Since the launch of Sea World in San Diego in 1964, the theme park has become best known for its marine mammals, particularly dolphins and orcas. And, due to the theme park’s overwhelming popularity, the organization expanded with locations in Orlando, Florida in 1973 and San Antonio, Texas in 1988.

The Sea World Orlando location came on the heels of Walt Disney World, which had opened two years prior in 1971.  With sub tropical weather which allowed for year-round operation, and tourism already established in the area thanks to the success of Disney; Sea World was an instant hit.

Anyone that has visited Sea World, Orlando, or has simply seen photos, can attest to the fact that it’s vast and colourful landscapes and waterscapes, displays, and natural environment bird and marine mammal enclosures are a thing of true beauty.  And to stroll through the grounds during the festive season, particularly at night, is nothing short of breath taking.  Over 100 Christmas trees adorn the property, and at every turn the park is aglow with holiday lights and decor that lend a sense of magic and wonderment.

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However, with so many theme parks and attractions piggy backing onto the celebrated tourism of Orlando, it’s become necessary for the originating institutions to remain competitive.  It doesn’t matter how well they’ve developed their grounds, marketed their brand, or how effectively they cater to a particular season, because something new and perhaps better is always on the rise.  Consequently, much like Disney has done over the years, Sea World has also expanded to create more than one park on their premises.  Thus,  the picturesque Discovery Cove was opened in 2000, an all-inclusive experience which allows visitors interactive experiences with dolphins and several different species of animals.  Following that, a 50-acre waterpark called Aquatica opened in 2008.

These up close experiences with dolphins and sea lions, otters and tropical birds are as educational as they are entertaining.  More often than not they lead to increased understanding and sympathy for animals and marine mammals and the plights they face in today’s world, as well as increased donations to Sea World’s Conservation Fund where 100% of the monies raised goes toward conservation projects.

Sea World’s vital behind-the-scenes initiatives of animal rescue and rehabilitation, conservation and habitat protection, education and research are an aspect of the establishment that many animal activists unfortunately fail to acknowledge.  But the numbers speak for themselves.  To date, Sea World has come to the aid of over 27,000 animals in crisis.  They’ve been involved in everything from saving thousands of penguins and chicks caught caught in a South African oil spill, to saving wounded and displaced animals after Hurricane Katrina.  They have rehabilitated 300 cold-stunned sea turtles after a record setting cold snap, have rescued and nursed back to health several beached whales, and have even fitted manatees with specialty wet suits to keep them warm and afloat during treatment.  The animals deemed non-releasable for a variety of reasons, including injuries too weakening to release back them into the wild, are given life long care.

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But Sea World realizes that entertainment can be mixed with education, which is why it also houses exceptional roller coasters that give visitors a thrill.  Kraken, named after a mythical sea creature, is a floorless monster of a coaster with 7 inversions and speeds of 65 miles per hour.  While Manta, a coaster that soars through the air like the graceful swim of a giant ray, takes riders on a looping journey that reaches speeds of 56 miles per hour while skimming the water.

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However, these beloved rides will be dwarfed in size in the summer of 2016, when Mako opens to the public. Hyped as the tallest, longest and fastest coaster in the Orlando area, Mako is named after the fastest specie of shark in the ocean and has a projected speed of 73 miles per hour.  It will be located near existing shark attractions, such as the ever-popular Shark Encounter as well as Shark’s Underwater Grill, and is touted as having 200-foot drops and 9 air time moments.  For thrill seekers, this deFINitately will be the gem of the park.

No doubt Sea World is ‘off the hook’ so if you haven’t visited yet, something is fishy.  Don’t miss it in 2016.

 

 

by Jett White