My picture threads consist of images I have taken that focus on the architecture, landscape architecture, planning, design, and theming of the facilities highlighted. They may also contain short descriptions and commentary, but will not focus on construction progress or special events or memorabilia or food selections or my traveling companions. Hopefully these threads are a good introduction for those who have not seen these places yet. All killer, no filler!
Discovery Cove photographed in January 2010:
This is a medium-sized aquatic and aviary park with a focus on animal interaction. It is a separate gated attraction adjacent to SeaWorld Orlando and owned and operated by that company. It is set in a beautiful subtropical landscape of exotic trees and plants where palms predominate, with wide man-made white sandy beaches lining the low rocky walls of the waterways; visitor services are located in scattered bright stucco buildings or woodsy shelters with thatch roofs. Its main attractions are a large dolphin lagoon, a large resort pool with a looping lazy river attached, a large and lush walk-through aviary complex, and a large snorkel-through tropical reef environment. The intent of the park is for visitors to spend all day in their bathing suits, swimming and exploring the park as well as relaxing on its beaches; it is an all-inclusive attraction where a limited number of visitors are allowed in each day by reservation only. Snorkel gear, towels, lockers, a souvenir photo, breakfast, lunch, drinks, and snacks are all included. Visitors have the option of standard entry or entry plus a dolphin interaction session in the water.
The single entry from the parking lot is the Check-In Lobby, the largest building in the park, with a large thatched peaked roof and a spacious lobby lined with registration desks that features a dolphin pod sculpture suspended from the ceiling.
Plants are the focus of the entry walkway, a twisting route through the most jungle-like part of the park, crossing several wood bridges and stucco-walled bridges over a small waterway, past a riot of bromeliads and palms.
The park's small gift shop.
This restaurant features counter-service and extensive outdoor dining areas on each side.
Several small buildings or shelters have lockers, changing rooms, and drink and snack bars, as well as some colorful outdoor rinsing showers.
The main attraction is called Dolphin Lagoon and houses an incredible 47 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in its 3 million gallons at 77F! The scenic lagoon varies in depth from 0 to 12 feet and is subdivided into three main lobes, each with its own curving beach entry on one side. Dolphin interactions last about a half hour and are preceded by an orientation in a nearby cabana.
Rather than a formal geometric design with steep-walled sides, the resort pool has varying depths and a low rocky-walled or beach-lined shore, with a few rocky outcrops in the middle. To one side is a larger long outcrop with several thundering waterfalls.
The river floats through the waterfall-fronted cave, and it also varies in depth from 3 to 8 feet along its course; rather than a regular flume shape for similar attractions elsewhere, this lazy river is a highly detailed naturalistic course through various rock or gravel-lined coves and jungle-shaded stretches, dotted with some underwater artifacts such as a rusty cannon or some ancient pots. Also unique to this river is that there are no inner tubes allowed (although noodles are provided if needed) which makes for a more naturalistic experience while swimming or floating or snorkeling through. Both the river and resort pool are connected and kept at a balmy 86F.
When was the last time you saw a swim-through aviary? Discovery Cove has one! The Wind-away River actually enters it. This is accomplished by a low rocky arch entrance and exit for the river, both of which have curtains of waterfalls all the way across to effectively keep the inhabitants from flying out. A wide stairway leads out of the river onto the aviary pathways so that visitors can swim through and emerge out of the water for a closer look. The aviary also has a few rocky entrances from land, into a series of three lush walkthrough steel-and-mesh enclosures filled with hundreds of exotic birds, many of which can be handfed.
This wonderful snorkel-through fish habitat is comprised of 2 million gallons at 77F. A small shallow lagoon is the first habitat encountered, for about 20 cownose rays. A rocky outcrop separates this from the main reef; both are entered from several beach entries and are lined by low rocky walls. The main habitat is essentially a naturalistic figure-8 layout for snorkeling, with two small islands in the middle. It is absolutely brimming with tropical fish and rays. One of the islands is a simulated shipwreck, stranded on a rocky outcrop and emerging from the water; below the surface, three underwater windows set in the ship frame reveal views into a smaller habitat for about 15 great barracuda (this habitat can not be entered by visitors). On one edge of the main habitat is a similar set of two underwater windows that look into a shark lagoon that can not be entered. Unfortunately I did not have an underwater camera to shoot these nice features!