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May 13, 2014

Try a Florida turtle walk this summer or learn more about it at SeaWorld and Walt Disney World

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This summer, my family is going to experience a unique Florida event, one that both Walt Disney World and SeaWorld support, but it doesn't take place in a theme park.

Loggerhead sea turtle nesting season, which runs approximately May through October, gives Florida residents and visitors an opportunity to learn about the species. The turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs in holes, or nests, on the beach and then they make their way back to the ocean. Only about 10 of the dozens of eggs laid in each nest will survive to adulthood, a Walt Disney World cast member told me.

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To increase the public's awareness about the plight of sea turtles, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission allow a few trained and approved groups to conduct nighttime turtle walks along certain beaches in Brevard County. The walks take place in June and July, and registration opened this month. The walks fill up quickly because they are so popular, so sign up now if you are interested.

The Sea Turtle Preservation Society is one of the approved groups that conducts turtle walks in Melbourne Beach. They take place every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night in June and Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in July along with the first Friday and Saturday in August. Children must be at least 6 years old, and a donation of at least $15 per adult and $10 per child (ages 6 to 12) is required to participate.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy also offers guided turtle walks through the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Vero Beach, on Monday through Friday nights in June and July. In addition to the loggerhead turtles, endangered leatherback sea turtles nest in the Carr Refuge. Children must be at least 7 years old, and a donation of at least $15 per person is required to participate.

For both programs, turtle watchers meet promptly at 8:45 p.m. for a brief interpretive program on threats to sea turtle survival. Afterwards, participants will wait at beach crossover points with their guides while scouts search for a nesting loggerhead. Then, they take off on a beach walk that may be about a mile in soft sand. Turtle watches can last until midnight or later.

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At Disney's Vero Beach Resort, The Sea Turtle Conservancy also will kick off its Tour de Turtles in August. Started in 2008 by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Tour de Turtles is a fun way to learn about the long migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. Tracking is done through satellite telemetry, with transmitters sending signals each time a turtle surfaces to breathe. Those who follow along at tourdeturtles.org will be exposed to the science and geography of sea-turtle migration. At the same time, researchers hope to gain more knowledge about the migratory practices of the endangered species because so much still is unknown. (Read more about Tour de Turtles in my previous blog post.)

Can't make it to the Treasure Coast to see the turtles for yourself?

You can learn more about turtle conservation on June 4 at Epcot's The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Walt Disney World celebrates World Oceans Day each year with interactive exhibits inside the pavilion. I wrote about past events here.

Or, if you are visiting SeaWorld Orlando, make sure to go to the Turtle Trek attraction, which is open year round. The tanks in the pre-show area house turtles that SeaWorld has rescued and is rehabilitating. Guests move from the animal habitat into the first 360-degree dome theater, which shows a 3D film about the life of a sea turtle. The movie is from the turtle's point of view and depicts its life -- including the daily dangers -- from birth to adulthood. (You can read more about it here.) The film's message is one of conservation: That everyday heroes can make a difference in nature.

Last week, SeaWorld Orlando's Aquarium Team traveled to Hobe Sound, Fla., to return three loggerhead sea turtles, and then to Sebastian Inlet in Melbourne Beach, Fla., to return a green sea turtle. The green sea turtle was rescued by a University of Central Florida turtle monitoring group and transported to SeaWorld Orlando by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. So far in 2014, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 29 sea turtles and returned 13 back to the water.



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August 4, 2012

What to know before you go to SeaWorld Orlando

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If you're heading to SeaWorld Orlando with kids in tow, there are a few things you might want to consider before you reach the turnstiles. Here are some tips for newcomers to help you enjoy your day to the fullest.

** Food: Everyone likes to eat, right? This can be an expensive part of your day at any theme park when you're feeding a family, but there are ways to minimize the expense. First, know that SeaWorld's policy is to restrict outside food and beverages from the park. The only published exceptions are for special diets or baby food.

SeaWorld does offer an All-Day Dining Deal, which allows guests to choose unlimited food from six restaurants, with a few exceptions. Adults pay $32.99, and kids ages 3 to 9 cost $17.99. This can be a good value if you're going to be in the park for more than one meal. My favorite deal, though, is the refillable soda cups, which can be used on the day of purchase and any subsequent days. The price of the cup is based on the style, but all refills are $1. And SeaWorld Orlando now features Coca-Cola products.

** Shows: There are so many amazing animal shows at SeaWorld Orlando that you could spend the entire day moving from stadium to stadium just to see them all. (Extra shows have been added, too, for Summer Nights, which runs through Aug. 12.) Most families don't take that approach, however, so you'll need to prioritize the shows and then work the rest of your day's plans around that schedule. The two Shamu shows -- One Ocean and Shamu Rocks! -- and the Blue Horizons dolphin show are among the most popular, so plan to get to them at least 30 minutes early. (For more on the summer shows, please see my previous blog post.)

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** Roller coasters: If your children like roller coasters, make sure you check the height requirements to avoid any disappointment in the park. For the two biggest thrill rides, Kraken and Manta, kids must be at least 54 inches tall. Journey to Atlantis has a height requirement of 42 inches.

** Additional costs: Some experiences at SeaWorld Orlando are not included in your admission. For animal feedings, such as dolphins and stingrays, you'll have to buy the food. (More details about the dolphin feedings in another post.) There is a $5 charge per 20 minutes in the paddle boats, and up-close tours also are a separate price. If you would like to skip the long lines for popular attractions, you can purchase Quick Queue for one visit per major attraction or get the unlimited version for the day. Prices for Quick Queue vary, based on the option you choose and date of your visit. Currently, Quick Queue one-time is $14.99 per person and Quick Queue Unlimited is $24.99.

** Photos: If you're used to relying on Disney's PhotoPass photographers who are dispersed throughout the parks, you may be surprised to find only a handful of professional photographers at SeaWorld. They usually are concentrated near the entrance to the park and by the Dolphin Cove pool. So, if you want a lot of photos from your day, be sure to bring your own camera.

** Extra clothing: SeaWorld has more opportunities for guests to get wet than other theme parks -- from water rides to animal feedings to splash zones at the performances. There is even a water play area in the Happy Harbor kids section. If you are concerned about your kids walking around in wet clothes, you'll want to bring extra outfits or maybe rain ponchos.

Forgot something? Don't fret; it happens to all of us. SeaWorld is more than likely to have what you need for sale. Even this theme-park veteran had to buy sunscreen on her last visit.

July 14, 2012

SeaWorld Orlando's TurtleTrek takes visitors on amazing journey

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Thanks to a new Orlando attraction, we now have a better understanding of some Florida wildlife that we got to see in a completely new way. TurtleTrek opened at SeaWorld Orlando just in time for the summer crowds, and we recently joined the tourists to check it out.

TurtleTrek is the first 3D domed 360-degree attraction in the world, and that's certainly the best part of the experience. Inside the theater, about 200 audience members are immersed in the story of Nyah, following the green sea turtle from hatchling to adult. The computer-generated movie is even from her perspective, which adds to the larger-than-life feeling.

Nyah's journey from the sand to the water is not without struggle, portraying the real-life dangers hatchlings face. Only about ten of the dozens of eggs laid in each turtle nest will grow into adulthood. Nyah goes up against a shark, a crab and a swooping bird and still comes out alive and moving forward. The special effects during these segments make the audience jump and then laugh at how real they seem. However, it's not too scary for kids to enjoy.

The seven-minute movie is fast-paced and the turtle's environment is breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, the audience stands during the presentation, and there definitely are parts where guests will want to hold on to the handrails.

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Before the movie, visitors will see real turtles in their SeaWorld tanks. If you'e familiar with The Seas With Nemo & Friends at Walt Disney World, you'll recognize the vantage point of seeing into the aquariums from below the surface. It's fun to watch the turtles swim and glide, though I have to confess to thinking they move just as Crush does in Disney's "Finding Nemo."

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Guests also will see four manatees in a separate tank. (TurtleTrek has taken over the building where the Manatee Rescue attraction was previously based.) These huge gentle sea cows are amazing to watch. The SeaWorld employee who was giving the informative talk in this section of the attraction said they really don't carry a lot of excess weight. They're just big-boned. Ha!

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The TurtleTrek theater exits onto a deck, where guests get yet another view of the turtles -- this time from above. Guests are welcome to stay out here as long as they like, unlike the inside viewing rooms, which are designed to entertain before the movie.

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On the day we visited TurtleTrek, the posted wait time was 40 minutes. Although the queue isn't really themed or interactive, as guests have come to expect at DIsney World, it is in the shade, which is a welcome relief from the hot Florida sun. The time seemed to pass fairly quickly and before we knew it we were entering into Nyah's world.

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About TurtleTrek

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the TurtleTrek category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Summer Nights is the previous category.

Wild Days is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.