I was born longing to swim with dolphins. In elementary school, I told everyone I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I didn’t know exactly what they did, but I knew they worked with dolphins and that was enough for me. Mostly ironic considering that I refuse to swim in the ocean for fear of what might touch me in the water.
A few different times, I tried to plan a day at Discovery Cove. I worried about going alone, the price, and being too tired to drive home afterwards. They were all excuses because sometimes I need the fun of dreaming about something for a while. However, I finally went, and it was an amazing experience.
Dolphin Swim Experience
In the water, we stood as a group while the trainers taught us about dolphins. While they talked, our dolphin Kaylee swam in front of us, allowing us to pet and see her up close. She was incredibly sweet and silly. She got distracted when a helicopter flew over and was always ready for us to throw her fish. In the learning process, we were able to hug and kiss her. Then, we swam out into deeper water and Kaylee towed us back to shore. It was extremely fun and a great learning experience. As long as I had been building it up in my mind, the experience still met all of my expectations.
Afterwards, we were taken to a hut where we could review our photographs. They were a bit expensive, but I was completely elated to have a professional capture those moments for me. I ended up buying photographs and the video of my experience. It was definitely worth the money.
As a side note, everything I read said that you definitely needed a wetsuit in the dolphin lagoon. I tried a wetsuit and about passed out from heat exhaustion. I changed into a vest, and while it was chilly getting into the water at first, I adjusted quickly. I ventured into the Great Reef before the dolphin swim to make sure that I would be ok.
I've never snorkeled before, and I was more than a little freaked out about the rays touching me. Once on a date, I had fed rays at the Lowry Park Zoo. They were so determined to get the food, they flew across the pool the second we put our hands in the water. I dared my date to put a fish close to the biggest one in the tank, and when that ray came at him, it splashed us and made him scream like a little girl. Hysterical at the time, but thinking about getting in a giant pool and swimming with them terrified me. I was sure they would sense my fear and zero in on me. That didn’t happen. Nothing close to that happened.
The pool is partly shallow with deeper pools that hold the coral reefs . Most of the fish are down in the reefs, so it is best to swim out into the deeper areas. It took me awhile to figure out how to breathe with the snorkel because my mask kept flooding with water. I spent a lot of time trying to get comfortable and hanging over the side, peering into the deep pools and avoiding the rays.
At one point, a large school of fish swam around me. It was amazing and beautiful. At that point, I pushed past my fear and just swam into the deeper water. It was amazing and kind of magical to swim (salt water helps you float along easier) and have these colorful schools of fish swim eye-to-eye past me in the water.
I rested a bit in a shallower part, which I soon realized was a main swim pathway for the rays. There weren’t a lot of people around, so I floated for awhile as they swam around me. Some of the rays were bigger than me, and as they swam past, I could see their eyes, watch them breath, and laughed at their process for burying themselves in the sand. I learned that they burrow under the sand to keep from getting sun burnt. I could have spent the entire day watching them and have a new found respect for the rays.
The Wind-Away River was beautiful as it twisted through caves and waterfalls (into the Explorer's Aviary). Unfortunately, I picked a time when I was completely exhausted and the river was pretty packed with people. Also, the water was a bit too warm for my tastes. Normally I love to relax in the water, but I couldn't seem to relax. The day had been so exciting that I had a very difficult time slowing down (left shortly after and went crazy riding just about every ride at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure - more about that in a later post). Next time, I plan on enjoying this part more.
Discovery Cove was an amazing experience for me. It was so nice to go to a place, dump everything in a locker, and be able to experience everything without having to reach for my wallet all day long. I also read that they are adding a Freshwater Oasis with otters and marmosets. I am definitely planning on returning to see that.
The following photo album includes photos from my entire trip, which includes my visit to Discovery Cove.