Discovery Cove in Orlando is a once in a lifetime immersive experience into a unique tropical sanctuary. This adventure park allows you to interact with animals that would otherwise want nothing to do with you in the wild. The all inclusive experience includes a 30 minute dolphin swim, snorkeling in the Coral Reef with thousands of tropical fish, wading in the Ray Lagoon for an up-close and personal ray interaction, and hand feeding birds in the Aviary. They provide a Continental breakfast, lunch, and snacks and beverages all throughout the day. Snorkel gear (in adult and child sizes), swim vest or wetsuit, towels, lockers, beach chairs and sunscreen are also supplied. Before or after your Discovery Cove visit you have the choice of admission to either Sea World Orlando or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for 7 consecutive days or a combination pass with admission to both theme parks for 14 consecutive days for $30.00 more.
Once we arrived and entered the Check-in Lobby we were directed to one of the many check in counters where we received our Discovery Cove photo badges with a small map attached to it. The Lobby has a beautiful mosaic floor and a very open feel, so it does not seem crowded even when there are numerous guests inside. Be sure to look up and see the Dolphin sculpture hanging from the ceiling.
Upon leaving the lobby we encountered one of the animal experts and a South American two toed sloth. We were allowed to pet the sloth along his back avoiding the head. The fur was coarse like the hair of a horse’s tail. Needless to say our adventure was already off to an amazing start. We continue along the winding path through lush tropical vegetation and giant palms. At the end of the walkway we were greeted by a tour guide who gave a short informational spiel about the park. She pointed out the First Aid station, the photo pick up, Laguna Grill, and the Blue Bridge which takes you to the Coral reef, Aviary, and Stingray lagoon. When the tour was over we headed to Laguna Grill to eat breakfast. They serve fruit, yogurt, muffins, cinnamon rolls, croissants, cheese danishes, and other pastries. The beverage selection included Pepsi products, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and bottled water.
After breakfast and before changing into our swimsuits, we chose to explore the free-flight three-room Aviary where we were able to feed, touch and interact with hundreds of different birds. This was a smart move on our part because it was still early in the morning, there were no other guests, and it was breakfast time. The aviary attendant provided us with small white ramekins filled with bird food and small pieces of fruit. She instructed us to hold the containers high in the air in order to entice the birds to land and eat. Immediately we were bombarded by several brightly colored tropical birds. We encountered a peacock, an enormous parrot, a tiny deer and a South American turkey. Each enclosure houses its own unique variety of birds. We had such a great time that we visited a second time later in the afternoon.
The next stop was the swim vest and wetsuit distribution center located directly across from the main changing area. This is also where you receive your snorkeling gear and sample of Eco-friendly sunscreen. We opted for the swim vests, but if you are sensitive to cooler water temperatures the wetsuit would be your best option. You are required to wear a swim vest or wetsuit anytime you are in the water.
Our dolphin encounter was scheduled for 11:10am and our meeting spot was the Sea Horse cabana, one of 3 meeting locations. Upon arrival at the designated cabana we were assigned to Pod B with 6 other people for a total of only 8 in our group. The Discovery Cove dolphin trainer went over several rules with us and then showed a short video about what to expect during our encounter. They ask that you remove all jewelry, with the exception of tight fitting rings. Cameras are also prohibited during the dolphin encounter. After the 10 minute orientation, we followed our Pod leader to the dolphin lagoon to meet our trainer and dolphin. Nate, our dolphin, was born at Discovery Cove and he is four years old. We were allowed to pet him along his back, feed him fish, have a one-on-one kiss, and get our picture taken with him. Honestly, I think I could have kissed him all day long; he was such a sweet dolphin. Then it was time for the dorsal fin ride. We swam out two at a time with one of the trainers and then Nate would pull us back to shore. Remember to ask plenty of questions to further enhance your dolphin experience. We headed back over to Laguna Grill for lunch once the encounter was over.
After lunch we snorkeled through the Coral Reef where we saw massive rays and Eagle rays with wing spans of 4 – 6 feet. We even got to see two of the Discovery Cove trainers feeding these gorgeous creatures. Swimming among the thousands of colorful tropical fish is truly an amazing experience. The Ray Lagoon was our next stop where we were able to interact with numerous smaller rays. We were able to feel the wings as well as the underbellies of these friendly sea creatures. The water in both of these pools is a cool 70 degrees, so the warmer water of the winding Tropical River was a welcome change.
At the end of the day we returned our swim vests and masks; we were allowed to keep the snorkel. We then took advantage of the on site showers where Crabtree & Evelyn bath products are provided. It felt great to leave the park refreshed and clean. This is a great option for people on vacation that may want to have dinner or visit Sea World after their Discovery Cove adventure.