I recently had the privilege of visiting the SeaWorld Parks in December and I had a blast. I took part in the SeaWorld Ambassador Trip which allowed me to go behind the scenes, meet the animals, and experience the top attractions. The itinerary was full to the brim with one-of-a-kind experiences. Five days of non-stop fun was on the cards. Here’s just some of what I got up to:
Day 1: Aquatica
On the first day of our trip, we visited Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark. It would be fair to say that I was not a big fan of water parks. Although I hadn’t been to one in such a long time. So, I got in my swimming costume, grabbed my flip-flops and my brand new Aquatica towel and queued up for my first water slide, Walhalla Wave. I loved it. The water sprayed over us as we flew down the chutes in our raft, around twists and bends, straight into the pool at the bottom. To my delight, all the pools at the end of each slide were shallow. If you’re not confident in the water or have children, it’s perfect. Everyone can take part.
Ray Rush, the newest attraction in the park was next on the list; this didn’t disappoint. The large bowl where you swing from to side to side was thrilling and we came to learn that your experience of this section of the ride would change depending on the weight of the raft. If you jumped on board with your husband, or your kids, or friends, you’ll have a completely unique journey in the raft each time.
Aquatica is equally relaxing as it is thrilling, and one of the attractions I loved was the lazy river. There are two in the park, one slow and gentle called Loggerhead Lane where you pass an aquarium of fishes and Commerson’s dolphins, the other, Roa’s Rapids which I preferred, had a faster current and was a more exciting adventure. Again, both lazy rivers were waist deep, so it was safe for both kids and adults to bob along.Day 2: SeaWorld
We were very lucky and had a guide called Britney who took us around SeaWorld. She knew the park inside out and was great at answering our questions about the park, the resident animals, and the attractions.
Our first stop was to the animal hospital. We saw the veterinary rooms where they operate on injured animals, and the large boats they use to transport sea mammals. I was mesmerised to hear some of the stories in which SeaWorld staff have helped rescue animals from the Florida coast.
The next destination in the park we visited was the seal and sea lion habitat. Here, Britney gave us some very interesting facts about the animals, plus we had the opportunity to feed them. You can buy a tray of fish from a hut near the enclosure for just a few dollars. We then ventured to an amphitheatre to watch Clyde and Seamore’s Sea Lion High. The show was hilarious and something I would recommend you watch!
At lunchtime, we were very lucky to experience Up-Close Dining, an optional add-on. The buffet lunch was vast and had a good selection of naughty treats and healthy options, I obviously obliged and had a little of everything. During the sitting, we observed an educational presentation of the killer whales with their trainers, plus we learnt about the unique characteristics of each one.
We rode almost all the rollercoasters in the park, and they were awesome. Mako was my favourite and one of my most memorable moments from the trip. There are no inversions aka loops, but
there are lots of bumps which lift you out of your seat, it’s a lot of fun!
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin was also incredible! It was quaint, cute and dare I say it, magical! If you love these unique birds then you’ll love the story of Puck, a chick who explores the icy world of Antarctica. The best bit is when you’ll come face to face with the penguins at the end of the ride. As you move through the attraction, you’ll enter three cold rooms, one chillier than the previous which gets you used to the cold environment the animals live in. The grand finale sees you spin in front of the enclosure where you see flocks of the cute birds.Day 3: Discovery Cove
Sometimes in Orlando, you need a quiet place where you can relax and let the current of the lazy river drift you slowly around the park. Discovery Cove does exactly that. It’s definitely indulgent and luxurious, everything has been thought of in this all-inclusive attraction. You can help yourself to snacks and drinks throughout the day as you explore the beaches and waterfalls.
My favourite memory was SeaVenture. I had wanted to do this for a couple of years, and it lived up to everything I thought it would be. I love sea life, especially fish as I’ve spent my whole life watching documentaries and keeping aquariums with my dad. To stand underwater and see them swim around me was unbelievable. You wear a specially designed helmet which weighs you to the sea floor. It’s incredibly strange as you cannot feel the 60lbs resting on your shoulders as underwater its as though you’re only carrying 15lb. When you’re fully immersed in the water, you follow your guides as they lead you along a tour where you can see sharks (they’re safely behind glass in another tank). Plus, you can hold starfish and other friendly creatures. The whole thing lasted around half an hour and we borrowed a camera so we could take snaps of ourselves, and we bought them at the end of the experience. SeaVenture is a SeaWorld Parks Extra and is an additional cost to your Discovery Cove ticket, however, its something I would definitely recommend booking.
The dolphin swim was also fantastic. After lunch, we headed over to our meeting point and got ready to meet our new friends Thelma and Louise, two dolphins which we met individually. The trainer told us facts and funny anecdotes about their lives, and we got the opportunity to touch, kiss, and swim with them.Day 4: Busch Gardens
If you haven’t been to Busch Gardens before, it’s a zoo and a theme park rolled into one. The park is huge, it’s 335 acres and there’s so much to fill a day if not two. Firstly, our guide took us to meet Bubba, an Aldabra tortoise who is approximately 75 years old. He was huge! I’d never seen a tortoise so big before, it was fascinating to learn about him and the other tortoises in his enclosure. We even got up close to him and stroke his head and shell!
We then went to the Animal Care Center, where we saw a team of specialists operating on a bird with a broken wing. Luckily, there was another staff member who talked us through the procedure and answered questions about what was happening.
In the afternoon, we rode the very best rides in the park. I wasn’t brave enough but some of my friends experienced Falcon’s Fury. This 335-ft freestanding drop tower, one of the tallest in the USA with speeds of 60-mph. I knew I’d quickly turn green if I rode it! I did, however, love Cheetah Hunt, it was very similar to Mako at SeaWorld which was my favourite ride. Cheetah Hunt didn’t go upside down, it did make you feel weightless and glided through the air with three launches. Other rollercoasters I experienced were Kumba, SheiKra, and Montu.
The best moment of visiting Busch Gardens was attempting to take a giraffe selfie on the Serengeti Safari. It’s a lot harder than it looks, trust me! They absolutely love lettuce, romaine lettuce to be precise. The trick is to hide a little behind your back, wait for one to get close, get your camera in position, lift your lettuce and snap. The Serengeti Safari is an optional extra and I highly recommend you add this on. You’ll hop in an open-air touring vehicle where you can spot animals like zebras, rhinos, and ostriches. Plus your guide shares interesting facts about each creature you spot.
Overall, Busch Gardens was my favourite park, you can’t miss it. It’s around an hour’s drive from Orlando but you can catch the free shuttle bus which leaves daily. Simply select which hotel you need picking up from, the date you’re going, and the number of people in your party – easy! And don’t worry if your plans change, you don’t need to do anything, you can just rearrange for your new date. Don’t let the distance put you off, if you set out early, you’ll miss the traffic. You could also stay overnight and spend a day at the nearby beach.
Other things I learnt on my trip:
- The weather in Orlando can be rather temperamental in December. It’s worth packing a mix of clothes, especially if you’re planning on going on all the water rides. One day you could be in shorts, the next a pair of jeans.
- The parks are normally quieter at the beginning of December. It’s a great time to visit if you can go during term time.
- Fly directly into Tampa or Fort Lauderdale. Both airports are smaller and have fewer inbound flights, so you’ll fly through passport control in a jiffy.
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