Orcinus Orca. The Killer Whale. They do justice to this nickname—a pod of orcas can defeat a Great White Shark. They are the top predator of the ocean. However, they are also curious, playful, and expressive creatures whose strength and beauty cannot be denied.
There are few places in the world where you can see orcas up close in a way that is not potentially dangerous to human or whale (dolphin, technically). Thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, it is illegal to interact with killer whales in the wild.
That’s one of the things that makes Seaworld so special to me. Along with inspiring millions of guests to care for the environment, having rescued over 28,000 animals with their phenomenal rescue program, and donating hundreds of millions of dollars to conservation efforts, Seaworld is a place where humans can connect with animals they would likely never see elsewhere.
As Florida residents, my family has always taken advantage of all of the theme parks in our backyard. I’ve had Seaworld passes for longer than I can remember. On February, 15th of this year, my mom took my sister and me to Seaworld as a birthday trip for me. It started out as a normal day. I visited the dolphins and then headed towards the back of the park, to Shamu Underwater Viewing. I was more than excited to see my favorite animal.
Much to my joy, there were three orcas in the Underwater Viewing pool. This doesn’t always happen—there are 7 pools and 7 whales that can be spread out among them in any way. We watched a brief training session from below, watched the power of the orca’s flukes that give them enough speed to jump fully out of the water, raising several thousand pounds into the air. Every time I see it, it’s breathtaking.
As we watched this, I grabbed a jump rope from my bag. Sometimes, I knew, when you provided a stimulus, the whales might come to the glass to interact with you—watching you act ridiculous for their entertainment. I stood there, swinging the jump rope around, hoping to get noticed.
Much to my surprise I did. Trua, one of the whales in the pool, swam right over. He was blowing bubbles and sticking his tongue out at me, seemingly loving what I was doing. And there I was. Face to face with a 5,000 pound killer whale. No words can describe the feeling of it.
For forty five minutes, Trua kept coming back to play. At one point, he brought a little leaf in his mouth down to us; a toy for me since I had brought a toy for him.
Nothing can inspire you to care for the ocean like an experience like this. Even just watching the killer whale show lets you see the grace and beauty and power of these animals, allowing you to get a deeper appreciation for their species.
Watching a dolphin leap 10 feet in the air. Touching a shark. Getting splashed by a penguin. These experiences are invaluable to inspiring the next generation to care for our oceans. To some, Seaworld is just a theme park. I see it as so much more and visiting it with my family—no matter how many times—is one of my favorite things to do.
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