Our visit to SeaWorld & why I think you should go in 2017

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So in the wake of Tilikum dying last week, I thought I’d write about my experience visiting SeaWorld in September.

Yup, you read that right. We visited SeaWorld.

And guess what? We loved it.

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Here is something I want to make clear off the bat, we went to SeaWorld with open minds but less than open hearts after watching Blackfish. We organised the trip before my friend told us to watch Blackfish, and after watching it I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go or not. Yet we’d promised the kids the chance to see Killer Whales, knowing very little about them in captivity or why they shouldn’t be there. Blackfish was certainly an eye opener, yet visiting SeaWorld wasn’t what I expected it to be.

We used our visit as an opportunity to teach the boys about a couple of things. History. Animal cruelty and what it meant and what environmental good we can do. I won’t lie – we loved it and we DID have a good (and surprising) day.

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We started off by enjoying the rides and small exhibits that the place has to offer, we visited the manatees and sea turtles, a lot of which were injured and had been rescued, something that I didn’t know was a part of Sea World’s remit. Conservation appears to be a massive part of what the company has to offer, especially when it comes to sea turtles. We watch the 3D show of Sea Turtle life and it was enlightening how dangerous it can be.

When we arrived at the Dolphin section, Reuben was absolutely enthralled. The trainers were strict as hell, yet people insisted on ignoring the “stay behind the line” instructions. That was one of the things that struck me about SeaWorld staff – they genuinely adored their animals. We were actually given the wrong information by one of the sales stall people, who told us we could have a dolphin encounter only at Discovery Cove (we weren’t visiting there) when in fact you can book a small Dolphin encounter with the dolphins and a trainer at SeaWorld where you feed them a fish and get to stroke one. Reuben was oh-so upset that he wasn’t able to do this because we missed the cut off point by a mere 8mins. Yet the trainer wouldn’t budge when I asked if they could make an exception of 8mins, especially with the poor info. She told me no way, the dolphins had been fed, they had a time schedule and she wouldn’t want to break trust with them by allowing us to deviate from the plan. You have to respect that right? There is no denying that to these people, the animals are everything.

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Moving on to the whales… what are you going to say? The tanks are too small, irrespective of depth and they shouldn’t be there. Simple as that. Yet despite the show, which depressed my husband, we made a concerted effort to talk to the kids about WHY these amazing animals were there and why they shouldn’t be. Which lead Reuben to ask some interesting questions of the trainers… can you say awkward? I can.

Credit where credit I due, the trainer Reuben spoke to explained that there is a philosophy of “know better, do better” back when the first whales were captured, we didn’t know any better, yet now… now we do, and as such, we don’t capture them anymore.” Naturally that wasn’t enough for Reuben. “Why can’t you just let them go?” Double awkward. The response was one that seemed logical to me “If we do, how would they live? They were all born in captivity.” It was a response that seemed to placate Reuben, who became increasingly interested in animal husbandry and conservation (which came out even more during the safari at Animal Kingdom). While we could never quite make peace with the fact that SeaWorld keeps these creatures, and is responsible for the deaths of mammals far earlier than would occur in their natural habitat, it was impossible to deny that these men and women on the ground at SeaWorld adore their animal charges.

We also managed to eat at the Underwater restaurant, which was absolutely awesome. The kids were entertained by the fishes, the food was delicious, though it was over priced as expected but I honestly think that goes hand in hand with Orlando.

The rides in the park had to be the best white knuckle rides in Orlando as far as Adam and I were concerned, though there was FAR fewer rides for the children than at Universal or Disney.

So, all in all, we enjoyed SeaWorld, for all its flaws. Would I recommend visiting in 2017? Yes. Would I go back? Yes. Will SeaWorld be there after the whales? I hope so and I truly hope that they stick to their promise to never breed another whale or capture, especially in light of the tragic event of Tilikums death.

My lasting memory of SeaWorld will always be: know better, do better.  I hope they do.

H x

61 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    January 29, 2019 / 11:45 pm

    You’re an inhumane monster.

    • Isla Barker
      August 19, 2019 / 3:33 pm

      I agree with you

  2. Lucy Dorman
    January 20, 2019 / 9:48 pm

    Harriet
    You are disgusting
    There are no words. Absolutely shocking
    Shame on you
    I would never ever support SeaWorld they’re a disgrace & I would never be a friend of anyone who did

  3. Taty Maja'radgi
    December 28, 2018 / 7:52 am

    Everything you wrote, alongside with people like you and/or anyone that works or supports Sea World absolutely disgust me!! I feel literally sick. HOW ON EARTH can you sit there and watch that atrocity once you do have a clue of what goes on?? The only thing you teaching your kids is your same hipocrite, brain- washed sheep behaviour (oh yeah, such animal lovers, all of them! You gotta be retarded, I’m afraid to tell you!…)
    . The lesson of the day: torturing animals for decades and continuing to do so is bad! but if the staff makes you feel at Disneyworld and they got a decent restaurant, then ok we can turn a blind eye ! (they have dolphins we can pet, man! Wouldn’t miss out on that one, innit?)
    Don’t think it was the whales on the pool that depressed your husband… Might have been the cow in the audience..

    • Harriet January 2, 2019 / 12:50 pm

      Animal activist but uses ableist language like retard? Not really a healthy tone to educate me differently.

  4. Liz kingsland
    December 22, 2018 / 11:23 pm

    How stupid are you do you want to be locked up in a cage seeing your children torn away from you, watch the cave and how can you justify an orca whale locked in a small space for your enjoyment, how wrong you are,you are the reason these beautiful creatures are not free to roam and hunt as nature intended.
    How do you think they capture these beautiful creatures

  5. Angela
    November 30, 2018 / 6:59 am

    What do I say that’s going to show just how wrong this woman is. I have seen the facts. I’ve seen the footage and I am very much involved in animal welfare. They have to be strict with the animals- it’s their job. But no, that does not mean they love them- that’s for show.

  6. Emily
    November 14, 2018 / 2:51 am

    This is disgusting. Why would you encourage people to go somewhere that’s so cruel.

  7. June 7, 2017 / 10:19 am

    I think it’s down to individual choice and conscience what you choose to support.

    I’ve visited Sea World in the past and initially felt much as you did, but I know that after reading into the issues after seeing the demonstrations in California over the past 3-4 years, that I wouldn’t ever visit again. Flea has made her own decision that she doesn’t want to support these sorts of parks, either.

    From my perspective, while staff are well-meaning and there is important work to be done around rescue/care and species preservation, I personally came to the conclusion that doing some things right or even having good intentions, doesn’t negate the things you’re doing wrong.

  8. March 14, 2017 / 12:20 pm

    We went last year whilst in Cali and I have never seen Dylan come out of his shell as much as he did that day! You know he’s autistic and he’s non-verbal so we have no idea what he likes but watching the fish and larger animals brought so much joy to him 😀

  9. Barb Schmidt
    January 23, 2017 / 4:20 am

    Okay .. you know it is wrong but you are telling people to go and you would go again? How messed up is that?
    You do know they only stopped breeding in CA because it became a law, not because they wanted to? y
    They stopped taking from the ocean because they were banned.. the were willing to take Beluga whales stolen from the ocean until people made such an up roar and the permits were denied? Those whales are living in an absolute hellhole now because they said.. oh ok we don’t want them anymore? They took penguins from the wild to put into their park?
    https://www.facebook.com/RicOBarrysDolphinProject/videos/1400378729995636/
    https://www.facebook.com/SeaShepherdCoveGuardiansOfficialPage/videos/777293572420875/
    maybe you should let people know why this is happening. Why Seaworld might be wonderful for humans but not so great for the dolphins/whales. Why Seaworld will not educate you on this happening.. would be real bad for their business. Why they are part of Imata the same trainers here picking who will live and who will die.
    Teach your children it is a privilege to see them not a right because you are humans. This is the other side of captivity..the side people don’t want to know. THIS is what your ticket bought.
    If people follow your lead… you just condemned more wild dolphins to this hell.

    4 days 250+ dolphins terrorized to the cove held for 4 days…no food no hydration… juveniles taken from their mothers. Mothers swimming in circles going crazy wondering where their babies went..they went to the pens..to be trained for parks…dead dolphins from the stress of this hell.
    Watch these videos, follow these groups, it goes on till March.. lots of time to see what is happening.
    Some of us have been crying and agonizing with the 250 + dolphins for 4 days.. knowing this is what Seaworld and other marine parks are creating. Curious did SW tell you about this? Try to educate to get fans to help stop it? I am thinking not. That should get you to ask why if they love dolphins they are NOT trying to stop this, or educating fans?

    Anyone reading this blog.. go to #dolphinproject #seashepherd cove guardians.. 6 months of the year they hunt for dolphins to be in tanks just like Seaworld. Find out how many new parks are starting so they can make lots of money like seaworld..that is what its all about people.. money not love. Many trainers have said they stayed because they love the whales/dolphins but eventually had to leave because they could not stand to keep them drugged up and in tanks.

    I really hope you research more before telling people to go here or any marine park.

    69 dolphins ripped from their family put in a little pen, and they are not done yet…. will starve until they learn- do the trick you will eat.
    Sorry but your childs few minutes of oh boy or someones bucket list wish is NOT worth this 6 months a year, or a dolphin being stolen from the ocean and going through this hell.

    .. Its called Sea Sanctuaries.. Seaworld believes they can take whales/dolphins from a hunt in the ocean to a tank but they will not survive being put in the ocean. A little ironic don’t you think? https://www.facebook.com/whalesanctuaryproject/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf
    Yes I am really upset to see this.. like I said 4 days I have been watching dolphins being run over by boats, taken from the family for a tank you seem to think it is alright to visit.
    I hope you will do some research outside of the people making the big bucks off your ticket money… and see what is really happening because you want to see them.
    Do they really care at Seaworld? They are starting a Dolphin Nursery.. so they will be impregnating dolphins, AI or natural.. put in a glass case so people can look at and be close to them. Where can the mom/baby go to get away from humans. They are self aware just like us.. wonder how you would of felt after having your baby if people were allowed to stare at you and try to get your attention all day…
    Sorry but your enjoyment for a few hours? You got to go home…they can’t. They are stuck there 24/7 so everyone that goes can have their few minutes of enjoyment. They can’t go home, get away. I really hope you do more research and do another blog on this subject..
    Again I am passionate, I have been watching the #Taiji hunts for 4 day now… I am broken, and to see you saying you would go again.. just breaks me worse. You know it is wrong, but will do it again? I just don’t know what to think about that.
    They made it from the ocean to tanks.. they can be in sanctuaries.. no not in the open ocean, but not in a tank for people to stare at.

    • Harriet January 23, 2017 / 1:42 pm

      Thank you for your comment(s), I will read into what you’ve said.

    • Auntygeek
      March 12, 2017 / 3:09 pm

      You couldn’t have said this better.

      It’s not only the irresponsibility and profit driven greed in respect to the lack of concern for the animals. It’s about their deliberate lies to the public. ‘Whales live for 30 years in the wild, in captivity they live for longer!’ – this was told time and time again to the public. When years of research knew , clearly knew, that the opposite is true.

      This organisation lied, lied, lied. It lied and endangered lives of the trainers – who yes loved their animals and took care of them. Unlike seaworld I don’t blame the trainers. I blame the organisation who DID know better, but didn’t do any better. So why should we believe them now?

      Im sad that you gave money to them – admittedly you didn’t know better, somehow, that whales shouldn’t be kept in tanks? Before you bought the ticket? – but after you went and watched blackfish you STILL encourage people to go and believe more of their lies?

      I hope others reading this investigate more themselves and don’t give any money to sea world.

      • June 2, 2018 / 3:23 pm

        I love seaworld i go almost evry summer

        • Isla Barker
          August 19, 2019 / 3:31 pm

          You shouldn’t.

      • December 4, 2018 / 7:13 am

        It must be weird not eating meat , and walking around naked ,
        Personally I love my leather shoes which are oh so comfortable as I walk away from the hot dog stand at sea world .
        Bore off and preach elsewhere.

      • Isla Barker
        August 19, 2019 / 3:28 pm

        That is absolute crap! I’m captivity, Orcas can live for 10-20 years. In the wild, ( where hey belong!) Orcas can live to 80 years old.

        Orcas can swim up to 100 miles a day. If a SeaWorld Orca were to achieve this, they would have to swim 1,500 laps of their tank. Their tanks are the equivalent of a BATHTUB!

    • Sheila
      February 2, 2018 / 5:08 am

      WELL SAID BARB SCHMIDT!! Disappointed in this blog.

    • August 8, 2018 / 4:58 pm

      Animals are living things, they are not objects that we can just get whenever we need them. They have feelings, and thoughts. It is time that people start seeing that, maybe they do not look like us, but they can feel what we do to them. We need to start thinking before making a mistake, and consider the consequences for killing animals. Have you ever thought that every animal we take, a family looses its dad, brother, sister, mother, or any other family member? Well it is time you think about that, and hope that someday all humans will think about what they are doing. Let’s end animal abuse, by starting in an amusement park called, SeaWorld.

      Do you think Orcas, dolphins, and any other marine life in SeaWorld want to live in a cramped are all their life? The answer is absolutely not. Just think about it, would you like to be taken apart from your family at a young age, just to live in a cramped area? Well the PETA movement is making a difference, less and less people are going to SeaWorld. Did you now that a total of 48 Orcas have died in SeaWorld? Some eve died when they being taken away from the ocean. People who care about the world, and about their kids should help this movement. Imagine how proud your kids would be when they think, “My parents helped end the success of SeaWorld, a place where animals are not cared for.” Not only are you thinking about a bright future, but you are also thinking about something other than yourself.

      • Lisa Guest
        December 15, 2018 / 12:31 pm

        Very well said Barb Schmidt, thank you for your well reasoned answer. Following my own research into the matter, I agree with all that you have said and hope it helps people think twice about supporting Seaworld and others.

        • Lisa Guest
          December 15, 2018 / 12:44 pm

          Btw I was lucky enough to be able to take my family to Orlando for the holiday of a lifetime this year and chose (with well researched reason) not to visit or Seaworld/Aquatica/Discovery Cove. We had an amazing time without those visits and my kids understood the reasons why. On our way back from Kennedy Space centre, we were treated to a view of wild dolphins leaping out of the water right near the causeway – it was a magical moment that we’ll remember forever, very special.

    • Esther
      December 23, 2018 / 8:42 am

      Perfectly put! The heartbreak is too sad.
      #closethetanks

  10. Angela Key Milnes
    January 22, 2017 / 5:02 pm

    Looks like an awesome place to visit with my kids. I want to bring them there and I bet they would love this so much

    • Harriet January 23, 2017 / 1:44 pm

      I have no doubt they would Angela!

    • Fuk u
      January 29, 2019 / 11:40 pm

      Why do you enjoy watching animals being tortured wtf you are a monster

  11. January 16, 2017 / 9:52 pm

    My gran used to take me to sea world as a kid. I was always fascinated by animals and loved it. I know I definitely take my kids when I have kids lol. Such a great learning experience and sounds like it’s continued it’s good work! X

    • Harriet January 16, 2017 / 10:19 pm

      Absolutely Jodie!

  12. Lynne Harper
    January 16, 2017 / 6:40 pm

    We have never been but it sounds absolutely incredible, my boys would love it. The underground restaurant sounds awesome indeed 🙂 defo need to look into visiting 🙂 great review

  13. January 13, 2017 / 11:37 am

    I have never been but would want to go. I do often think people forget that not all animals can live in their natural habitat for one reason and another and it is sometimes thanks to human intervention that species do not die out x

    • Harriet January 13, 2017 / 11:43 am

      Absolutely Rachel x

  14. January 13, 2017 / 10:33 am

    The staff seem to have answered questions about the capacity of the animals really well. I’m going to be honest I love Seaworld and if you can see the staff love the animals and are treating them well that’s a huge plus for me x

    • Harriet January 13, 2017 / 10:38 am

      I couldn’t agree more!

  15. January 12, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    oh we love Sea World and have been a number of times now although we havnt been for 2-3 years now so maybe will have to try to take the kids back now the younger ones are a little older

    • Harriet January 13, 2017 / 10:39 am

      That’s lovely to hear Emma x

  16. January 12, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    I love that you used this as a learning opportunity with your kids and I have no doubt that it was more impactful actually seeing the animals while discussing these issues rather than just an abstract discussion. I think the philosophy of “know better do better” is great, and we can only hope that Sea World actually does follow through with that.

  17. January 12, 2017 / 7:43 pm

    I have never been to sea world but my nana did and she loved it, she said she learned a lot by going

    • Harriet January 13, 2017 / 10:40 am

      I think there is a lot to learn, both positive and negative.

  18. January 12, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    What a co-incidence that I stumble across your blog post. Interesting to read. I watched Blackfish last night. I have always not been a fan of seaworld because of them having the killer wales in captivity there. Killer whales are one of my favourite animals so to here how Tili was made to perform so much was sad. Ive always wanted to be able to see a killer whale though, really good to see that you educated your children about how they should be there. Also great that the trainer didn’t just lie like they used to about the whales being there. What they said is correct, they wouldn’t survive out there now as they haven’t learn how to be real whales. Im all for places that keep animals to protect them and rescue them, but in the past they were just in it for the money.
    Apparently they have just had a new baby whale arrive. I hope they keep it with its mother this time.

    • Harriet January 13, 2017 / 10:41 am

      Thank you, yes I believe the whale was pregnant when we were there and they claimed it would be the last one bred in captivity. I do hope so.

  19. January 12, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    I really hope they don’t breed more whales because it is very cruel. It is great that Reubeun has a great sense of justice and despite everything you still managed to have a good time.

    • Harriet January 13, 2017 / 10:42 am

      Thanks Ana, so do I. It’s important sometimes to see these things and say, “This is wrong, we need to do better than this” – but there is no denying they (staff on the ground) idolise the whales.

  20. Jemma
    January 12, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    This looks fantastic! I think my little boy would love this.

  21. January 12, 2017 / 12:21 pm

    I love that you made a point at the start by explaining you’ve seen blackfish and why you still went to the park. I agree it’s a great place for children to learn not only about animals and supporting wildlife but also how badly we’ve done things in the past! Definitely packed with awesome rides too 🙂

    • Harriet January 12, 2017 / 1:06 pm

      Yes – I didn’t want a barrage of “watch blackfish!!” – I have, I’m aware and I do care, but I also think there was another side that perhaps gets ignored.

      • Damian
        November 30, 2018 / 10:19 am

        Then watch the blue cove, this is where your dolphins come from. They are wild animals that are maltreated from the moment they’re caught. They suffer physical abuse and then mental abuse when they arrive at these sea parks, did you know that flipper committed suicide in the view of their keeper. It’s utterly reprehensible

    • Isla Barker
      August 19, 2019 / 3:38 pm

      Visiting animals in captivity teaches you nothing! You are not seeing them in their natural state. Captive animals are confined, depressed and frightened. Animals in the wild are free, happy and living their lives.

  22. January 12, 2017 / 12:19 pm

    It looks like you had a fab time at SeaWorld, I’d love to go and hope I can in the next few years x

    • Harriet January 12, 2017 / 1:06 pm

      Thanks Steph, we did!

  23. hannah
    January 12, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    I went to Seaworld years ago when i was around 10. I saw Blackfish when it came out and decided i don’t want to go to Seaworld again. For me it was just personal choice, I really didn’t like what Seaworld was doing and it was their fault that trainer got killed a few years ago. The animals are not supposed to do tricks for our entertainment, being stuck in a tank like they are is the equivalent of us being stuck in a bathtub for the rest of their lives. Since i went all those years ago, they have those new roller coasters, which are great for thrill seekers. You looked like you enjoyed your trip though x

    • Harriet January 12, 2017 / 1:07 pm

      I can see that, and that’s why I said in the post that you can’t really say anything positive about the whales other than that the trainers adore them. It was both a sad and wonderful experience.

  24. Michelle
    January 12, 2017 / 12:17 pm

    How can you support this really cruel business??

    • Harriet January 12, 2017 / 1:09 pm

      I don’t, rather that I acknowledge the issues and haven’t sugar coated them BUT I could only speak for what I found. Should they have the whales? No. Was it sad? Yes. Do they need to stick to their promise to never have more? 100%. However that doesn’t diminish how much the workers on the ground adored their charges, nor does it diminish the fun that we did have.

      • Barb Schmidt
        January 23, 2017 / 5:54 am

        They only stopped breeding because it is the law! They were going to make the tanks bigger.. remember Blue world? Opps they found out they could no longer breed them. Blue world? Gone..it was only to make the tanks bigger for more whales they wanted to breed. Now its a different backdrop.. the whales in the ocean free and wild.. wow whales can see where they should be…oh and they are dressing up where the people are walking around. That helps the whales how? And they promised 10 mil to help wild orcas….hmmm where did that money go.. because of the dams they are starving… and not one word from Seaworld to tear them down.. the 10 mil? They will not answer when we ask.

        • Harriet January 23, 2017 / 1:40 pm

          While I agree with some of your points (I’ll be totally honest, I’m not sure on all and I can see you’re very passionate as I struggle to read some of what you’ve written as it runs into one in clear frustration) I do feel that SeaWorld do some wonderful conservation work and I don’t see how they could help the whales they have NOW by setting them free? Hence the reason I am pleased they can’t have any more. This isn’t to paint SeaWorld in a positive or negative light, rather to highlight how and why we went, what we did there and why I think people should go to make up their own minds and not just believe what they read or make assumptions.

  25. January 12, 2017 / 11:49 am

    I’ve visited Seaworld twice and I loved it there both times.

    Although I agree these animals shouldn’t be in captivity, they do a lot for the environment and do care for their animals.

    It’s a big step that they’ve stopped certain things there now and like you said, things have changed from when they first captured Orcas.

    • Harriet January 12, 2017 / 1:10 pm

      EXACTLY Rach. You can’t undo what is done, but moving forward it must be learnt from.

      • Barb Schmidt
        January 23, 2017 / 5:49 am

        Then put them in sea sanctuaries so they can be as close to what Mother Nature intended . Amazing you all don’t know they only did what they HAD to do in CA.. its the law now. Not in any other parks. #seaworldcares? I think not.

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