Category: SeaWorld

Penguins, Seahorses and Jumping Dolphins – Oh My!

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By , September 25, 2014 11:03 pm

Hi everyone,

We got home just after midnight last night. After a few hours sleep, my body woke me up and I couldn’t resist downloading a few items off my Nikon. (It’s one of my new gadgets for the trip. The Nikon S9700. One step up from a point & shoot but still down from a full DSLR. It has a 30x zoom lens, 4.5 – 135mm range, and full manual controls but no interchangeable lenses. I’m an aspiring photographer, which means I’ve learned a few tricks to getting good shots from a digicam and know some of the basics, but I have a great deal yet to learn about settings. I’ve gotten so tired of my measly 5x zoom on my old Canon Powershot, I invested in these step up cameras with darn good zooms. It’s tricky holding yourself steady on a 30x zoom, but I’m a natural at being a human tripod. For the trip I got 3 spare batteries, an external charger and a 128GB memory card. My goal is to take as many interesting shots as possible. Landscapes, night time, crazy close-ups, etc. Low light is the single hardest shot you can capture. Cameras are crap compared to the human eye.)

Yesterday turned out to be a super long, crazy park hopping sort of day for us.

We started out with the goal of riding SeaWorld’s Antartica attraction. I posted about it last year when it first opened. I absolutely LOVE the ride system they adopted. Independently controlled vehicles that resemble giant hockey pucks, filled with 2 rows of 8 guests, which then spin and slide across an ice cave in the perspective of baby penguin Puck. When you chose the “Mild Experience”, the car zooms but doesn’t spin. I prefer the “Wild Experience”. It feels a bit like a tame teacup ride, racier than Figment but fun like the jumping with Tigger portion of Winnie the Pooh.

The ride ends in the middle of the penguin habitat where it is a balmy 30 degrees. They warn you not to enter if you have wet clothing. Experienced riders, like us, bring heavy fleece or winter jackets.

We got to SeaWorld around park opening. Went straight to Antarctica and had a brief 20 minute wait. This attraction has been pulling in 45 min waits a good deal of the time we visit. It’s like EPCOT’s Soarin’… something people of all ages and abilities can do.

Getting on board the ride was fairly easy. This is a must transfer ride, but there are no steps to navigate and plenty of leg room. I sat in the middle next to a couple from England who were not the tiniest of folks. We all still had plenty of leg room. (Arm room is a different story.) The hardest part about transfer rides for me is that I have to juggle all my stuff. What do I take on my ride (purse, cameras, cane, reaching stick), what do I leave with the chair (backpack, snacks, drink, etc.), will the CMs be able to navigate my chair and not break it, where will it be on the exit, etc. What I didn’t expect was the ride itself to break down as soon as we boarded.

We all get buckled up (4 together in an 8 person seater… Yeah, I’m mystified too why the English couple decided to sit up front with us. I think they got confused.) and the ride stops. CM tells us they lost communication with a ride vehicle. It’s all independently wirelessly controlled. No track, but apparantly the signal can drop out sometimes. GpaM and I had visions of Pooh’s breakdown on Monday. Are we cursed?

CMs weren’t bothered by it. They assured us it was easily fiaxable and would just take a couple minutes. The vehicle that lost contact was actually still out in the ride area so everything was holding. When a couple minutes turned into a few, they handed out FastPasses for everyone to have an extra ride on them. I should start a collection.

Fortunately after 5-10 minutes we were underway. I took a ride video for you (which I’ll post later). The extra tilting is to give you the sensation you feel when the car tilts and spins around.

I have to give props to SeaWorld staff for handling accessibility concerns. They kept our wheels with us at the loading until the ride was ready to go, then had them ready for us at the exit. Both vehicles were driven rather than manually pushed and no one did any crazy stunts. They also didn’t rush us to get off, but gave us plenty of space to get situated again off the ride. The only limiting factor we had was the bone-chilling cold. GpaM lasted only a couple minutes. I stayed for another 15 to photograph the colony of penguins and talk to one of the animal guides.

I learned now is mating season for the penguins. From September to January, they date, pair up, build nests and fertilize an egg. The King Penguins (larger birds) will mate for life whereas the smaller ones may pick new mates every year. Their courtship is cute. They bow to each other then follow one another around. I was watching two small penguins bowing and dancing when a third jumped out of the water, pecked one of the bowers and chased him away. I guess he was caught poaching on the fella’s girlfriend.

Once fertilized, it takes 1-2 months for the penguin eggs to hatch. They’re kept in the nursery the first few weeks, but by next March there will be cute fuzzy baby penguins in the habitat. I already booked us two weeks stay at Cypress Harbour next March. I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing that.

After the penguins, we warmed up with a leisurely stroll out of the park. GpaM detoured to do a little shop browsing. I tried to find my way to the dolphins, got lost and found the Manta Aquarium instead. Turned out to be a great detour because I got some terrific shots of feeding seahorses.

I doublebacked, finally finding my way to the dolphin underwater viewing area, but none were in sight. They were all above having a training session in the lagoon. Some guests are allowed to assist about 7 human trainers as they play with the dolphins in the lagoon having them wave, swim standing backwards, splash, and fly through the air.

SeaWorld is a gorgeous park, beautifully landscaped with relaxing background music, but it also reminds me of Florida. There are virtually no straight roads anywhere. It’s extremely easy to get turned around and lost. Grab a map at the entrance even if you think you know exactly where you’re going. You may also want to download the SeaWorld app which comes with maps, Wait times, Show schedule and the ability to “tap to pay” with your phone or schedule a lunch reservation. It’s not quite as easy as a MagicBand, but they are getting high tech.

We said goodbye to SeaWorld in the early afternoon. I’m not sure if we’ll get back this trip. They start celebrating Halloween with their trick-or-treat walk in early October. If we hadn’t already planned to spend that weekend with family, I’d be over there. Oh well.

By the time we left, it was early afternoon. The sun was hot, the air humid, clouds forming and everyone (including several cast members) was expecting rain but hoping it stayed away this time. We’ve had 3 days of torrential downpours. Today we lucked out.

Time to hop to our next park and catch another “must do” ride for us… Magic Kingdom’s Steam Train.

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