In a year in which it is celebrating its largest expansion ever, SeaWorld San Diego is also getting back to its roots – education and conservation – and adding a much more educational element to its shows and attractions, reports assistant editor, Greg Coates in this week’s Travel Courier cover story.
“That’s how it all started. We want people to have fun, but also leave feeling inspired, feeling that they’ve learned something,” SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s Suzanne Pelisson Beasley told Travel Courier. “SeaWorld was founded on education.”
Key to this is SeaWorld San Diego’s all-new Orca Encounter, focusing on natural orca encounters, rather than the theatrical. The encounter showcases SeaWorld’s killer whales in a documentary-style format, supported by a three-storey, high-definition infinity screen with a natural, rugged coastline setting.
Using a combination of a live presentation layered with a digital environment, the new Orca Encounter allows SeaWorld to share its 50-year knowledge of killer whale behaviour and care. While the fun is still there, and yes patrons still get splashed, they also leave with more knowledge and fun facts about the majestic mammals.
“By combining a live orca presentation with an extraordinarily enhanced and augmented digital environment, we immerse our guests in the mysterious world of the killer whale, which most people would never get to experience,” said Brian Morrow, SeaWorld’s vice-president of theme park experience and design.
A specialized team of orca behaviourists, engineers, researchers and writers spent nearly a year creating the new Orca Encounter.
“Guests may see a natural breaching behaviour by the whales, and then on our new massive infinity screen they’ll see the same behaviour by a killer whale in the wild enabling them to draw an even deeper connection to the orcas,” says SeaWorld San Diego orca behaviourist Kristi Burtis. “Our visitors also hear how scientific research on killer whales at SeaWorld is benefiting wild populations.”
For the full story, check out this week’s digital edition of Travel Courier.