Water Park With A Difference
Discovery Cove is owned by SeaWorld and is a more relaxing water park than any other water park. Spaces are limited each day so you must book a reservation to visit Discovery Cove. I visited Discovery Cove for the first time in March 2009 and I was blown away with the experience. I took my Dad – Grandad Brit and he loved it just as much as I did. This park used to be the most expensive park to visit in Orlando but the Blackfish documentary seems to have had an effect on ticket prices.
Today you can get Dolphin Swim tickets for under £90 and Non Dolphin Swim (my preferred) for under £50. This is an absolute bargain when you think that parking, lockers, all meals and drinks are included. You can eat and drink as much as you want as part of your entry fee.
Once you arrive at the beginning of the day you will be given your own snorkel and goggles. The snorkel is yours to take home and keep as a momento of the day. I prefer to take my EasyBreath (see below) as it is much easier to use.
The best lazy river of any Orlando theme park. The Discovery Cove river is totally different to the ‘standard width, standard depth’ lazy rivers you usually find. The depth can range from a few feet up to 8 feet and the width of the river also differs as you swim around it. The river really does have a more natural look to it and it is the slowest river throughout the Orlando parks.
There are water falls in some areas and tropical birds nesting around other areas of the river. There are no fish so don’t worry about sharing the pool with the wildlife. As it is a really slow river, the nicest way to float around it in my opinion is by using the noodles (pictured above). I like to pop a couple of these under my back and drift away. Mrs Brit and Nanna Brit like to position some under their chest and float on their fronts.
I would advise using these noodles unless you are a strong swimmer because some of the areas get really deep and you won’t be able to touch the bottom. It would also be wise to wear some form of waterproof shoes like Crocs because some of the river floor can be quite rough in places.
Swimming With Dolphins
If you or anyone in your party are afraid of water, this experience will be a waste of money. You need to be a strong swimmer because you have to be able to swim unaided in the deep water of Dolphin Lagoon.
An exact time slot will be allocated to you when you arrive at Discovery Cove in the morning. You must make sure that you do not miss this time slot because it will not be rescheduled. After a health & safety speech and a promotional video, you’ll be taken to a shallow area of the dolphin pool as part of a group. Your group will be joined by one dolphin and you will have the chance to touch and stroke the dolphin as he/she slowly swims by you. The dolphins feel exactly how they look…. like a hard rubber toy.
The pool gets much deeper as you swim out to the centre. You will be asked if you would like to swim out further into the pool so you can ‘hitch’ a ride back to shore with the dolphin. Once you reach the deep area the trainer will send the dolphin to come and ‘rescue’ you. The dolphin will pop up right beside you and you have to grab onto the fin while you ‘hitch your lift’ back to the shallows. This is an amazing experience and you really will have a different view of dolphins once you have interacted with them up close.
Cameras and other equipment are not allowed to be taken to the dolphin swim experience for animal safety reasons. Family members can take photos and video from the side lines as you swim. As with all attractions in Orlando, you can buy a memory of your experience in the shape of a photo or even a video. During your dolphin experience you will notice that you are being filmed by at least 2 people. These people are taking pictures and video which will be available to buy later on.
Dolphin Lagoon is a great place to just sit and watch dolphins play at the end of the day. The dolphins have their own toys and they get the lagoon to themselves once the Dolphin Swims are over.
Although I enjoyed the Dolphin swim, my favourite part of Discovery Cove is the Grand Reef. This amazing (but cold) pool allows you to swim with thousands of tropical fish and rays. As a total beginner to snorkelling I had a real battle on my hands learning to relax. I have always been a really strong swimmer so I thought it would be a piece of cake. How wrong I was.
Some people can breathe quite easy using a snorkel but I couldn’t. Each time I attached the snorkel and dipped my head in the water, I kept hyperventilating and I struggled to stay calm. I could not breathe properly the second my face went under. Most people will probably be fine using a snorkel but breathing under water didn’t seem natural to me. I took my time and after around 20 minutes of practising on the shore, I got the hang of it and headed out into the deeper waters.
On my first visit I started to swim out (face down) and one enormous ray measuring around 6 feet wide swam directly underneath me. Off I went again – struggling to breathe. This was an amazing sight and the first time it happens to you it will take your breath away. After swimming close to these amazing creatures for around half an hour my confidence was high. I then progressed out to the deeper areas and far enough to reach out and touch the fish and rays that came really close.
Once you head out into the deeper areas you will be surrounded by thousands of tropical fish. Some of them swim in enormous schools of hundreds. It is such a sight to see and you don’t have the worry of bumping into a shark. You can actually see a couple of large sharks in the pool but they are sectioned off behind a glass wall. If you come across them you may think they are in the same pool as you but they aren’t. I almost jumped out of the water when I swum around one corner and came face to face with the beast above. It was then I realised there was a thick glass divider between us.
Buy An Easybreath!
A few years ago I saw an advert for a new invention called the TriBord Easybreath. As soon as I saw it I ordered one because I knew it would be perfect for Orlando. Originally they were £40 which I thought was a bargain. You can sometimes buy them for a little less. Some other companies have now copied the mask and sell cheaper versions. Using an Easybreath is so simple. You don’t have to worry about learning how to use the snorkel because there isn’t one. You just pop it on and go. They don’t steam up like goggles and your mouth is free to breath normally.
You can buy these from some sports shops or you can order one from Amazon. I may make a small percentage if you order through this link and it helps keep Mr Brit’s Guide To Orlando a free travel guide. I have listed some of the ‘copy’ versions here also but I have only ever used the original Easybreath which is excellent. They come in 2 sizes so make sure you order the correct one for your face size.
Little Brit is pictured above with his Easybreath. You may also notice he is wearing a T-shirt in the pool. These sun protection swimming shirts are great as they reduce the chance of sunburn. I have recently started wearing one in the water parks as I got sick of coming home with burnt shoulders. You can buy these in all Wal-Mart stores when you are in Orlando. Little Brit uses his in the villa pool all holiday so we definitely get our moneys worth.
When I visit English parks and I spot an aviary, I am usually bored within about 45 seconds of entering it. Explorer’s Aviary at Discovery Cove is a lot better than your average UK aviary. Some of the birds in the aviary are very unique looking and they are all totally at ease with people. The aviary is very clean and the staff clean up after the birds very regularly.
If you grab yourself a seed cup, you won’t be alone for very long. Little Brit has loved the aviary since the first day we went. This bird above (which we named Joey) jumped on his shoulder and wouldn’t leave him on our first visit. Each time we came back we always looked out for Joey and always found him. I am not 100% certain we found the exact same ‘Joey’ each time but we told Little Brit he was the real one.
After eating at standard theme park restaurants, the food at Laguna Grill is a welcome ‘step up’ in quality and selection. This is the restaurant where you will eat your meals throughout your day at Discovery Cove. Lunch and breakfast are included in the cost of your entry charge so get there early. The range is usually great and there is something to cater for everyone’s taste buds. I usually ‘go for it’ when I am not paying per item but at Discovery Cove I try not to eat too much. To be honest, I don’t usually try that hard and I usually try 2 or 3 different dishes. You don’t want to feel like a beached whale while you are floating around the park throughout the day. The food is usually quite good though.
A light continental breakfast is served at Laguna Grill from 7.15am to 10.30am. Lunch is usually served from 11.15am to 3.30pm. Live Caribbean music creates a nice relaxing atmosphere in the outdoor seating area of the restaurant. The restaurant is not open all day so you will have to carefully plan around your dolphin swim slot. Soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are also included. There are usually a lot of birds hanging around while you eat so you need to be on your guard or you may lose some of your meal.