Having visited Seaworld Orlando as a child and absolutely LOVED it, and then later in life having cried along with Blackfish, I had mixed feelings about our visit to Seaworld San Diego. I don’t think there is any way to align my conflicting thoughts, but I think it’s OK to have conflicting thoughts, so I’m just going to write from both sides.
When we explained what Seaworld was, Arlo’s first thought, (after pedantically picking at the fact that it isn’t an entire world of sea), was “Are the tanks big enough to have killer whales in?”. He actually surprised me with this one, although I guess with his prior experience of whales on this trip, and through watching wildlife documentaries, Arlo has always seen them in their natural ocean environment. So, I approached our trip to Seaworld as a chance to explore those points with Arlo, to get him asking questions, and forming his own opinion.
I’ll start with telling you what the children loved about Seaworld San Diego: Basically, everything. Out of all the parks and attractions we visited in California, Seaworld is the one that they keep on talking about, even now. They belly-laughed along with the sea lion show, they were in their element in the Sesame Street Bay of Play (Seaworld’s HUGE kids play area), and they were mesmerised with the whales during our Dine With Shamu experience (sidenote: the buffet here was also one of the most varied and healthiest meals we’ve ever had at any theme park).
I think Arlo could have actually sat by the underwater viewing window of the killer whales’ tank for the entire day – I recognised a lot of myself in him in that moment.
Every Seaworld team member we talked to were so good with the kids. From the guy who patiently talked to Arlo for a good ten minutes in order to answer his not-so-straight-forward question of whether we should call a killer whale a whale or a dolphin, to the woman who led our behind-the-scenes tour . She was amazing at sparking Arlo’s thirst for wanting to learn more facts about the animals.
If you are interested to see what a day trip to Seaworld looks like, it features quite heavily in this video I made of our trip to California:
There is a lot to do at Seaworld. The park was running fairly short opening hours whilst we were there (10am-5pm). You could easily spend all that time just watching the shows and going on the rides, and that’s without even accounting for all the smaller (and cooler, in our opinion) exhibits. So, we had to be somewhat selective with what we chose to fit into our time there. We could definitely have filled another three hours, I reckon.
The behind-the-scenes tour was probably the highlight of our day at Seaworld. Because not only did the boys get to meet a penguin up close and personal and feed sea turtles, but we got to the HUGE area that is closed off to the public. There is so much rescue and conservation work going on back there, and I would have had NO idea it was even there if it hadn’t been for our tour. It’s not something you can see or be aware of at all when you are walking around the public areas of Seaworld.
Seaworld’s Stranded Animal Rescue Team rescues and rehabilitates animals in crisis. Whilst we were there, California was in the midst of a sea lion crisis – around 1,450 sea lions had appeared on the beaches of California in need of rescue. Seaworld took in a large number of those sea lions, and it was clear the conservation area still had its hands full dealing with the sea lions during our visit. I can’t remember the exact stats on the whiteboard (bad blogger!) but I think the figure was around 800 animals rescued and treated so far this year (Jan – May). By law, it is prohibited to capture sea lions in Californian waters so all sea lions are always treated with the aim that they will be rehabilitated.
The childhood me is still very much in total awe at being able to see these amazing animals in such an up close and personal way. But the grown up me would rather forgo this experience in favour of the whales being happy, with their families, in their home environment. Whales aside, we were really impressed with everything we saw at Seaworld. They have some really great informative attractions, and do so much valuable conservation work behind the scenes. The real strengths of the park are NOT the whales, and personally, I would love to see Seaworld focus on this and move away from keeping whales in captivity.
Our tickets and experiences at Seaworld were complimentary.