This is sponsored by Discovery Cove. As always, all thoughts & opinions are my own.
Ever since the pandemic hit this past winter, we have been doing our best to quarantine, social distance and be safe. This August when I started homeschooling, I felt it was very important to spend time socializing and playing with other children so we have been going on weekly outside field trips and my kids have made lots of friends doing this. Despite the fact that we have been going on field trips, to necessary doctor and dentist appointments and to the library, I’m still hesitant about doing most things. Part of it is my natural tendency to overthink and overworry. The other part is my concern for my daughter who has severe heart disease. This year since we have a more flexible schoolweek schedule homeschooling, we have thought about going to some theme parks on our non-homeschooling days. Even that concerned me a bit. Until we started thinking about Discovery Cove. The last time we went to Discovery Cove was six years ago and I remembered that one of the many things I loved about Discovery Cove is they greatly limit the amount of patrons to their park each day. When we were there in 2014, we never had to stand in lines, never felt we were crowded in with a lot of people and always felt like we had tons of space. Discovery Cove was seeming more and more enticing especially during these strange pandemic times and we decided we really wanted to go to celebrate our daughter as well as publish a Discovery Cove review on our blog.
This is one of the first views when you enter Discovery Cove. Truly peaceful.
Fast forward to this past week. On Sunday, October 25th, our daughter turned 6 years old. To celebrate, we collaborated with Discovery Cove and were able to bring our family of four to the park. Because of the constant changes with the Covid virus and CDC regulations, I know that everything is always subject to change at the park. But for us, we learned that they have decreased the number of patrons they allow each day. When you enter the park, you will immediately have your temperature checked, everyone needs to wear masks and proper social distancing is adhered to while you wait in line to enter the park. (Even with social distancing, we waited no more than 5 minutes. They were very smooth with the entry process and there were no hold ups or complications.) Once you check-in, you are given a bag with a mask as well as hand sanitizer. If you are doing the Dolphin swim, you are given a special mask to wear just for that swim. The only two animal encounters that required a mask are the dolphin swim and the aviary. You also need a mask while walking through the restaurant to select your food. Throughout the park there are countless hand sanitizer stations, all employees wear masks, maybe 50% of the patrons wore masks while walking around and of course everything is outside (except for the restaurant and gift shop). We felt very safe. While floating through the two lazy rivers we never had other families on top of us, while participating in the Dolphin Swim we were with one other family and they kept us properly distanced the whole time. For a worrier like me, I felt as secure as possible considering all of the complexities and unknowns of this year’s pandemic.
We were truly spoiled at Discovery Cove. We stayed in a cabana and were able to “hunker down” there during all of our down time (not that we had much)! In our cabana was a ceiling fan, a locked cabinet for our possessions, a refrigerator stocked with water, soda, beer and wine, lounge chairs, clean beach towels and then our wonderful personal cabana attendant Tyler. Tyler attended to our every need whether it was giving us clean towels, chatting with our very talkative and inquisitive children, ordering us fun fruity drinks from the bar and walking us to and from the Dolphin Swim area. He took such wonderful care of us and truly made the day extra special. If you have the opportunity to reserve a cabana, I recommend it. Our cabana overlooked one of the lazy rivers. It was an area of the lazy river where the water was still and there was almost a rock like ledge you could sit and swim on. Because my children are older, were wearing life vests and are responsible, we let them swim on the ledge because we could see them the whole time and also see the lifeguard the whole time. It made our time relaxing and gave our kiddos an extra sense of independence. **don’t worry, I had my eagle eyes on them all.the.time.
The Dolphin Swim was a truly wonderful experience as well. It is well worth the opportunity. You learn so much about dolphins, can ask the trainers any questions you have about dolphins as well as your specific dolphin and then of course there are so many hands on opportunities whether it is feeling your dolphin’s skin, holding all 300 lbs of him/her while posing for a picture, giving them a kiss or just holding and caressing them like I did (they would make such wonderful emotional support dolphins)! We also learned that the dolphin we met in 2014 has now graduated to performing at Sea World. He is healthy, happy and has risen the ranks to performing. The one thing I love to see as an animal lover is that these trainers truly care about the well being of these dolphins. They told me a story about a 50 year old dolphin that is at Discovery Cove who is toothless. Because he is toothless, in the wild he wouldn’t last but days. But at Discovery Cove they are able to feed him a special diet and he is thriving. Stories like this make me so happy. **It is important to note that because of covid, we are currently unable to swim with the dolphins like in prior years. You are however able to be up close and personal with the dolphins as you can see from our photos. Because everything is constantly changing with Covid the restriction may be lifted at any point.
One of the encounters we didn’t try (we will have to next time) is the Shark Swim. I’m kind of a baby when it comes to sharks but this experience sounds amazing. During your scheduled time for your shark swim you will talk and learn from the expert Aquarists at Discovery Cove. With more than 20 sharks in the habitat at Discovery Cove – there is a lot to learn about! Your next step will be to put on your sterilized snorkel and mask to enjoy a deep-water, free swim alongside blacktip reef, nurse, zebra, bonnethead sharks, not to mention the thousands of tropical fish who also reside in The Grand Reef. This experience will give you better understanding of the uniqueness of each species of the care they receive at Discovery Cove and leave with the memory of an unforgettable experience.
One of the included activities with every Discovery Cove pass is going snorkeling with the fish and rays in The Grand Reef. Every one is given a mask and a brand new snorkel and you can swim through beautiful schools of fish, ginormous rays and you can also swim up to the glass separating the reef with the sharks. When you go underwater, looking through the glass almost makes you feel like you are swimming with the sharks. One of my favorite memories was touching the huge rays that swam right up to us. I was a mixture of afraid and enamored by them. They are beautiful, swim effortlessly and seemed to love to be touched as they kept swimming back to us for more pets.
We also loved the lazy river. One of the riveres is the Fresh Water Oasis. It is a very slow and relaxing ride that will bring you face-to-face with playful otters and curious marmosets. The marmosets are well hidden on their island so the kids had a lot of fun seeing who could spy the marmosets first!
The Wind-Away River is a more active lazy river ride. You will ride the soothing currents of a tropical river as it winds past sandy beaches, through a dense rain forest, beneath the rocky terrain of cascading waterfalls, and through an underwater cave. Our kids loved going through the water falls (and watching me go through them as I tried not to lose my sunglasses). It’s a really fun ride and we went through it quite a few times.
And then of course the food. Discovery Cove is all inclusive so breakfast, lunch, snacks, sodas, select alcoholic beverages, and much more are included with your admission. As you can see, we stocked up on a full breakfast before we started our day’s adventure (the trays are including food for 4 people in our defense). 🙂 You will not go hungry or thirsty during your time here. Another small but meaningful inclusion with your admission is FREE parking. For my husband this is a huge bonus as paying for parking always makes him lose his mind.
When you go, I recommend that you get there early. The earlier you arrive (7:30 and on) you will have a better selection of Dolphin Swim times to choose from. The park closes at 5:00 so you will also want to spend as much time there as possible before getting cleaned up, changed and heading home.
For us, being able to go to Discovery Cove on my daughter’s 6th birthday was such a wonderful memory maker. Getting spoiled with our cabana and being able to spend time talking with dolphin trainers and then being hands on with the dolphins made the day so special. My brother who lives on the east coast of Florida also came to surprise my kiddos. They haven’t seen their favorite Uncle since before Covid so I have to admit, being surprised by their Uncle may have been a close rivalry to swimming with the dolphins. My brother dotes on them and they’ve missed him so much.
This day was a day to remember. If you are planning on going and have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I’m not an expert but I can get the answers for you! Also, there are Florida resident savings packages so make sure you check them out. You also do not have to add on the Dolphin Swim package to your ticket. You will still have an amazing time watching the dolphins from shore and participating in all of the other rides. My kids are already asking when we can go back. Maybe next year!