Refill with Randy – ‘Dot’ the dolphin and SeaWorld provide family fun

Posted 27 August 2023 at 7:55 am

By Randy LeBaron

Good morning! Grab your favorite cup. Fill it up. And let’s start this week right… TOGETHER!!!

Last month I shared about some of the animal adventures that my family and I had been on over the years—everything from visiting zoos and safaris to holding alligators, riding elephants, and petting tigers.

I mentioned at the end of that article that we would be going on another new animal encounter down in Orlando at the end of the month and some have been asking how it went so today’s article will be a follow up focusing on our time at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove.

First, let me give you a little backstory. My wife Sheryl absolutely loves SeaWorld. Beyond visiting the park while growing up she actually taught in Florida a couple of years prior to us getting married and she lived only a mile away from it. Teachers also get free passes so she could visit to her heart’s content and, even though I was still living in WNY at the time, I purchased a season pass since I knew that we would be going there whenever I had the chance to go down.

Eventually, after starting a family, we passed down our love for SeaWorld to our kids. While they were growing up we not only took them there several times but we also bought large stuffed dolphins for the girls, a giant stuffed Shamu for my son, and a CD of the Shamu Rocks Soundtrack which was played over and over again on every road trip.

Eventually we stopped taking as many trips down south and, even when we did, it seemed that Disney or the beach had become the more popular destination with the kids. Last Christmas though we stoked the embers of nostalgia by telling the kids that we were taking them on a family vacation to SeaWorld and that we were finally going to do something we had always talked about but had never done… we were going to swim with dolphins!

Sheryl and I had discovered a fantastic Black Friday deal for 60% off a day at Discovery Cove plus free entrance and parking at SeaWorld and it’s sister parks for 14 days surrounding our visit. So on July 24th we flew to Orlando and spent the next week riding rollercoasters, visiting family, and enjoying many of the animal shows including the dolphins, sea lions, and orcas.

Finally our day at Discovery Cove had come. We were nervous having it scheduled near the end of our trip since there was more of a chance of having bad weather disrupting our day with no time left to reschedule but, thankfully, it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day!

Although we enjoyed many other activities, like interacting with flamingos and snorkeling with giant sting rays, the highlight was our time in the water with the dolphin. We watched training videos and talked with staff before walking down to the beach where we waded into the icy cold salt water. After lining up we were introduced to our dolphin “Dot” who was the smallest of the adult dolphins at 300 lbs but also the most intelligent as she could follow many pure verbal commands. In spite of that we did learn how to interact with hand gestures and she was all to eager to show off by waving her fin, splashing, blowing raspberries, and even jumping out of the water.

After all this the time had finally come to interact with her one on one by petting her and then being pulled around the pool by holding onto her fin and flipper. Her body felt like wet leather and, even for a guy my size, she had no problem pulling me around with ease. All in all we definitely felt like our experience had lived up to our expectations and, at the end of our time, we were able to take a family portrait with Dot which we will cherish always along with the memories that we made.

See you in 2 weeks… Pastor Randy