SeaWorld Orlando recently launched a new series of behind-the-scenes tours that connect guests to animals in unique ways. From petting penguins to feeding sea lions, a tour through SeaWorld offers experiences that can’t be found in any other Orlando-area theme park.
I recently had a chance to try out a few of these unique experiences and learn a bit more about SeaWorld’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Stepping out of the park’s main streets into the behind-the-scenes area instantly places you into a working facility.
Rows of tanks are visible, in which rescued sea turtles are swimming happily on their way to good health. Nearby, rehabilitated manatees are cared for by experts, ensuring their survival. The dedicated SeaWorld team sees the animals as their family, lately spending more time with them than their actual families due to the nearly overwhelming ongoing rescue efforts from the recent Gulf oil spill.
The more fun, but still educational side of the tour experiences includes petting penguins and feeding sea lions. Here are a few video highlights of these penguin and sea lion encounters:
Leaving the Florida heat and into the cold, carefully-regulated environment filled with penguins is a treat. The penguins all appear quite friendly with one another, often spotted grooming each other. While petting a penguin (briefly, with a short two-finger gesture to emulate another penguin rubbing them) was a unique experience, I found it more entertaining to simply stand and watch them interact with each other. One even reminded me of my own cat, just standing there squinting its eyes at the light. Cute.
Feeding sea lions is another stop available on some of SeaWorld’s tours and while it’s not exclusive to the tours, it is more enjoyable to feed these loudly barking creatures in a group, sharing the experience with each other. I learned that a group of birds has also taken up residence in the sea lion area. It’s not part of the SeaWorld cast of animals, but they allow the birds to remain anyway, though guests are not encouraged to feed them. The fish is for the sea lions, after all. As for the sea lions’ loud barking – apparently they’re smart enough to realize that if they annoy guests long enough with their crass vocalizations, they’ll get rewarded with a fish in the mouth (food for them and a brief moment of silence for the guests).
More information about the newly-available SeaWorld tours:
For more information on SeaWorld’s all-new tours, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com.
More photos from a few of SeaWorld Orlando’s behind-the-scenes experiences:
Photos by Katherine McElroy.