|02-01-2008, 03:50 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2007
Ooo-de-lally Tour September 2007: Day 5 (Memories don't get much better than this...)
Saturday 22nd September: A day when a dream (or two) came true!
You have absolutely no idea how much I had been looking forward to this day. It is possibly the most excited I have ever been about anything - and I’m pretty sure M would say the same about…
I think I said in my pre-trippie that I am a water baby and was a bit excited about DC and swimming with a dolphin - this barely even hints at my frame of mind on the morning of our adventure... somewhere close to serenely happy but teetering on the the edge of unreason is the closest I can come to explaining
We were up at 7am and falling over ourselves to get everything together and be on the first trolly of the day to SeaWorld. We made it in good time and I had the pleasure of picking up the “Dolphin Phone” and requesting out free shuttle over to the Cove.
On arrival we realised that we should have got a cab and arrived even earlier as there was a bit of a queue to get in - it was only a ten minute wait however before we were having our pictures taken, being handed our lanyards & ID, and most importantly - being assigned a swim time of 1.35pm… HURRAH!!
They take a photo of you as you enter the park and you collect it later as a complimentary gift - we both had the CHEESIEST grins on our faces for that photo!
We had a short introductory talk which was pointless for me as I was a bit too preoccupied by the fact that we were actually standing in Discovery Cove to be able to listen! I caught the gist of it though - there is a map on the back of your ID card, go and find a locker and change into swim gear / collect snorkel and mask etc… I did not need telling twice.
Off we toddled and there was a bit of too-ing and fro-ing before M was happy with his swim gear. We both opted for a wetsuit vest as it was warm if not a little overcast. I was a bit worried about the possibility of lightening during our Dolphin Swim but figured there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. So, suited up and armed with our Panama Jack sun cream and snorkels we headed back up to the main beach area to nab some loungers and stow our gear before brekky.
We opted for some yummy pastries, juice and soda and enjoyed everything. There was lots of other choices as well but we were a bit to excited to eat much and also wanted to go in the water straight away so couldn’t overfill selves. Breakfast eaten and Panama Jack applied we finally got our first taste of what we came for, in the shape of the Ray Pool… and we LOVED IT! Spent quite a long time watching and touching the rays - I think they are just beautiful and it was a real treat to be up so close. Other people make me laugh though - wondering why the rays don’t go near them as they splash about screaming and generally being loud. We found that the likes of these people don’t venture in past the shallows so we managed to find ourselves a quieter spot in the deeper water, and at points were completely over-run with our new flat friends!
As fun as it was in the Ray pool we still had lots to experience and it wasn’t long before we headed over to the Corel Reef pool. Snorkelled straight over to the underwater viewing windows and took a good look at the sharks and barracuda (which are really quite menacing btw!) before being utterly floored by the sight of an ENOURMOUS ray gliding past me. I had no idea there were going to be such big rays to see, and in the process of trying to tell M I nearly drowned myself. Having realised speaking is much easier when your head is above the water I managed to communicate what I had seen and we set off round the reef to get a better look. Turns out there were lots of big rays… and different types too! My favourite were the spotted ones (possibly spotted eagle ray but don‘t quote me on that!) - they really are supremely graceful swimmers.
It actually felt quite busy in the reef pool - we did want to bring the underwater cameras in but decided we would wait and see if it got quieter later and opted to follow the lazy river round to the aviary area instead. We tried to feed the birds in the aviary but they obviously were not hungry as we had no takers! Still, we stayed for a little while spotting the different types and just taking it all in before our own stomachs started rumbling and we remembered that everything is free once you get inside Discovery Cove. Snack time!
M had some crisps and I went for cookies, oreos and a scrummy frozen lemonade thing (because I am a piggy). I had barely finished my snack before M donned his mask and literally ran into the lagoon pool. I hightailed it after him and found the water to be lovely and warm.
We splish splashed around a bit and then took a trip round the lazy river, looking at the underwater artifacts etc. This is all very nice but not nearly as good as the reef pool - it was time to get the cameras out and become REALLY frustrated with trying to capture each of us on film with a ray also in the frame. We did manage it but I’m telling you, underwater photography is a pain in the rear!
We were also both getting a bit highly strung as it wasn’t long till our dolphin swim. We did the sensible thing and gave up on the photography and headed over to the Dolphin area to prepare ourselves for our interaction. We had a squiz at the group before us so we knew what to expect and then walked over to Sand Dollar Cabana and signed in.
We had a short talk from one of the trainers followed by a video all about dolphins. After the video we were assigned to a group (I think ours was D) with a nice family, a single lady, and a little girl who was there with her parents but doing the swim on her own. We all trooped down to the water - there were three other groups of a similar size and we were nicely spread out around the lagoon.
And so started an amazing experience - the cheesy grins expanded even more as we are informed our Dolphin is to be the dominant male of the group - Akai. He was/is absolutely gorgeous - apparently if you see an advert for Discovery Cove it will be Akai as he is THE celebrity dolphin! He was big - 530lb - and had lots of scratches from scrapping with the other subordinate males. Lucky for us he seemed perfectly happy to share his lagoon with us though!
We all got to give him a back rub and then he and the other dolphins did a bit of showing off - leaping out of the water, doing tail walks etc. It was surreal to be so close as they did this - in a good way! Following on we had what can only be described as show and tell with a dolphin, and we got to learn lots of interesting things. This was a hands on show and tell - and it was amazing to be able to touch and feel Akai’s skin and fins. He was very accommodating - rolling onto his back and swimming slowly down the line of us when asked to, and also making noise as we listened under the water.
We then moved onto the photo section where everyone has individual and group photos taken. M made me laugh as the instructor told him to try to lift Akai - he didn’t quite manage it! They have photographers in the water with you, and they also video the whole interaction. We were aware that the photos were going to be expensive and had agreed before hand that we didn’t care as this could be one of those once in a lifetime things - we had budgeted for the full shebang as far as photos and DVD’s were concerned so hammed it up for the cameras as much as possible!
Our biggest opportunity to do this was next as it was time for the Dolphin Tow section of the interaction. For this you swim out in pairs and then Akai was sent to collect you and tow you back to shore. While the swimmers are preparing the rest of you get to talk to the trainer and spend time with your dolphin which was very cool. At one point as M and I waited our turn Akai came over and just hung in the water as we stroked his back - the trainer said he was very relaxed with us and seemed to like us which made my grin that little bit bigger (if possible!).
ANYWAY, it was out turn to swim next so we headed out into the deep water. Once there Akai was sent out and the trainer showed me how best to hold on… and then we were off! When you watch other people be towed it doesn’t look like they are going very fast, but when you are actually going along it feels like a million miles an hour! It was fantastic, and then it was nearly as good seeing M’s joyful face as Akai towed him towards me.
The experience culminated in the dolphins showing off a bit more - you get to learn some hand signals to ask them to do different things and then they all leap together which is really impressive. Sadly after this Akai waved goodbye and we had to leave the water. I considered refusing but did manage to drag myself away!
We had a look at the photos straight away and didn’t mess about - just ordered the advanced package that included everything, to be picked up later in the day. There are some lovely joint photos and pictures of M but he doesn't want his photo on the internet so unless I can convince him you will have to make do with just pics of little ole me!
It was 2.30pm and we were both starving so excitedly discussed our dolphin experience over a lunch of Beachburgers, salad, fries, sodas, and some enormous slices of cake! M had lemon cake and I had chocolate cake. Everything was yummy and we were more than satisfied - I even had to leave some cake and that doesn’t happen often… I do have pictures of the food but they were taken on a waterproof camera so I cannot upload them I’m afraid.
Take my word for it - the cake was gooood!
We really were stuffed after our lunch so headed back to the dolphin area where it was confirmed that I am terrible at getting pictures of dolphins in mid air. It was fun to watch the other groups having their experiences - although I did keep wanting to jump in too. While I was gazing at the dolphins M went off to the shop to pay for and pick up our photo package which seemed to take quite a while. By the time we met up again on the beach it was time to start packing up. We had a quick last wade in the ray pool and then headed to the lockers to change before catching a cab back to the hotel.
On arrival in our room we immediately got out the photos to have a look and were very happy with what we had received. M had also bought a lovely Discovery Cove photo frame and a stingray soft toy for me as a surprise, along with our obligatory fridge magnet. He also mentioned that the photos weren’t as expensive as they should have been as we appear to have been given the DVD for free!
It had been a fabulous day and all we had left to do now was have ourselves a yummy dinner. Sadly I well and truly picked the wrong place - Ponderosa. I had heard lots about it and everyone else seems to like it, but we found it to be a bit odd and not very good quality compared to the other places we had eaten. A bit disappointed with our dinner we walked down to Midway fun park for a look around and watched people go on the insane slingshot thingy. There is no way you would get me on that! M was fine but by this time I was getting a little tired and cranky (sad that I hadn’t picked a better place for dinner) so we headed back to the hotel and went to bed to watch a bit of Medium - I had to turn it off before the end as I was too tired!
Highlights of the day? Too many to mention, but obviously the rays and our special buddy Akai. There is no doubting that it is expensive to go to Discovery Cove but for us it was well and truly worth every penny - and the photos and DVD are lovely to look back on too
The memory of this will make me grin forever:
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