Last week I was in San Antonio for work. As part of the conference I was attending, I had the opportunity to take a behind the scenes tour of Sea World San Antonio (on what just so happened to be our first wedding anniversary).
We started our day with a discussion on animal training philosophy and how that can translate to working with people. I’m a dork so I loved this part. Our session was taught by the extremely charismatic Chuck Cureau, who is one of the head curators at Sea World. He was on Regis and Kelly last Wednesday for World Oceans Day, and is also the NBA announcer for the San Antonio Spurs. Any of you basketball or daytime talk show fans recognize the guy in the middle?
After the presentation, we broke into groups. My group did the back-lot tour of the facilities first.
This is how they transport the whales when they have to be shipped somewhere.
And this is how they move the dolphins from one tank to another.
The first pool we stopped at on the right was full of sting rays.
Definitely touched these guys, and they seemed to like it a whole lot more than I did. Their skin(?) feels really rubbery.
The pool next to it was also full of sting rays. Much, much, bigger sting rays. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but these guys are seriously 5 or 6 feet wide. Shudder.
Upping the scare factor, the next thing we touched was a shark.
Its skin felt like sandpaper.
This is a horn shark egg. The mother lays them into crevices and they burrow down like a screw for safekeeping. Nature is crazy.
Tam, this next section is just for you!
After petting the predators, we went inside to the labs where they rehabilitate coral, sea urchins, and other endangered ocean wildlife.
Baby giant clams.
Then we visited the stars of the show.
For lunch we made our way into the park.
We had a great meal at a really nice reception center in the of the park and got to meet Brian, the PR director for Sea World. Very cool.
After lunch it was time to swim with the whales!
FYI the first time you ever put on a wetsuit, make sure it’s not 102 degrees outside. Trust me.
Then we got to get in the big pool and interact with two of the Belugas. That round thing on the top of its head is called a melon. It’s squishy and moves when you touch it. Kind of weird, kind of awesome.
The other group had warned us that the water was freezing (in the 50s I think?) but compared to the heat outside, it felt awesome.
Each of us took turns feeding fish to the whales and getting them to perform various tricks. Those things are SMART.
Then this happened.
After more tricks and some very cold splashing, we reluctantly climbed out of the pool and changed back into dry clothes to catch our shuttle to the hotel.
My experience at Sea World San Antonio was fantastic. It was a great way to meet other people that were attending the conference, and it was fascinating to get a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective of the park. If I couldn’t spend my first anniversary with my husband, at least I spent it with sting rays and whales.
Stay tuned for details on the rest of my trip to San Antonio!