A Visit to SeaWorld.

So…we decided to go to Seaworld this week.  This sounds odd, I guess as it’s a vacation destination for most people, but for me, it’s about a 20 mile drive, so it doesn’t require a lot of planning.

I’d never been there, but, I do not do well on amusement park rides, and SeaWorld doesn’t have very many of those, so I chose it over Universal Studios.

I always feel a little strange at these attractions. They have captive animals.  In principle I do not think it is right for animals to be kept in captivity, especially for the amusement of humans.   So this raises a bunch of ethical issues  which are not usually park of a fun day out with a friend.  In addition, SeaWorld Orlando is the site of the horrific death of a trainer, just about a year ago.   I will say,  I am not entirely sure of the value of keeping Orcas, or anything that enormous, in small pools.   See, Orlando is in Florida, but it is central Florida, not by any ocean, soooo these Orcas, live in Pools, not the actual ocean.  So, I had a lot of issues on my mind as I entered and actually paid for a season pass.   SeaWorld, having had some economic slumps after the bad press has a “Pay for a Day-Get in free for a Year” thing for Florida residents.

I will say that I had a good day and really enjoyed the park, and I do plan to return several times this year but I feel I probably should not.

But it really is a bit confusing to me!

So firstly, some photos….

The park is one big circle, but the map they give out it TERRIBLE.  We could never find anything the entire day and kept having to ask for directions.  I was most interested in seeing the actual Aquariums and such, but as luck would have it, we stumbled right into the Shamu area…the place where all the unfortunate trainer was killed last year.

So.  We watched the Shamu Show.   I was amazed by the show.  Several things struck me.  Firstly- the pool is not big at all.  I think that it may be about the same size across at the huge pool at my gym (which IS a very very large pool)  but of course it seems to be much deeper.

Secondly, the animals seemed to be having a good time.  Of course, I wonder, how exactly, would I determine that an animal is having a good time?  but, I was impressed at the focus of the trainers on the Orcas, and the obvious connection between the captives and their captors.

to the Left you can see one of the trainers giving a command to wave, and the Orca flapping a flipper.

The trainers spent a lot of time emphasizing that they never tell an animal what to do , they “Ask” .  And I do suppose frankly, if an animal that large does not want to do something…well…they surely don’t have to.

But at the same time.  the trainers have really tasty fish food….

so tasty that when one trainer left the snack box open,one of the egrets that had been hanging around for the whole show swooped right in and grabbed out some lunch!  I had wondered why these egrets that are normally not really into stadiums of people were just perched through all the whale jumping chaos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway.  The Whales are really large, and create quite a huge Sploosh when landing after all their incredible jumps….

And so I was sort of surprised at how small the performance arena was.  Towards the end, all of the Orcas for the show came out, I think it was 3 and were swimming about, and jumping and actually appeared to be playing a bit…but…again, I am not a marine mammal expert, and I am pretty sure most of the audience was not either.  It is pretty easy to believe these creatures are really content.  Many of them that were born at Seaworld may actually be quite content, but it still makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Well….Onwards.

Post Shamu…we started to explore the park more and found that they do have sanctuary for injured marine animals, and other endangered animals.  I was pleased to see that while they do bring animals out for the public to interact with the animals are not out for long periods of time.  In fact, the Lesser anteater was whisked away from me as I was still trying to examine him/her.  What an interesting creature.

The bird on the left is a Roseate Spoonbill.  I had no IDEA that SeaWorld raises them in captivity.  Yes they are threatened, but….I found it strange to see this one being trained etc..because  you can drive about 35 minutes to the East and see flocks of them in the wild, doing their Spoonbill thing.  Now, you can not see them every day…but I am so so glad I saw my first spoonbill in the wild.  They wild ones in Flight are much more impressive than this little Juvenille.  He was born apparently in the Texas Park and moved to Orlando.

 

I have to admit I enjoyed visiting the Turtle Island, which is an are that has Sea Turtles that have been injured….None of the turtles really interacted with the people and seemed rather intent on avoiding us, rather like turtles, so I really dont have a good photo to share.

We also really enjoyed the Sea Lion area.  Though I again sort of thought, well…I’ve seen this scene in the wild, in Northern California.

We arrived there at Feeding time.  The Sea Lions were funny as many of them would toss the fish up in the air several times before chowing down.

There seemed to be some interspecies staring contest going on in this area……

My favorite photo of the day came here, from an animal that is not a captive of the park:

I really love it when these birds puff up.  They do this out in the wild also and always remind me of people and hairdryers.

Anyway.   We did actually see some non-animal things.  I went on a Water flume ride, and survived.   My friend rode the Manta ride:

But I decided after reading some of the ride safety requirements, I would be better off on the ground.  I do not have any prosthetic appendages, but…anything that may rip them off a body…is probably something I should avoid.

I did get on a simulated Helicopter ride above the antartic sea.  I came extremely close to vomiting on a stranger.  I was actually considering vomiting in my tote bag, but luckily rides do only go on for so long.  I had broken out into a cold sweat and my friend was sort of patting me trying to make it ok.  I am just not made of strong stuff in the stomach area.

After the Helicopter ride we entered into the pretend Arctic research station.  There we saw Beluga Whales.  none of my whale photos came out so instead I am going to show you a Walrus.

They are large and difficult to photograph.  I was amazed at the size, this guy kept swimming away and then coming back to stare at us again.

I have to say I did enjoy seeing many of the animals, and I am sure that I will never see a Walrus in real life.  I also do believe SeaWorld is involved in a certain amount of conservation activities.  I do, however, think that the main point of the attraction remains profit, not conservation.

 

I always wonder what the trainers think of their jobs.  More than anyone I would think they would have an actue awareness of the aquatic world and of the animals levels of happiness etc.

I was never completely able to quite get that out of my mind, especially when I was looking at these large large animals in what seemed to be fairly small areas.

I will admit, I felt less concern when looking at the very cool leafy seadragons in a huge tank, and some of the Rays that had a lot of room to move.

All of the employees seemed very well informed about the animals they were around and they were more than willing to answer questions and share information.  And Indeed I noted several employees that use wheelchairs.  I was pleased about that because some places will hire wheelchair users and then hide them from the public, and that seems sort of unpleasant.

SO, yes, I’ll probably go back.  The next time around I will pack some Clif bars, rather than pay for some middling quality food that was outrageously expensive.  But I don’t think I’ll buy another ticket next year…I feel too much confusion about it already!

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6 thoughts on “A Visit to SeaWorld.

  1. Emmy says:

    Amazing pictures – egrets are such bold birds. Not much deters them, it seems. Good call on the ride, LOL, I remember when I would not hesitate to go on a roller coaster. Not anymore. Too scary.

    How do you know if an animal is happy? Great question. I think most people think that if an animal is running / swimming around activally and eating, they are “fine”. Really though, what choice do they have? They resign themselves to the life they are given.

  2. I have a somewhat conflicted feeling when it comes to places like Sea World and zoos. I enjoy looking at and learning about animals and think it’s important for kids and people of all ages to know about wildlife and respecting nature. So in that sense zoos are a bit better because the animals aren’t being used for “entertainment”. But I too don’t like the idea and concept of “caged animals”. And it’s usually unclear if the animals in these places are rescued or taken from their natural environment (although last summer when I went to our local small zoo there was an owl that was saved after an accident and being used for educational purposes – that I don’t mind at all).

    As far as whether the animals are happy I’d hope that the trainers are good enough to know. I’d like to think that we know when our dogs are happy because we know them so well. We can tell when they’re antsy after not doing much for a couple of days. We can tell when they’re happy and satisfied after playing with them and especially after going on a hike or something outdoors where they can run off leash. I guess I can only hope that in some ways all of these “caged animals” are spoiled in their own way by the people taking care of them.

  3. Great post. I spent a lot of time at Sea World here in SD during my first few years — as people would come to visit, we’d go to Sea World (and like you, I’d get the year pass). I’ve always enjoyed it — I don’t know if I’ve $75 enjoyed it, but it’s usually good fun.

    I also wonder whether I “shouldn’t” enjoy it as much as I do — and there is something creepy about using animals as entertainment. I mean, SW isn’t quite a circus, and it isn’t quite a zoo. And yet, they support a lot of education, outreach and conservation. In the balance, I think they do a good thing.

  4. I’ve been to the California Sea World twice, as a child myself and as a parent with three kids who love animals and specifically sea life. I don’t like the idea of animals trained to “do tricks” for human entertainment: but I thought it might be the only chance my children would have to see a killer whale or dolphin up close. My kids certainly had a great time, and they did learn a lot about ocean ecology and animals from the keepers and the displays, all in an amusement park setting.

    Much later however, my kids all went to college in the Northwest, and we discovered in Seattle the tour boats which brought humans face to face with wild killer whales off of Puget Sound. These whales didn’t do tricks, but they were still impressive. A couple of them who were apparently familiar with the tour boats came up to the side and gave us what I hope was a friendly smile. (They opened their huge jaws and showed their teeth.) Still later my younger daughter and I saw wild dolphins catching sardines off of the beach in San Francisco. She and I reminisced about that trip to Sea World, and this time she said she thought keeping intelligent animals like whales in captivity was wrong. I know not everyone will have the opportunity to see whales in the wild—those of us living on the Pacific coast are insanely lucky in that regard—but I wonder as we learn more about whale intelligence, how ethical it is to keep them in tiny concrete pools?

    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m trying to guilt-trip people. But I think a lot about how we relate to animals, and if there isn’t a better way to see wild ones than zoos and aquariums.

    • No, I agree with you. It seems just wrong to keep anything in something much smaller than their natural environment, and even if it is the only opportunity to see a creature, do we really need to see one that badly? I’m pretty torn on it. I get that seeing these creatures can be inspiring and raise interest, but is it worth the cost?

      though I will admit, that the enormous sea turtles that Seaworld rescued that were very injured and really could be returned to the wild were probably my favorite. I do not feel guilt because even I could see some of the turtles, with partial flippers would not do at all well in the wild. Plus they had adequate space to get away from me…
      but yeah, I’ll probably go back, even with my misgivings….

  5. I can completely understand your mixed emotions. Years ago I had visited a park in Massachusetts and the animals appeared bored and withdrawn. It was really depressing. I’ve also to been to other parks or zoos, including one here in Phoenix where the animals seem to be ‘happier’ if that makes sense. They seem to be alert and healthy. This is of course through my human eyes. Who knows how they are really feeling. Its hard to tell.

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