Shamu Up Close at SeaWorld Orlando is acting as a fill-in while Shamu Stadium undergoes some rehab work. It takes place in the Dine With Shamu area (the dining experience is on hiatus) and offers an amazing glimpse into how the trainers care for the orcas and how they learn to perform new behaviors on command.
Click the slideshow accompanying this article to see some things you might experience for yourself if you visit Shamu Up Close. Hurry if you want to see it, as Shamu Stadium will likely reopen some time in April. One Ocean is still a great show, but it doesn't get you this close to the killer whales or give you any insight into just how well they're cared for or how they learn to do those breathtaking jumps that always thrill the audience. You get the positive side of things that the Blackfish crowd wants to gloss over and hide.
You never know exactly who or what you will see at Shamu Up Close, since it varies daily. Sometimes Trua and Tilly will be out for a training session, and at other times you might see the girls (Katina, Kayla, Nalani, Malia) and mischievous little Makaio, as I did today.
I went to Shamu Up Close as soon as it opened, so I got to see the orcas being weighed and giving urine samples on command. A little later, I saw a full-blown training session, including a demonstration of how the guide poles are used to teach new behaviors like a side breach.
If you plan on coming to SeaWorld Orlando soon, you can combine a visit to Bands, Brew and BBQ with a viewing of Shamu Up Close. Jump to this article for a slideshow overview of the event, which runs for two more days in 2014 (March 8 and 9).