When my parents told me we were planning a trip to Florida during our one week break from school, I immediately started doing research. Where did I want to go apart from the Universal World of Harry Potter? Did I want to go to Disney World again?
I found the Discovery Cove website by chance from a link on the Sea World site. When I first read about Discovery Cove package deal, I thought that there was absolutely NO WAY that such a great deal could exist and that there had to be some catch. For only $179, you could swim with dolphins, snorkel with tropical fish in an artificial reef with sharks and barracudas separated by glass, swim through an aviary where you could feed exotic birds, and swim with manta rays. In addition, all food (breakfast and lunch) and snacks were entirely free. $179 might seem like a lot per person at first glance, but if you think about it, breakfast and lunch and snacks would cost, the free snorkels and sunscreen, and swimming with dolphins and manta rays, feed exotic birds, and snorkel, Plus a free pass to Sea World or Busch Gardens, each of which is about $80 dollars, the ticket is only really $50.
My day at Discovery Cove started early, because breakfast was served at 8:00. The breakfast was pretty much all-American: eggs, bacon, potato, yogurt and granola, milk, and hot chocolate. I had everything except the bacon- I haven’t had bacon since I decided to become vegetarian in 7th grade.
After breakfast, we went to pick up our wetsuits and get dressed. There are three different kinds to choose from: full body, quarter length, and a vest. Because it was still winter/early spring, it was quite chilly, I took a quarter length one that went to the elbows and knees. The first wetsuit I picked out was too loose, so I got a smaller size. This happened to be the same size as my little sister’s suit and I can say that it was extremely uncomfortable.
First we went to the manta ray petting pool. This is a shallow pool up to my chest that was filled with giant manta rays that you could pet. The water was cold, but it was still warmer than the school pool. The mantas swim fast to avoid being petted, but my sister and I discovered a method where we forced them to swim between us to get away. There was one cute little baby manta, but I didn’t get a chance to pet it.
Afterwards, I went to our appointed swimming with the dolphins time slot. Although there are only supposed to be eight people in a group, there were nine in ours. Basically we got to interact with the dolphin, including feeding and stroking it. Everyone also got a chance to ride the dolphin (by grabbing its flipper). I was surprised by how fast the dolphins swam, even though it looked slow from a distance.
After lunch, we went snorkeling in the artificial coral reef. I’ve been snorkeling all over, like in Malaysia and Hawaii, and the artificial reef matched up quite well. There were enormous fish, but scariest of all were the gigantic manta rays. Every time I swam over a manta ray, I couldn’t help but think of Steve Irwin, even though the Discovery Cove team assured us that the stings had been removed. Another shock I received was when I looked down and saw a huge shark lying on the sand. Then I remembered reading that there was a special section for sharks that made it seem as if you were snorkeling with sharks when you were in fact separated by a glass wall. However, glass is nearly invisible in the water and I can confirm that having a huge shark suddenly appear in front of you is not good for your heart.
The last stop was the aviary. This was a long river where you float or swim through an aviary. The actual aviary was small, but the river lasted forever and forever. It was a lot of fun, except in many places the water was shallow, so I had to awkwardly wade slowly through it while the lifeguards posted every few meters looked on.
I could go into so much more detail, but all in all, Discovery Cove was a great place. I’ve never had the opportunity to swim with dolphins, so this was a first for me. Of course, I’m sure that there are other swim-with-dolphin places where you can really swim with dolphins and spend more than 30 minutes with a huge group and one dolphin, but I think that all the other great activities made up for that. I would definitely like to come back someday, but maybe when it’s a little bit warmer. Despite Florida being known for its summer-like temperatures year round, I pretty much had to keep my wetsuit on the whole day, which was not a good look.