This manatee and sea turtle habitat is very popular, and a big hit with children. Visitors can look down on a tank of freshwater fish plus four manatees and, next to it, a tank of saltwater fish and several sea turtles. When you go to the belowground viewing area, a guide discusses the turtles and the dangers from man and predator to the hatchlings. Then you’re given 3-D glasses and ushered into a domed, 360-degree projection area. On this unusual screen, 34 projectors show an animated film that lasts 6 minutes. The 3-D film gives the effect of viewing the ocean through the viewpoint of a sea turtle. Not discussed in either the live presentation or the movie is that the manatees are also on the endangered species list.
You only need to observe the horrendous scars from a boat propeller on the back of one of these manatees to see what is happening. All of the docile creatures in this exhibit were injured in the wild and have been rescued by SeaWorld. For most of the rescued animals, this is the last part of their rehabilitation, though none of the 11 sea turtles here can be returned to the wild, government conservationists have decreed.
To accommodate the maximum number of viewers in the domed theater, attendants count noses before allowing everyone to flow in to the two viewing rooms belowground. But once inside those rooms, there is no crowd control, so you may not get an unobstructed view of the two tanks. The solution: Immediately edge to the front toward the big windows of the first viewing room. On occasion, SeaWorld rescues orphaned baby manatees. Check with an educator in the area to find out if any are in the exhibit, if they might be bottle-fed, and at what time. It’s pure, distilled cuteness.
What else is there to do at SeaWorld?
SeaWorld also has thrill rides, including a flight simulator, and roller coasters. Combined with the charm of the animals, these attractions and several entertaining shows have created a whole new SeaWorld that isn’t just for the fish-and-whale crowd. Exploring SeaWorld takes a full day. Because the majority of attractions are shows, it won’t be a mad rush to avoid lines like at other theme parks. However, avoiding the rare long wait and large crowds requires getting there early during busy times of the year.
Start planning your visit with Beyond Disney – The Unoffocial Guide to SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, & the Best of Central Florida by Bob Sehlinger and Seth Kubersky.
Turtle at SeaWorld By Christophe95 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Manatee at SeaWorld By Ahodges7 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Manta roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando By WillMcC (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons