(Photography and story by Jessyca Carr)
I was so very excited that Super Size Orlando asked me to cover this! I have four children that all love the sea and all of its mysterious creatures. I fell in love with sharks and the ocean when I was about three, and I’ve been lucky that all of them enjoy them as much as I do. In fact, my nine year old wants to be a marine biologist. We were greeted with a very warm reception that included a steel drum band, turtle-shaped and painted chocolate chip cookies, and face painting!
My older two decided they were too cool to have their faces painted, but my younger two could barely contain their excitement and both opted for sharks. After a quick picture with Magnus the Shark, we were whisked away to go meet the new turtle inhabitants! My kids were super impressed with the habitat and the wide array of small turtles,even got excited to meet some new species they had never encountered before, like the snake-neck turtle. Lilly, my marine biologist-to-be was able to talk to one of aquarists about dangers to both sea turtles, and land turtles. There were several habitats spaced apart so that several people are comfortable walking around and just watching the turtles. Our next adventure was a behind-the-scenes tour of the food prep area,labs, and the top of the tanks.
We were able to learn the story behind Shelly, the rescued sea turtle living at SeaLife Orlando. Shelly was hit by a boat, leaving his back two flippers paralyzed. He developed a condition known as “bubble butt”, where pockets of air get trapped up under the shell and the turtle can no longer dive for food or swim very fast.
Because of this condition, he will not be able to survive in the wild and will be a permanent resident at SeaLife Orlando. Last, but certainly not least, we were able to explore the rest of the aquarium for the first time. My favorite spot was the 360* tunnel where the fish, sharks, and rays swim all around you. I could seriously just move my bed in there and live forever. The kids really loved the touch tank filled with sea anemones, starfish, and other friendly little oddities
.I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit skeptical about aquariums in general because I was raised here in Orlando and I’m very spoiled by the extremely high-quality habitats at both SeaWorld Orlando and The Living Seas exhibit in Epcot at Walt Disney World. I guess one could say that I’m a tank snob!One of the reasons we had not been to the SeaLife Aquarium yet was because I just wasn’t sure it could live up to my incredibly high standards. I’ve got to tell you, I was ~blown away~ with the entire facility. The staff went out of their way to make sure that our needs were being met, that our questions were getting answered, and that we were getting the most out of our visit.
They are all incredibly knowledgeable about their watery residents, and obviously very passionate about being a part of the population that is ready to do whatever they can to educate, rescue, and make an impact on making the ocean a priority.
As a homeschooling mom, I was very impressed with the plethora of hands-on exhibits. The aquarium has done a great job of presenting information in a way that is easy to understand and fun to stop and read – and even play. The first thing that I said to my husband when he came home today was, “I think we should get an annual pass and go back again and again!” Additionally, the facility itself is clean and obviously well-cared for. (Shout out to my germaphobe moms – the bathrooms were **spotless**!! Yahoo!!)
I’m very glad that SeaLife Orlando has chosen to make their new home. I can’t wait to see what they do next and the impact they’re going to have in our community. We were genuinely blessed to be able to attend the event today, and we are already planning our next visit!