Best 2012 Memories, #18: Up close with orcas
2012 marked the year that one of my favorite experiences returned to SeaWorld Orlando: Dine With Shamu. I love the orcas, and Dine With Shamu offers a chance to get close to them and to see them interacting in a less formal way with their trainers.
This dining experience reopened this year after a revamping that included the installation of glass barriers around the pool. The panels offer a better view than the old rope netting, and many of the tables are right up against it for a totally unobstructed view.
I was hoping that the trainers would still interact closely with the orcas, and I wasn't disappointed. We had a poolside seat with a trainer and orca literally right in front of us. What a treat to watch their interactions as that magnificent marine mammal performed jumps and other behaviors and soaked up rubs and treats from her trainer.
We could see the other orcas in other spots around the pool, too, and hear the educational spiel. There's so much going on all at once that it's impossible to take it all in. Click the video at lower left for an overview that gives you a little flavor of the Dine With Shamu SeaWorld experience.
The orcas are the stars, but the "Dine" part is pretty impressive, too. The menu items are sustainable, and everything I tried was delicious. Just don't go too crazy on the buffet and fill up before dessert because the red velvet cake and other goodies are not to be missed.
I also recommend going down to the underwater viewing area at SeaWorld Orlando, whether or not you're doing the dining experience. The area looks into the dining area pool, and the orcas are often out there goofing around between shows. Bring a toy or brightly colored object and they'll often interact with you through the glass.
Time to jump to yet another park for my next top 2012 memory. Continue on to see what it is.