Florida Guide > Sea World
Visiting Discovery Cove without the dolphin swim
This was to be our second visit to Discovery Cove. The first was when our youngest was 6 years old, barely able to swim, and not knowing what to expect from the day. 8 years on, neither of our boys wanted to swim with the dolphins again, but were looking forward to what the rest of Discovery Cove had to offer since their previous visit. We chose a Saturday, half way through our stay as we thought we would be used to the sunshine as it would be a whole day outdoors and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.
The weather channel promised us a sunny day with little chance of rain, so arrived at 8. 00am to check in, which entailed having our photos taken and an identity pass made to wear around our necks and were shown a map of DC and given a briefing, then were pointed in the direction of the self serve restaurant to start the day with breakfast. We also had a complimentary family photo taken and were told we could collect it when we were ready to leave. Breakfast was a new experience for us as this was not available on our first trip. There were a variety of hot and cold items, including scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, as well as cereal yoghurt fruit and even some little cakes and pastries, so something for everyone. Tea, coffee, fruit juice and fizzy drinks were also on offer.
We then made our way to pick up our swim vests (or wetsuits if you are doing the dolphin swim, as the water is a lot colder) and net bag with snorkel, mask and sunscreen and white towels and headed for the beach area to pick our spot. You can only wear the sunscreen provided as it is safe to use around the habitat. There were plenty of sunbeds so we chose some close to where the dolphin swims would take place so we could still enjoy the dolphin experience without actually taking part ourselves. Once settled, I and eldest son Jamie, went to explore. Both hubby and Josh are not that keen on water so settled down to people /dolphin watch and catch a few rays.
We went first to the freshwater oasis, which had also been added since our previous visit. The scenery is lovely and we saw marmosets and otters while wading around the waters. One of the best buys that we made beforehand was an inexpensive Nikon waterproof camera. It was a great bonus being able to take the camera in the water with us and photograph over and under water without worrying about ruining the camera. It made the experience that much better, being able to capture pictures not normally available. We had fun going under waterfalls and seeing what shots the camera could capture. We visited the bird sanctuary, observing others feed the birds and watched the peacocks perched in the trees with their plumage hanging down the trunks beneath them.
It was thirsty work enjoying ourselves, so we went in search of a drink and found one of the snack bars scattered around DC. They had potato chips, fizzy drinks, pretzels, slush drinks - and beer, wine and frozen cocktails for over 21’s. We took 4 slush drinks back to the beach with us and spent a bit of time sunbathing and watching the dolphin interactions, which were taking place in front of us.
We headed off for lunch as we were starting to get peckish and had a really lovely meal. There was plenty of choice from dishes such as jambalaya, fish, burger, chicken, fries, two types of salads and a variety of desserts. It was freshly cooked and looked very appetising. We helped ourselves to drinks and found a table and took our time sampling the food. You could go back for seconds if you wanted, but we had plenty the first time round. The place gradually filled up, but there was still plenty of tables available, so nothing felt rushed or crowded.
After a restful time sunbathing, letting our food go down, we all set out to windaway river. This was a little strange, as the depth of the water changed in places so that you had to swim or float around, as you couldn’t touch the bottom. There were floats available so that the not-good swimmers could get past these areas, but it was a little disconcerting when the bottom suddenly fell away – there was little or no current, so you also had to get around under your own steam, which helped to work off the extra pounds we had put on from lunch.
My favourite spot was definitely the grand reef. I had forgotten how breathtaking snorkelling in the reef could be. The colours and variety of fish was amazing as were the giant rays lying on the bottom of the reef, even in the shallow waters. There are shallow areas so that even the non-swimmers can experience snorkelling without getting out of their depth. Jamie and I snorkelled around to the shark area (which I had not found on our previous visit) and watched them lazily cutting through the waters. They are behind glass, which is angled, so you can actually swim above where they gathered, so that it felt as though they were swimming beneath you.
The whole day was perfect, there was plenty to keep everyone occupied and with the number of people limited to 1300 per day, the place did not feel crowded. Nothing felt rushed, but eventually it was time to call it a day and head for home. We collected our photo on the way out – which was a lovely memento of the day – and headed home after a completely fabulous and memorable day. It was definitely worth the money, especially as the price included a 14 day pass to SeaWorld and Aquatica. You can even add Busch Gardens for a small amount extra.
We would thoroughly recommend a trip to Discovery Cove – with or without the dolphin experience.
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