MiceChat recently visited SeaWorld San Diego during the SeaWorld 50th Anniversary Celebration, Sea of Surprises.  Throughout the day a group of very talented photographers took pictures of the event.  A special thanks to Michael Greening, Andy Castro, Dustysage, and Daniel Lew for their wonderful work throughout the day.

It was a cool overcast morning along the shores of Mission Bay as MiceChatters gathered at the brand new front gates of SeaWorld San Diego for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the park by MiceChat and our Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast.  As the attendees gathered, Dustysage and Eric Davis greeted all with a warm smile and open arms. Just before the park opened at 10am, a very special guest, Creative Director for SeaWorld Parks Brian Morrow, introduced himself to the group.

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A selfie by Dustysage (left) featuring Eric Davis and Creative Director, Brian Morrow

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Brian thanked everyone for being there and began to explain his process in creating the brand new entrance to this 50 year old park. The idea was to immediately make guests feel a sense of adventure and wonder.

As you approach the entry, it feels a bit like a beach. The entry gate is a giant wave.

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Original music plays an adventurous theme over the sound of waves crashing on the shore.  Crossing the turnstiles we seem to dive under water to explore the fascinating ocean world.  Brightly colored coral reef inspired touch pools confront guests and immediately, inviting them to engage in the oceans wonders.

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A variety of tidal pools hold fish, sharks and horseshoe crabs. Staff are on hand to explain the animals and their ecology.

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A variety of small shops pepper the area and have an open and breezy feeling.

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Cleaner fish are happy to see you. They nibble safely at your hands.

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The beautiful vegetation throughout the entry area mimics a colorful reef.

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The water-wise hanging baskets look like jelly fish!

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We love the organic feeling of the new entry and the return to the classic 60s style lettering on this store.

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We gathered on the lawn behind the new entry where Brian Morrow shared with us the concept evolution for the new entry complex.  What a fascinating exploration of ideas.

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Following our amazing hour long meet and greet with Brian Morrow, we had just enough time to catch the first daily showing of One Ocean staring Shamu.

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It was then time to enjoy a custom created all you can eat buffet in our own private event space in Shipwreck Jungle.  Executive Chef, Axel Dirolf, crafted an amazing and beautiful buffet for our guests.  We enjoyed a sampling of tastes from around the park along with some tasty surprises.

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Lunch ended and we were then visited by two adorable Animal Ambassadors.

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This three month old Penguin can handle the outdoor temperatures of Southern California because she’s native to Argentina. She seemed to love meeting everyone and wasn’t frightened or timid in the slightest.
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This little hedgehog was absolutely adorable. But not to be petted. Those quills are a sharp reminder of nature’s defenses.

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After this enchanting visit by SeaWorld’s animal ambassadors, there was still one big surprise awaiting us.  We were escorted to Shamu Stadium and led to the side gate.  We were taken into the empty stadium and seated front and center.  Once seated, we were asked to turn around and face the back of the stadium and not look back toward the pool.  Behind us, three of the beautiful Orca positioned themselves and a large group picture was taken.

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The amazing Orca, Makani, Kasaka, and Kalia pose with the MiceChatters.

 

We then sat back down and were treated to an educational seminar on how the trainers care for the orca. As long time trainer John spoke, the whales played and cavorted behind him in the large tank.  It was readily apparent that John and every one of the trainers care deeply for the animals they work with.

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These whales are constantly stimulated and worked with in a loving environment.  Despite popular belief, they are not starved into performance.  The whales are fed regardless of whether or not they go out on any given day. In fact, the wales themselves decide if they want to perform or not. There are 10 Orca currently at Shamu stadium. Some shows may feature all 10, others might have just 3 or 4. It’s entirely the choice of each individual animal if they want to play in front of a crowd or not.

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After an amazing hour of one-on-one time with John and the three majestic Orca, the formal portion of our day was over and guests were free to enjoy the shows and attractions in the park.  Our tickets allowed us front of the line access to Manta, Shipwreck Rapids, Wild Arctic, Journey to Atlantis, the Sky Tower,  the Sky Buckets over Mission Bay and all of the shows.  After finding Manta temporarily closed, the group wandered over to explore the Shark Encounter.

But we couldn’t leave the Manta area before visiting the massive pool of bat rays.  These guys are so amazing.  Extremely social and, to a degree, affectionate, they swarm the permitter of the tank.  You could also purchase little fish to feed them too.  A little pricey at $6.00, but the Manta really enjoy the treats.

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Along the way we also wandered through the Sea Turtle Aquarium and the Sea Lion enclosure.

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We decided to take a break from walking around and watched the beautiful, Blue Horizons show.

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Finally, it was time for something thrilling and many of the folks in our group had never been on Journey to Atlantis.  The problem was that the ocean breeze was beginning to kick up and the weather was getting a little cool. “Well”, we thought, “it’s not like we’re going on Shipwreck Rapids.  We won’t get too wet.”

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We’re number 1!
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Completely and totally soaked!

With that final soaking we decided to take a ride on Manta to dry off.  That is such a fun and zippy little coaster, which really packs a thrilling punch.  Truly a lot of fun.  They just need to theme the back half of the ride and it would be practically perfect.

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To close out the day, some of us wandered on to the Sky Tower for a final look at the park.

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It was a an absolutely wonderful event and all had a great time at SeaWorld San Diego.  We’d like to extend our thanks to the fabulous staff at the park who make every little detail so exciting and fun.  To be in and amongst folks that really, truly care for the well being of these animals and strive to teach guests about the preservation of the oceans is absolutely magic.  We left feeling the need to cultivate a greater understanding of these remarkable creatures and how we can all preserve their ocean habitats.  Awareness, education, and conservation are key to the progress we are obligated to make.  SeaWorld, perhaps better than any other entity, has led the effort to do just that . . . and they have done so for hundreds of millions of guests over these past 50 years.

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In the wake of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska (and everywhere else you find oil rigs and shipping vessels); global warming killing the coral reefs; boats endangering the Manatees; whaling vessels in Asia killing huge numbers of wales, dolphin and sharks; and the carless dumping of trash and chemicals directly in the oceans, it’s amazing that there is any life left in our seas. And on land, we may see the end of Polar Bears in the wild in our lifetime as well as many less well know species. Who will morn them? Who will try to save them? Without the education and intervention of the good folks at SeaWorld and educational institutions like them, we all know what the outcome will be. Corporations will keep dumping toxins, cities will keep discarding trash, individuals will continue to be careless and nations will fail to protect the fragile liquid space which occupies more than two thirds of our planet.  It is up to ALL of us to preserve the planet. If SeaWorld can inspire us to be better people, we will all benefit from the result.

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