Cove! You are so right that the line is very long- we tried 2 of the sessions without getting in to feed- I think everyone that was in the park was at Dolphin Cove! :) I couldn't imagine it on a normal summer day!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 28, 2012 9:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Finding the magic for kids at Downtown Disney's Marketplace.

The next post in this blog is Ideas for unusual family photos at Walt Disney World .

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