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eeyorefanuk
09-20-2009, 04:18 AM
Hello, has anyone on this board done the dine with shamu?

If so, would you say it was worth the money?

Also I noticed on the seaworld website, you can be a trainer for the day. Has anyone done this at seaworld, and yet again is it worth it?

jharrowell
09-20-2009, 05:40 AM
Hi again, this is starting to feel like a personal conversation isn't it? :)

Hello, has anyone on this board done the dine with shamu?


Yup, I have


If so, would you say it was worth the money?


Nope. Shamu time limited, food lousy, price too expensive.

Also I noticed on the seaworld website, you can be a trainer for the day. Has anyone done this at seaworld, and yet again is it worth it?


Can't help you with this one, but if you want a real "encounter" then maybe Discovery Cove?

Edit: Just saw your post and you are already booked at DC. I think and of the trainer or dine with offerings will seem a disapointment by comparison.

jockey
09-20-2009, 05:49 AM
We have done dine with Shamu and loved it! We expected the food to be rubbish but we were surprised it was pretty good. We will be booking again for Jan :)

dolphingirl47
09-20-2009, 05:55 AM
We did Dine with Shamu in 2005 and loved it.

When you say Trainer for a Day, do you mean the Trainer for a Day at Discovery Cove or the Marine Mammal Keeper Experience at Seaworld? I have done both more than once.

Corinna

Cleofish
09-20-2009, 06:01 AM
We did Dine with Shamu last September and we both really enjoyed it. We were sat round the back of the Shamu stadium and there was a little display with Shamu splashing everyone etc, and some commentary about Shamu while you were eating. The trainers also came round to chat to everyone and sign their autograph for you and answer any questions we had about Shamu.

The food was great, the best I think I've had outside of WDW. It's served buffet style and there is LOADS to choose from (Mac & Cheese, Fresh Meats, Fries, Mashed potatoes, fruit, cake, salad, hot dogs, meatballs - there was loads more, but I can't remember what now!). I seem to remember there was a chef action station as well, but I didn't choose anything from there. Desserts were awesome - just thinking about it makes me want Red Velvet cake!! Our server was fab too, always making sure we had our drinks re-filled and she was cracking jokes with DF constantly about taking care of him and filling up his Mountain Dew.

The only criticism I had was that I felt a bit rushed, as they closed the dining so that we could get round to the next showing of Shamu. I'm one of these people who likes to sit and enjoy a meal, especially when there was so much to choose from, but overall it was really good, and I think if I was in Seaworld I would probably do it again - I know DF would!

HTH - enjoy if you choose to go! :goodvibes:

jharrowell
09-20-2009, 06:41 AM
*Looks at previous posts*

Based on the rest of the posts, it looks like I just had a bad experience. Whatever you decide, I hope you have a great time!

Lizzy Lemon
09-20-2009, 08:46 AM
Did Dine with Shamu, food was OK. Would I do it again, no, but I've found experiences of others may not match your own. I done things other people have gone crazy over and not been impressed at all and done things people have not enjoyed and I have:lmao: I think you need to do things yourself and form your own judgement although I know its nice to listen to others experiences as some things can be an expensive mistake.

Snowy-girls
09-20-2009, 09:37 AM
We done this in April this year,and loved it :thumbsup2,and yes we would deffinatley do it again without a doubt.The traners no longer come around your table,sign autographs,picture etc..
For the price of the meal,your photo which is taken outside before you enter the arena is included in the price.
The food was great and so much choice,roast turkey,beef stew,chicken,fried chicken,hot dogs,meatballs+pasta,garlic mash,veggies,rolls,salad,fries-and alot more.The desserts were gorgeous,profiteroles,red velvet cake,choc gateau+again lots more too choose from.When you are seated at your table-your server will take your drinks order,Bud,soda and you can have as many as you want.The help yourself to the buffet whilst other people are being seated,we got dessets at the same time so as not too miss the show.The whole experience is aprox 1 hour,have a look at this link for a few pics+my report from our day there http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2202608 .x.

eeyorefanuk
09-21-2009, 01:00 AM
We did Dine with Shamu in 2005 and loved it.

When you say Trainer for a Day, do you mean the Trainer for a Day at Discovery Cove or the Marine Mammal Keeper Experience at Seaworld? I have done both more than once.

Corinna

Think my sister is interested in either, but with Seaworld we could find the price, but could not with dicovery cove. Which did you prefer? My sister is totally dolphin mad :lmao:

eeyorefanuk
09-21-2009, 01:03 AM
Thank you everyone for all your help :goodvibes

dolphingirl47
09-21-2009, 02:44 AM
Think my sister is interested in either, but with Seaworld we could find the price, but could not with dicovery cove. Which did you prefer? My sister is totally dolphin mad :lmao:

I love them both. I think if you have never done anything like this before, then I think Discovery Cove might be the better option. Marine Mammal Keeper Experience at Sea World will cost $399 plus tax and Trainer for a Day at Discovery Cove will cost $488 plus tax. Here is what you get for your money:

Trainer For a Day
Indulge your love for animals like never before with this one-of-kind Discovery Cove experience. Get to know our dolphins even better as a Trainer for a Day. It's an all-inclusive Discovery Cove day with some exciting extras:

* A Discovery Cove gift bag, complete with waterproof camera and trainer t-shirt.
* Our signature 30-minute dolphin session, including an enhanced deep-woter dolphin interaction with only eight guests in an entire lagoon.
* Take an amazing ride called a "double-foot push" as two dolphins propel you through the lagoon.
* Capture memories in a private, individual photo session with two dolphins.
* Go on a behind-the-scenes tour featuring dolphin back-areas.
* Spend the day with a trainer - ask questions and learn what it's like to work with animals.
* 14-consecutive day pass to either SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa, or Aquatica.

All day long, you'll also have unlimited access to the Tropical Reef, Explorer's Aviary, Serenity Bay, and the Wind-away River.

I will post some trip reports from both programmes in a minute.

Corinna

dolphingirl47
09-21-2009, 02:45 AM
Discovery Cove Trainer for a Day

14th November 2007

This was the day I had been looking forward to for months. Not only was it my birthday, but it was also the day on which we headed to Discovery Cove. This was our fifth visit to Discovery Cove and this year we both did the Trainer for a Day package. Normally Graham just goes for the Non Dolphin Swim Package as he loves sitting in the aviary.

We got there nice and early and got checked in straight away. As we were there so early, we had to wait a little until we were met by the trainers. As the reception area is so beautiful, this was not a hardship. At 8:30 on the dot the trainers appeared. This year there were 22 people taking part in the programme and they split us into three groups. Last year I was all by myself and although this was an amazing experience, I actually prefer being with a group.

We were just about to head off to the park proper when one member of staff came into the reception area with a sloth. So we stopped and met the sloth and found out a bit more about these strange, but cute animals. Then we were on our way. We had a complimentary photo taken and then it was off to breakfast.

Over breakfast we had the chance to get to know the rest of the group and for our trainer to find out what we already knew about Discovery Cove. Then it was time to get changed into the wetsuits. First up was the aviary. This is normally one of my favourite parts of the day, but they had a photo shoot for Sports Illustrated in the main part of the aviary which meant that we could not get into there. Still, we spent some time in the large bird aviary and in the small bird sanctuary, before we were collected for a tour.

This element was new. We had a water quality tour and learned a lot about the operational aspect of the park. This was really fascinating. 6 people in our group were adults and we had a teenager as well and I think all of this group found this really interesting. We also had a 6 year old girl and she was bored stiff. Throughout the day, I got the impression that 6 years is really to young for the Trainer for a Day programme. I think they should raise the minimum age to 13 in line with similar programmes at the Seaworld Parks.

After the water quality tour we got to meet some of the less well know residents of Discovery Cove. We met a giant Tortoise, an Armadillo and a tiny owl. Those meet and greets took place on a secluded part of the beach. I much preferred this to what they used to do when the animal interactions took place in the animal care area behind the scenes. This was always quite cramped. All three animals were out at the same time so the group naturally spread out. I learned loads of interesting facts about the animals. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Owley the owl, Shermann the giant tortoise and to the cute Armadillo whose name I have forgotten.

After a quick locker stop, it was then time for the part of the day I was looking forward to most: the dolphin swim! There were no great surprises as I have done this so often now and know all the behaviours that we got to experience. Still, it will always be an amazing experience to be so close to one of these wonderful animals. I could not believe my luck when I found out that we were going to be with Capricorn. Capricorn is their oldest (at 40 years) and biggest (at 800 pounds) dolphin and he is a real sweetheart. I swam with him back in 2005 and he is probably my favourite of the dolphins currently at Discovery Cove. Capricorn is a retired show dolphin and it is obvious how he loves to be with people and to perform. Doing the dorsal tow with him is absolutely amazing. He is such a powerful animal that he does not even seem to notice that there is a human attached to his dorsal fin and flipper. I have never enjoyed this part of the interaction so much before. I was absolutely in awe. Towards the end of our interaction we switched dolphins and got to meet Capricorns grandson Nate.

At the end of the interaction proper, the other groups left the lagoon and we had the chance to have some photos taken with Nate and CJ. CJ is a special dolphin as he is half bottlenose and half common dolphin. He is cute as a button. Soon it was time to say goodbye to the dolphins and head for lunch. Lunch was a leisurely affair and a welcome opportunity to just chat as a group. After lunch we had about 30 minutes free time before we had to meet at the stingray pool. From there we went behind the scenes to meet the sharks.

Before we always got to feed the sharks, but they have changed this part of the programme. Now you get to touch a Nurse Shark that is sitting on the lap of one of the staff at a submerged ledge. This is one experience I could do without. I am not overly keen on sharks and sitting on a higher ledge bending down trying to reach the shark did not fill me with joy. I know that the sharks that they have there probably do not pose any dangers to humans at all, but I was still glad once I had my feet firmly back on the ground. Then it was on to feed the stingrays. They are another animal that I have a bit of a phobia about. I can just about tolerate them swimming around me and touching me with their wings, but when I was offered fish to feed them with, I blankly refused.

The next feeding session was all together more pleasant. We got the chance to feed the tropical fish in the corral reef. We suddenly had loads of colourful friends. After this feeding session we had about 75 minutes of free time. Graham and I slowly floated along the Tropical River and then lounged on the rocks in the resort pool.

Soon it was time to meet up again on the beach by the dolphin lagoon for our enhanced dolphin interaction. We were given the choice of three different experiences: a fast ride hanging on to the dorsal fins of two dolphins, a belly ride and a double foot push. I have done the fast ride a few times and last year I had the opportunity to experience the belly ride. So for me there was no doubt that I wanted to try the foot push. We were equipped with life jackets and swam out to the deepest part of the lagoon. While we were waiting our turns, we got to interact with one of their younger dolphins, Kayleigh. Kayleigh has just started to do full interactions and is a real cutie. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Kayleigh and swim to the middle of the lagoon where I was told to just lie on my front with my legs behind me and the knees straight. Before I knew what was happening I could feel my feet making contact with the rostrums of two dolphins. This was quite an uncomfortable as the rostrums of the dolphins are very hard and they put enormous pressure on your feet. Still, it is a real buzz to move through the water at speed being pushed along by two dolphins. I would not have missed this for the world. After another photo session, I stepped back and got another chance to interact with Capricorn while the others did their enhanced interaction.

This should have been the end of the structured programme, but two people had arrived late and missed meeting the sloth at the beginning of the date. Once they mentioned this, our trainer radioed the small mammal department and they arranged to meet us on the beach with a sloth and an anteater. After this we had about two hours left to enjoy the park on our own.

We headed straight to the aviary where we spent the rest of the day feeding the birds and playing perch. Graham had made friends with a mouse bird last year and spent a large part of the day sat in the aviary with a mouse bird on his shoulder. The same mouse bird (Captain Jack) made a beeline for him as soon as we sat down and did not move for over an hour. This time he was joined by a cockatiel on the other shoulder. I also gained some friends. I was so peaceful to just sit there and get a real close look of the birds. We had an absolutely amazing day that was over all too soon. We picked up our photos and I got myself a souvenir and then it was time to leave. We will most certainly be back next year!

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dolphingirl47
09-21-2009, 02:59 AM
Marine Mammal Keeper Experience at Seaworld Take One

22nd November 2007

I will never forget my first ever Thanksgiving. I had a really early start as I had to be at Seaworld for 6:15 am. I had signed up to do a Marine Mammal Keeper Experience. Of course as we stayed literally across the road from Seaworld and I was so excited, I was there about 6:00. I was able to sit down at the security office and watched the world go by.

At just before 6:30 I was met by the member of animal care staff that I shadowed for the day. It turned out that I was the only participant that day. We hit the floor running. She quickly introduced me to some of the team and I had the chance to put my backpack into the office and then it was off to bottle feed an orphaned baby manatee. This was such an amazing experience. They are surprisingly heavy for a relatively small animal. I had her cradled in my left arm and held the bottle with the right. Considering that I did this leaning over the edge of the pool this was not the easiest thing to do.

Once the little Manatee was fed, I got to meet 4 male dolphins that are in a pool behind the scenes at the moment. I got to feed and interact with one of them who has just been moved from Discovery Cove and is there to get used to the routines at Seaworld. Once we were finished with the boys, we went and did the same with the two girls. One is there for medical reasons and the other to keep her company. Again I got to feed and interact with one of them.

Next up were the otters and I got to observe a couple of otters with their babies and then hand feed some other otters that have retired from the sea lion and otter show and now live behind the scenes.

After that it was back to the manatees to dish out the food to the older rescued manatees. It is amazing just how much lettuce they go through. Two of them are due to be released into the wild this winter.

At this stage the park was still not open to the public and we had a look at the dolphin cove and manatee exhibits before the masses descended. Then it was time to get changed into my wetsuit. The next part was not all that glamorous. I had the pleasure with the fish house. Now, I do detest fish, but unfortunately most marine mammals are fish eaters. My task was to prepare the lunch for the otters. I had to remove the heads and then cut up the fish into bite size pieces. It was kind of gross, but it needed doing. Making up formula for the two bottle-fed manatee orphans was altogether more pleasant.

Once we had done that we went to feed and interact with the dolphin boys behind the scenes again and I got to bottle-feed the other baby manatee.

Then it was over to Dolphin Cove to do two training sessions with their main dolphin population. I worked with a beautiful female dolphin called Maddison at the interactive wall and then I went over to where they have scales for the dolphins and was helping to train the dominant male of the pod to slide onto the scales and to stay there until he was signaled to leave. From there it was back behind the scenes for another feed for the two female dolphins.

Next up was a completely new experience for me. I got to interact with one of the Beluga Whales. They are so different from dolphins, but so cute. I got to kneel beside the pool and got to kiss, touch and feed one of the Belugas. They feel completely different from dolphins. They are kind of squishy whereas dolphins are just rubbery. While we were at Wild Arctic I also got to interact with two of the seals that they have there. Then it was time to get changed out of then wet suit and showered.

As it was Thanksgiving there was a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the staff and I was invited to go along as well. After dinner, we went to the dolphin nursery, but the dolphins had already had their lunch and were not really interested in us. It was still fascinating to observe the mothers and their calves.

Then it was over to the sea lion and otter stadium, where I met some baby seals and a baby sea lion as well as three of the older sea lions that can no longer compete for food with the group due to poor eyesight and are fed separately. Then it was on to the feeding frenzy proper: feeding the sea lions at the community pool! I have never had so many best friends before. I had to scrub buckets and help with area clean up for the feeding session.

After this we went back to Wild Arctic where I got to meet the Walruses and even got a hand kiss from one. I also met an old friend from my childhood again. They have a polar bear at Seaworld that was at Frankfurt zoo when I was a child. She is getting really old now, but it was nice to observe her having some fun fishing for trout.

This should have concluded a really wonderful day and all that was left to do was look at the photos that were taken. Unfortunately they all had turned out blurred. So the supervisor was called and she said she would try if she could rescue them. She then arranged another poolside dolphin interaction for me so that I would at least have some photos if they could not improve the quality of the other photos. I got three complimentary prints of the photo taken from that interaction and they then also gave me prints of the photo that I had chosen, plus a CD with every photo that was taken that day completely free of charge. Even though the picture quality is still less than perfect, this is an awesome gift.

dolphingirl47
09-21-2009, 03:11 AM
Marine Mammal Keeper Experience at Seaworld Take Two
It was a 5 am start for us that morning. We had booked the Marine Mammal Keeper experience and needed to be at Seaworld for 6:15. We booked a taxi for 5:30 the previous night and the taxi actually came early. We had no clear idea how long the journey to Seaworld would take that time of the morning and we already got there at 5:45. We sat outside the security building for a while and then headed inside to wait for the member of staff that we would be with for the day.

When I did this last Thanksgiving, I was by myself and I hoped that it would be just DH and me. However, that was not meant to be as just as we were collected, the third person appeared. She was also from the UK. The member of staff that we would spend the day with was the same person who I did the dolphin interaction with last time. Once he checked our paperwork and took our t-shirt sizes, we headed behind the scenes.

We stopped at the record keeping building and locked our bags away. We were then shown how records are kept and that they simultaneously do a paper version and a computer version. Then it was time to head to the Manatee medical pool. They currently have a number of young Manatees in there that are ready for release. One of them was the Manatee that I bottle fed last time. He had grown so much. We fed them with romaine lettuce. They got 6 boxes of the stuff and that was just breakfast!

Once the manatees were fed, we went over to one of the dolphin pools back stage, where they had 5 female dolphins, 2 of which had come over from Discovery Cove. We were each paired up with a member of staff and a dolphin. I got to work with Bossa, who is one of the Discovery Cove dolphins. I got to feed her breakfast, touch her, got a kiss and got to give her various hand signals for different behaviours. We then headed over to the second pool, where three male dolphins are. One of them has a lung condition that is similar to asthma and the dust from the building site for Manta, that is relatively close by, was making this worse. So they decided to take him out back and so that he does not get lonely, two other dolphins joined him. Those three boys where so funny, again we got to feed them and go through various behaviours with them and got plenty of opportunity to touch them.

Then it was on to the otters. They are really cute, but they do stink. We were told a bit about the species and about the animals in particular. They have two pairs in that area and their characters are completely different. One pair is really laid back, but very tactile and we got to touch them through the wire. The other pair is much more energetic. It was great to watch them.

We were then shown the animal ambulance and the boat that they use for rescues and were talked through the rescue process. This was something new for me as the last time; they actually had to go out on a rescue while I did the programme.

We got on the golf cart and headed to the park proper. This was still before the park officially opened and once again I was blown away how quiet and peaceful the park is early in the mornings. We got a quick look at the building site for Manta as they were just packing up in preparation for the park opening. Then we headed over to the Manatee exhibit, where we got to feed the Manatees there. Unlike the Manatees backstage, who are just fed romaine lettuce, they get a wider variety of green things. This morning it was spinach and romaine lettuce. We were standing on the rocks at the back of the exhibit while feeding them and getting there was somewhat tricky, especially if you have problems with your balance like I have. Still, it was worth it for seeing the animals so close. Once they were fed, we headed for the underwater viewing area and we learned a bit about each animal in the exhibit: what they were called, why they had come to Seaworld, what caused the injuries that they had and how long they had been there.

On our way backstage, we stopped at the dolphin underwater viewing area and watched the divers clean off the algae from the artificial coral and the rocks. We also were checked out by some of the dolphins, which to my immense surprise were not in the least interested in the divers.

We headed backstage and were shown the fish house. We were told how the fish arrives and how it is defrosted and saw the freezer and the cold store. We were shown the boards on which they keep records of what each animal needs every day. Matt explained to us what every type of animal eats. They all get a varied diet with various types of fish, plus squid and some animals also get shrimp and shellfish. They make up the meals for all marine mammals at Seaworld and Aquatica at that fish house, with the exception of the killer whales as the Shamu stadium has its own fish house. Discovery Cove also has its own fish house.

We headed over to the second Manatee pool where they have a very young animal at the moment. He was rescued when his umbilical cord was still attached. They don’t know if his mother was killed or just abandoned him. As he is still so young and there were three of us, we were not able to bottle-feed him, but we were allowed to gently touch him while Matt was feeding him. He was like a human baby in the respect that he liked to explore with his mouth and to chew. We were allowed to old out a finger and he would suck on in. It was very interesting to feel the bristles that Manatees have around their mouth.

Then we were off again and headed to the opposite end of the backstage area. We passed right underneath Kraken. We got changed into our wetsuits and booties and then headed over to Dolphin Cove. The staff was just getting prepared for the morning session. We were shown how they give the dolphins their vitamins (hidden in the gills of a nice big fish) and they explained to us how the session works.

We then headed out to the poolside and DH and I were supposed to work with the dominant male Hekili. Initially, he was as good as gold and allowed us to touch him and showed off for us. Unfortunately another dolphin was in a mischievous mood and it was decided to give the dolphins some time out and to break the session.

In the meantime, Hekili had found himself some other entertainment. Being the dominant dolphin brings a lot of responsibility with it. He has to keep all the younger males in line and also ensure that nobody questions his status. I don’t know what trouble he sensed, but he rounded up all the young males in the shallows in the beach area and was patrolling the access to deeper water. It was fascinating to watch. As he did not interfere with the session for the other dolphins that were involved in the morning session, the other staff just carried on. When Hekili finally returned to us, we had the chance to give him a fish each and then the end of the session was called.

We met up with our partner in crime again and were met by another member of staff who took us out towards the other end of Dolphin Cove where the scale is. They had planned an unstructured play session with Hekili and an older female dolphin called Starkey. True to form, Hekili was too busy to bother with us, but Starkey enjoyed all the attention she got all the more. We had a great time with her. Towards the end of the session, we gave her a signal and she was sliding out onto the ledge by the wall so that the people who were standing her could touch her. I had seen this happen many a time when I have been standing by the wall and always thought that this was completely spontaneous, but it is actually a trained behaviour and they do this regularly so that even people who do not want to buy the fish for the feeding sessions can touch and interact with a dolphin.

Soon it was time to say good-bye to Starkey and head back to the interactive wall of Dolphin Cove, where we were met by Matt. He took us over to the dolphin nursery, where I had two lovely surprises. Becca, who I worked alongside with last year, was going to work with DH and me and the dolphin we were working with was Dash. Dash is a former Discovery Cove dolphin and she was the first dolphin I ever swam with. I really love her. She was moved to Seaworld in 2002 as she had learned to open to gates that separate the lagoons at Discovery Cove and was teaching the other dolphins to open them as well. As this caused chaos on nearly a daily basis, they had decided to move her. Dash is extremely tactile and loves to interact with humans. She had a calf in August 2007 and she should have been moved back to Dolphin Cove, but her calf had not really shown any interest in fish up until a few days before. They only move mother and calf once the calf is solely relying on fish. So being able to work with Dash really made my day. We went through some of the common behaviours like flips and breaches with her and got a kiss and a hug. We also fed her her lunch and gave her plenty of rubdowns.

I would have happily spent the rest of the day with Dash, but they were waiting for us at Wild Arctic. There had been a bit of a delay and one of the staff there took us out to the public area to introduce us to some of the animals. I was a little concerned that one of the polar bears, Johnny, was out in the exhibit on his own. That was also the case when we were at Seaworld on the weekend. Normally he spends his days with his partner in crime Liebchen. Liebchen originally came from Frankfurt zoo via another German zoo and Detroit. I remember going to see Liebchen at the zoo, when I was a child. I know that there had been a health scare involving her last year and the feeling was that she would not live much longer. When I did not see her twice running, I was worried that she had died, but fortunately the two bears had just fallen out. She had recovered from her health scare and they think she has many years to come.

They were ready for us and we headed to backstage area of the Beluga exhibit. Last year they had three male Belugas and were hoping to get a female companion for them. This had happened a week or so earlier and the female and one of the males was in a separate pool out back. DH and I were teamed up with one member of staff and Aurek. Last year I was working with Klondike so it was nice to meet another Beluga friend. Aurek was described to us as a bottlenose dolphin in a Beluga body. He loves doing behaviours that are more commonly done by dolphins. We started with giving him a rub down and feed him some fish. We then got a kiss, a flipper shake, were holding flippers and had him jump up to touch our hand and hold this position for a few seconds. We got him to show off a few behaviours like a tail walk, flips and breaches and then we repeated the behaviour where we held out our hand and he had to touch it, but this time standing up. All too soon it was time to say good-bye and go over to see the seals.

They have three seals at Wild Arctic that are not on display, but incredibly cute: a harbour seal and two harp seals. We got to meet the harp seals and they showed us various behaviours that they are training the seals to do. Apparently they are the best-trained harp seals in the world, as other facilities generally don’t do any training with them. They are currently working on foot pushes with them and I have the distinct feeling that it is only a question of time until we see a seal interaction programme at Seaworld.

While we were waiting for Matt to come back for us, they showed us how they prepare the vitamins for the seals, Belugas and Walruses. The seals and Belugas have their vitamins hidden in fish, but the Walruses have been trained to just swallow them by the handful.

Matt had radioed over that he had been delayed picking up our lunch and one of the staff from Wild Arctic walked us over to the changing rooms so that we could get changed out of our wetsuits and showered. Once we were all done, Matt had returned with our lunches. I was very impressed. They had asked us for our allergies on the paperwork and they had taken this into account. For instance, I got an apple instead of a banana and DH got a sugar cookie instead of a chocolate chip cookie. We are used to just swapping the food that one of us can’t eat. The lunch was huge. We got a huge deli sandwich on a croissant, potato salad, pasta salad, a piece of fruit and a cookie. We were sitting at the tables in the hospitality house to eat our lunch and had an hour to do so. On the way there we had picked up some soft drinks at the staff canteen.

As we were there anyway, we decided to sign up for the Brewmaster’s Club for later that afternoon. DH was at first not too convinced, but as this might well be the last chance that we got to do this, he decided to join me for this.

After lunch, we headed to the Sealion and Otter stadium. We first got to meet some older sea lions that are retired and kept in their own pen backstage. We were allowed to feed them. We then fed some sea lions that are still in the main exhibit, but are fed in a different area due to issues with their eyesight before heading out to the exhibit proper to feed the sea lions there. Talk about a feeding frenzy! The water was positively boiling. While I was feeding the sea lions from my bucket, a boy came up to me and asked me to get out of the way so that he could reach the bucket. Big mistake! He ended up with a bit of a lecture. Once the buckets were empty and we stank of fish, we headed back to the prep area and washed our hands and arms before heading back to Wild Arctic.

W headed over to the viewing den for the Polar Bears. They have four dens backstage with gates between each of them that are in turn connected to the exhibit. We were there just as they moved the bears around. This was fascinating to watch and we had an explanation on what process they followed to move the bears. They only have one set of keys for the gates so that no accidents can happen due to more than one member of staff unlocking gates in different areas.

Once the bears had been moved, we headed over to the Walruses. They have two Walruses there: Dozer and Garfield. First they got Dozer out of the exhibit and he was fed in a separate area. Then we headed over to the back entrance to the exhibit where we met Garfield. Garfield is the older of the two and has issues with his eyesight. That is the reason why they are fed in different areas so that Garfield does not have to compete with Dozer for his food. Once Garfield was fed, we each got a hand kiss from him. Those animals are so ugly that they are already cute again.

With this the programme was over and we went back to the changing rooms to get out stuff from the lockers. We filled out a short survey and were given a t shirt and a book about working with marine mammals and then we were dropped at the photo viewing desk. We got a complimentary photo and we bought a CD with all the photos.

eeyorefanuk
09-21-2009, 01:33 PM
Thank you dolphingirl47 (I wonder do you like dolphins :lmao:)

Very kind of you to sort all that for me, I will email my sister the details

:goodvibes

dolphingirl47
09-21-2009, 04:51 PM
Thank you dolphingirl47 (I wonder do you like dolphins :lmao:)

Very kind of you to sort all that for me, I will email my sister the details

:goodvibes

Me... liking dolphins... What on earth gave you that idea? ;)

Dolphins are definitely my favourite animal and looking forward of getting to interact with them again keeps me going throughout the year. For our upcoming holiday I have a dolphin swim at Cozumel and a day at Discovery Cove planned.

Corinna

s.and.s
09-22-2009, 07:51 AM
Beep, Beep, Beep goes the alarm at 5:45 in the morning but I’m already up. It’s always the way; if you set the alarm you wake up beforehand and if you don’t, you sleep right through. Normally on holiday, save for the first few days as jet lag unwinds, there is no such thing as 5:45 in the morning but today is different. It’s a 6:30 start for Sea World’s Marine Mammal Keeper Experience. Strategically placed in the Hilton Garden Inn across the road, it’s a short walk in the dark to the edge of Sea World’s main car park, then a much longer one through two others to reach the employee entrance. I’m still early so I sit in the security office chatting to the security men, a steady stream of employees swiping their way though to the tune of “Have a good one”. As 6:30 approaches no other bleary eyed guests have appeared so when Nick, a Sea World Zoologist, shows up it seems I’m the only one on the tour today. We jump on a buggy for a drive though the park. So nice to speed along the empty paths that later will be filled with guests trudging through the scorching sun.

The first behind the scenes stop is a look at the holding and quarantine pools. Often it is necessary to move an animal into shallow water for inspection and treatment. Draining a pool or getting an animal into a sling is a lot of work so some pools have a false, slatted floor that can be gently raised to bring the animal safety to the surface and give access. I watch as a Manatee is given its first bottle of the day. Lettuce floats on the surface as Manatees are vegetarians. This apparently results in a certain amount of internal gas which can affect their buoyancy so their feed and medication is adjusted as required to alleviate the worst effects. Manatees are related to elephants and you can see that their nose does resemble the end of an elephant’s trunk. They certainly “Hoover” up plenty of food with it. Nick explains Sea World’s and other organisation’s role in rescuing marine animals in distress. They are on call to treat in situ or, if necessary, capture injured animals and bring them back for treatment. There are many rules and regulations about what can be done. The law says animals should be returned to the wild after treatment but there is pressure for change since some animals, even after treatment, might not be fully able to look after themselves when released. Animals are often tracked after release; not the tiny microchip you get in domestic pets but very large looking transmitter buoys.

Next is a quick visit to a dolphin holding pool for a game of catch; throwing one of the many plastic toys which the dolphin likes to return. This dolphin has been separated because she is being sent to Berlin. Many of the dolphins in the park are related so moving dolphins between institutions helps with the “gene pool”. Later I would see the rig used for transporting the dolphin; a sling arrangement in a water tank. Keepers accompany the dolphin to ensure that it stays the right way up. The water is necessary to help support the dolphin as they are unable to support themselves on dry land for long periods. This is the reason many beached animals come to grief. If they do no get back into the water they “collapse” under their own weight. There are also cages for seals and sea lions. These have to be big enough to allow the animal to turn around but not too big that they can injure themselves.

Next comes the first big decision of the day; what sandwich filling would I like for lunch. Then it’s a quick buggy ride to the changing rooms by Wild Arctic to squeeze into a wetsuit before returning to the pools where there is a dolphin suffering from a bronchial condition. The keepers have a nebuliser type contraption, built from the plastic tubes pet mice run around in, to treat it. I accompany the keepers into the water and watch while they use a net to separate the dolphin from the others and maneuver it onto a foam mat in a shallow part of the pool. The dolphin has become used to this and remains fairly still. Four keepers steady him by keeping their bodies touching the dolphin. This means if the he does thrash about the motion would simply push them away rather than crashing into them. They constantly reassure the dolphin and I join in, gently splashing water over it. The “mouthpiece” of the nebuliser of course goes over the dolphin’s blowhole. After around 10 minutes a final injection is given and the job’s done for another day.

Taking samples is a common occurrence as the health of the animals is constantly monitored. This can be simplified by training the animals to give voluntary samples. They are taught to lie still while the vets find a vein for a blood test and even “peeing” on demand to provide a urine sample. Imagine what would happen if the wrong signal was given during the Shamu show; it gives a whole new meaning to the term “splash zone”. By this time there’s a heavy early morning downpour but for once I don’t mind – I couldn’t get much wetter anyway. A large delivery of lettuce cartons (for the manatees), however, is getting wet so we see it safely into one of the large chilled store rooms.

We then visit the main dolphin pool in the park (still too early for visitors) for feeding time. The office is full of boards and paperwork giving the dietary requirements of each dolphin and recording how much food they eat. Various buckets of fish are produced. If medication is required these are pushed inside a fish. The pectoral fins are removed so the trainers can see which are the medicinal fish in the bucket, and then the dolphins are called over for the grub. The fish supplied to guests during the day to feed the dolphins are just snacks but whether or not a particular dolphin eats them is still monitored as a lack of appetite might indicate a problem.

Next there comes news that an otter may have given birth overnight. Apparently its very difficult to tell if they are pregnant. A tentative peak inside the hutch shows a small grey bundle nesting up to mum and a proud father stalking the neighborhood. Just the one it seems but there is some debate whether another might follow that night; it’s happened before.

Back at a holding pool there’s a 2 month old baby manatee. Its weight has to be checked each day to make sure is growing properly so it's into the water again. The keepers nudge it into a sling and I get to help lift it from the pool. The sling is then hung from a mobile scale and the details recorded then it's gently returned to the pool. Cute or what?

Nearby is one of the boats used for rescuing animals at sea. It is unconventional with the motor at the front, making handling tricky, so that the stern with its removable panel it left free. Inside is a large net that can be let out. The net unfolds very quickly so staff are taught to grip it with their fists rather than fingers since anything getting caught in the net would be dragged out of the boat too.

Off to the food preparation area to make up a bottle for one of the manatees. We mix up the required recipe similar to powdered baby milk with various supplements etc in carefully measured quantities specific to each animal and whisk it all up. All the preparation area then has to be washed down immediately. Hygiene is very important with such areas generally being stainless steel and cleaned several times every day. The freezer store contains boxes of fish etc which can be stored up to a year. Next door is chilled room where the prepared fish is kept for each animal. A team comes in at 2 am to distribute the fish and then prepare the next day’s portions. Here fish can only be kept for 3 days. I asked whether, after 3 days, the unused fish is then served to guests in the restaurants but apparently not, it’s disposed of.

We pass by the various labs and medical facilities where 3 full time vets and their staff treat the animals, test the water several times a day etc. There is x-ray and ultrasound equipment, though its tough getting through all the blubber. The water is carefully monitored and salinity levels etc adjusted to meet the needs of the different animals. They will also be responsible for the animals at the new Aquatica Water Park. Necropsies are also performed here since it is important to know what may have caused an animal’s death.

Now it’s back to the main dolphin pool. The park is open by now so we walk through the public areas hoping no-one thinks I work there and starts asking awkward questions about the mating habits of jellyfish or the whereabouts of the nearest restroom. One of the trainers takes me in the back way to the pool and we step across a large flat metal plate (actually a scale for weighing the dolphins) and sit on a ledge, feet dangling in the water. A succession of dolphins is sent across under the control a various hand-signals and a high pitch whistle. Of course I get squirted and there are lots of photo opportunities. Needless to say a Sea World photographer is present but who knows on how many people’s holiday snaps you get immortalised in doing this. We give signals to the dolphins and they do their tricks. Correct behavior is rewarded by a fish. At one point a dolphin did clamp his teeth, albeit gently, around my foot so that was considered “incorrect behavior” so no fish that time. Then I meet some more staff who take me down to the public underwater viewing area complete with basketballs. Tapping these on the glass brings the Dolphins swimming over, fascinated by the rhythm. The keeper then bounces the ball back and forwards to a girl in the audience and the dolphins follow its path back and forth as if watching an aquatic tennis match.

Atlantis had been closed a few days earlier when we visited. They called it a technical problem which looked very much like a large crane removing one of the rails. I had mentioned this in passing earlier in the day so when Nick returned he said we could sneak on now. The ride does warn people they may get wet. Just how wet may have been going through the minds of the guests in the boat behind us as two guys in full wetsuits climbed aboard. Next was a restroom break which of necessity takes somewhat longer than normal; definitely not a time to get a zip stuck.

Another buggy trip back towards Wild Arctic and we pass the rear side of Kraken. The metal support legs are actually filled with sand to dampen the mechanical noise made by the ride so as not to disturb the nearby Pacific Point Preserve area, although it can’t mask the screams. We pass large filtration systems. Different areas, Wild Artic, Shamu etc, have then own systems. A large reservoir is behind Kraken, which had to be moved when Atlantis was added and then again for Kraken. Water from, say, Shamu stadium could be piped here if it ever needed draining. Any excess seawater from the park would have to be desalinated before it could be pumped into any public system. Then it’s on to Wild Arctic as its time to get close to the Beluga Whales. I meet one of the trainers and we enter the habitat over the small wooden bridge onto the “ice shelf” where you see the whales after exiting the simulator ride. Fortunately you don’t get fully into the water as it’s incredibly cold but there’s plenty of interaction and, yes, more fish feeding (and photos).

Finally its lunch time so it’s a hot shower and back into street clothes, a water proof jacket at the ready as the sky looks a little threatening. Lunch is an enormous ham and cheese deli sandwich in the staff canteen. This was previously one of the park restaurants and one of the few remaining original structures from when the park first opened. Since staff members are generally in some sort of uniform it's easy to see each group flocking together at the tables. Suitably refreshed it’s off to the sea lion pens at the rear of Clyde and Seamore show. Having just got clean it's more handfuls of fish. The technique is to grip the tail of the fish in your fist and drop them down into the expectant jaws. The animals tend to swallow fish head first to avoid the scales catching. Some of the animals' eyes appear milky white. It seems marine mammals, having no eyelids, secrete oily mucus to stop the cornea drying out. The sea lions are also prone to cataracts and one I saw was scheduled for corrective surgery. Here too metal scales are imbedded in the floor. We then go round front to the public side of the pool armed with two buckets of fish. Donning the waterproof jacket as precaution I am encouraged to heave fists full of fish into the pool producing a splashing stampede of sea lions leaping up for the goodies. Great fun. At some point, however, a fish scale managed to find its way under a finger nail. No pain but tricky to get out but a slight detour to the first aid room where some head scratching produced tweezers and a magnifying glass. A bit of digging and the job was done.

We stop by the dolphin nursery pool in the park. In the wild many baby dolphins don’t live past six months. This is not such a problem in the parks but even so the superstitious keepers wait six months before naming the dolphins. The pool also holds an “Auntie” dolphin which takes some of the pressure off the new mothers. Then it’s the manatee pool. Nick calls to them and four massive hulks glide through the water to claim their “dog biscuit” looking snacks, sucked from our hands.

At Wild Arctic again we meet some more of the seals and sea lions. The seals are natural performers; just they way the waddle along on their flippers is fun. Then another keeper takes me to the rear of the Polar Bear habitat. This is a strictly zero contact visit. A huge bear “Johnny” lies safely snoozing behind the glass but the cuddly appearance belies a fast and very powerful beast. The keeper shows me an industrial strength plastic drum that he used as a toy; squashed like a paper cup, but also tells of watching him use his claws to carefully peel the skin off a melon before eating the inside. They can smell food through the ice too. Food can be dropped from above into the pens and they have even trained the bears to move towards the spot of light from a laser pointer as a way of moving them around the habitat.

Then it’s off to meet the walruses. The bars separating the various areas are wide enough for someone to step through, complete with bucket of fish, but plenty close enough to prevent the passage of the occupants. We reach a set of bars which look into the back of a cave leading onto the public area. The keeper calls for the walruses. Instantly the air is filled with their far from delicate voices. Then monstrous shadows appear on the cave wall like some old 50s monster B-movie but then two of the sloppiest, albeit huge, creatures come sliding into view. Poking their noses through the bars they respond to the keeper’s instructions. Their long teeth are used to pull themselves up onto the ice. Unlike the whistles and hand signals of the dolphins, these respond to verbal instructions. The keeper recons they are the smartest of all the animals. Lots of fish swallowing and hand kissing follows before I give the command “water” to send then gliding back into the pool.

After another hand wash, with what looks like industrial strength soap, its time to be driven back to the entrance to see what photos had been snapped (bought the CD). After 8 hours everything’s a blur and I’m not convinced the above is strictly in the original order. So a big thumbs up to Nick and all the keepers who helped make it such a wonderful experience.

heatherbelle
09-22-2009, 01:55 PM
There is a trainer for a day trip report on the Seaworld part of this website