Turns out, there’s more to Discovery Cove than swimming with dolphins. Next month, the all-inclusive tropical retreat will open The Grand Reef. In other words, the park is adding close to a million gallons of water, 10,000 marine animals and more man-made coral than you can shake a snorkel at.
Pay a visit and you’ll be paddling alongside angelfish, butterflyfish, wrasses and tangs as well as larger, unusual-looking hogfish and filefish. Don’t worry, scary fishies like the venomous lionfish, blacktip reef sharks and 800 species of eels, including the giant moray eel, will all be behind glass enclosures.
Take it one step further by checking out SeaVenture, also a new attraction opening in June. This underwater walking tour gives guests the chance to don a dive helmet (no SCUBA certification required) and trot across the reef floor. You’ll come eye-to-eye with sharks through a full, 8-foot-tall, 21-foot long panoramic window. Hold a star fish or sea urchins found along the way. And end your excursion with schools of fish feeding right next to you.
Leave time to explore the rest of this quiet respite. The aviary, where 250 birds flutter around freely, was one of my favorite nooks. In a word — amazing. On my last visit, I had five candy-colored sun conures resting on my forearms and feeding from my hand. Occasionally, a bird would perch atop my head. And a peacock proudly posed for photos for at least 15 minutes. It was a photographer’s dream come true.
For photos of my last Discovery Cove visit, go to www.sarahsekula.com/photos.
Now if the price of a visit to Discovery Cove is holding you back, consider this: It’s an all-inclusive package you are getting, and it includes a mother lode of value. For starters, you’ve got the all-you-can-eat upscale cafeteria, several walk-up snack stands and beer and drinks all at your disposal. Plus, your ID card gives you free admission into SeaWorld, Aquatica or Busch Gardens for the following 14 days.
If you go: Be sure to make reservations ahead of time, especially if you intend to visit during the summer months. During high season, it’s smart to book two months in advance. The park is open nearly every day of the year, so have at it.
6000 Discovery Cove Way
Orlando, FL 32821