There once was a little girl who loved dolphins. She thought they were some of the most beautiful creatures on earth ~ with their perpetual smile and shiny glass-like appearing exterior. She always dreamed of swimming with them one day, but feared that would simply be one dream that would never come true. Of course, that was until her “prince” surprised her with a very special gift for her birthday! Someone was going to experience Epcot Sea Adventures: Dolphins in Depth Tour!
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Okay – so that may have been a little more on the dramatic side when it comes to introducing this post. However, I couldn’t find a better way to tell you how excited I am to share this one. I – love – dolphins and, if you read my post from last week, you would know that already. When I was young, I loved visiting them at the aquariums and, for our very first wedding anniversary, we took a boat ride to watch the dolphins swimming off the South Carolina coastline. Still, I have always dreamed of giving one of those beautiful mammals a warm, loving hug. Call me crazy – it’s okay. I’m used to it.
Walt Disney World Tours
Walt Disney World Resort and Parks has some of the most amazing tours imaginable. They take place at all the parks and vary in length, price, experiences, etc. I’ve done a few, but there is one I have been eyeing for a little while. Unfortunately, it was unavailable for a period of time, but just started scheduling again in May of this year. Epcot has a tour called the Epcot Sea Adventures: Dolphins in Depth. It’s a three hour block where Guests tour the backstage facility at The Living Seas, learn about the dolphins living at Disney and have the magical opportunity to enjoy a little one on one time with them.
The Stuff You Should Know Before You Go
Here’s a little Dolphins in Depth pre-tour wisdom I can share with you.
Bring the following:
- A bathing suit. Come in your regular clothes, but bring your bathing suit.
- Basic toiletries, such as a brush, makeup, etc. You will have the opportunity to shower after your encounter and you don’t want to have to wait until you get back to the room (or home) to wash the salt water out of your hair!
- A ziploc bag to store your bathing suit AFTER the encounter. They do have a machine to help spin out some of the water, but it will not be 100% dry.
Know the following:
- Jewelry will have to come off. However, if you have difficulty removing it (such as I did with my wedding ring), they will find a way to accommodate you. They simply don’t want anything falling int the water, nor do they want the dolphins distracted by something shiny. TIP: If you are allergic to latex, be sure to bring your own bandaids, gauze and/or medical tape.
- There are long spans between bathroom breaks. They do let you know how long before each section and provide an opportunity.
- No food is provided on this tour (though I heard there used to be).
- No video or photos are allowed to be taken backstage.
- Guests must be 13 years of age or older in order to participate in this experience. All participants under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a paying adult (18 years of age or older).
For more on what they want you to know before you go, you can check the Walt Disney World site by clicking here and checking the “Know Before You Go” section.
The Day of my Epcot Sea Adventures: Dolphins in Depth Tour
The tour began about mid morning, meeting between 9:30 and 9:45 just to the right of Guest Relations at Epcot. I tried hard to take into consideration time to go through the entrance gate, park the van, go through Security and then head to the right of that main area. Of course, I still had hubby call to make sure they knew I was coming, as I was afraid of being late. I wasn’t – but I’m glad he made the call anyway. It made me feel better.
Quick note: I did not have to enter the actual park, so park admission does not seem to be required.
There were five of us in our group for the Dolphins in Depth tour that day – a max of eight is set. At this initial meet-up, introductions were made and the rules were reviewed. We were given the opportunity to sign our lives away (not really, but we did have to sign a waiver) and received name tags and temporary lanyards for the tour. Once that was done, the events of the tour were explained more in depth.
Our Cast Members for the day were Mel, Tara and Greg. Each of them played an integral, orchestrated role during the tour. They moved around like a very well oiled machine, to be honest. They were right there when the other needed help and transitioned beautifully and smoothly in between sections of the tour. Fortunately, we also had ourselves a great group of guides with personality! They were all fun-loving, energetic, brilliant and accommodating (remember me mentioning the ring up there?).
As noted above, no photos or video is allowed to be taken backstage. They don’t like the magic leaking out from its source, so it’s important to know this. That sadly means that this post will not have the abundance of photos I normally share. I humbly apologize, guys.
We were, however, able to carry our cell phones with us and store them inside our lanyard pockets. This enabled us to take photos during the onstage portions of our tour.
The first stop
We were first introduced to the locker room. This is where we would be changing into our wet-suit later in the tour. At that point, we were simply instructed to store any and all loose and unnecessary items in a chosen locker, hand in the lock and then report to the hall. Easy peasy.
The next hour or so was spent in various parts of the building learning about dolphin physiology, training, research and diet. While backstage, we watched videos and saw first hand what they were fed for snacks, meals and larger, more special, treats (what ice cream is to humans).
At two points during the tour, we were actually onstage and had permission to snap photos. During this portion, Dave, one of the trainers, talked Guests in the area through a demonstration where they were studying the dolphin’s ability to work with visual stimuli. Our team had front row seats as Calvin played a memory game with some of the trainers through the glass windows of the tank.
This is worthy of being mentioned. Dolphins have TONS of personality! If the dolphins don’t want to play the game, they won’t ~ and they are not going to be forced to do so here. They also have a tendency to play around and know exactly how to get a trainer or Guest chuckling.
Time To Suit Up
Greg then escorted us back to the locker rooms while Tara and Mel prepped for the next part of the adventure. This is where we were given a different locker with a wet suit, wet boots and towels. It was just about time for our hopeful encounter.
Yes, I said “hopeful.” The Cast Members were very quick in the beginning to point out that sometimes the dolphins are not as cooperative as they would like and the encounters are not as magical.
Fortunately, for us ~ they were extremely playful during our time with them!
Meeting Rainer, Calvin and Malibar up close!
The entire group was taken upstairs to the top of the tank, where our adorable buddies were waiting for us. We were walked into the water and onto a platform that had us wet at about waist high. While sitting on a bench, we were first shown various ways the trainers work with the dolphins for exercise ~ both mental and physical. We were then allowed to come forward, learn a little more about their anatomy up close and finally have our photos taken. I got to hug my dolphin!!!!
PHOTOS: Each Guest of the Dolphins in Depth tour receives one free downloadable photo with their encounter. If there are two in your party, you receive two photos. It is your choice how those two photos are divided. For instance, you can take one shot with one individual in your party and then one of the two of you OR you can both simply take individual shots.
After photos were done, we were able to get in a little on the action and help with some training. Let me tell you that our dolphin buddy, Rainer, was a little on the playful side that day and decided to chat a lot and splash even more! We were soaked!!! But it was all in fun and he was having such a good time doing it.
We were in the water perhaps 20 to 30 minutes before we had to say goodbye to our beautiful friends. We were led back down to the locker rooms and allowed ample time to take off our wetsuits, shower and prepare ourselves for departure.
When reluctantly ready to get back to reality, all five of us assembled out in the hall. Waiting for us on the benches were a towel and a card holding the code for our downloadable photo memory. The card was explained and Mel, Tara and Greg gave some final words, answered some questions and shared some highlights.
In the end, we all had a fabulous time getting to know Rainer, Calvin and Malibar. Our tour guides were amazing and I will never forget this memorable adventure.
If you are looking to enjoy a fun, educational and memorable tour to take during your next visit to Walt Disney World, be sure to check out Dolphins in Depth. This little girl, who will never be able to thank her “prince” enough for the gift he gave her, will forever hold the memory in her heart that she finally had opportunity to give a real dolphin a warm, loving hug.
Discount tip! When scheduling this tour, be sure to mention if you are a DVC member! Gotta love a little savings!