Behind-the-Scenes at SeaWorld – Our Search for Daphne

Taking a Behind-the-Scenes Tour at SeaWorldIf you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you already know that my son is on the autism spectrum and has a couple of other disorders as well. I don’t talk about it much because it’s just part of our normal lives. We adjust and adapt and go about our lives as usual just like everyone else does. For today’s post, though, it’s important to know of his issues because it gives more background as to why this one thing was so important.

He loves animals. I mean really loves animals. All animals. He gets upset if we kill a spider in the house. With that, he loves animal interactions even more and remembers them for a long time. When he was little, he did his first dolphin interaction at SeaWorld San Diego. He loved it and really, really remembers it. To give you an idea, the dolphin’s name was Daphne. Well, we now have a dog named Daphne, named after that dolphin. So, while we often have fights over whether or not he is going to leave the house (or even his bedroom), he leapt at the chance to head back to SeaWorld with one thought on his mind, seeing Daphne the dolphin again.

Unfortunately, I learned on a trip in January that Daphne is being kept in animal care for some extra special attention and is not in the main dolphin tank where the public can see her. Fortunately, I knew that some of the Behind-the-Scenes tours go back to animal care and booked one.

Taking a Behind-the-Scenes Tour at SeaWorldWe started our tour, not in animal care, but with the bat rays. We had fed the bat rays before, but not like this. Instead of the usual fish, we were given little squid to feed them. After getting over my squeamishness at the squid, I fed them. I love the feel of the rays. So soft! We learned that the softness comes from a layer of mucus over their bodies. Eww! There came the squeamishness again! My son would not feed them. Remember that love of animals? He felt bad for the squid, although he does understand that the rays have to eat so was not upset by it. He just couldn’t do it himself. On our visit with Daphne, he would only feed her ice cubes and not the fish.

Taking a Behind-the-Scenes Tour at SeaWorldNow it was time to head behind the scenes into animal care. Our group was introduced to two young dolphins. We were able to interact with them as well as learn about them. We saw how they were cared for and behaviors rewarded. Here my son surprised me. He was so excited over the dolphins, he actually took a fish from the trainer and fed one and then another. There were gelatin cubes, too, but he actually fed them the fish. I guess his love of the dolphins overpowered his feelings for the fish at least a little. Although while my son loved being with these dolphins and even fed them, he was still asking about Daphne.

Taking a Behind-the-Scenes Tour at SeaWorldWe then saw the rescued sea lions. Our guide told us that SeaWorld San Diego has already rescued over 1,000 animals in 2015, more than they usually do in an entire year. Most of them are California sea lions. Those sea lions are cute, but they sure are noisy!

At this point, we were going to leave animal care so I asked one of the trainers where Daphne was. She was in a back pool that we could see, but due to maintenance work in the area, couldn’t get back to it. Just as I was thinking that my son wouldn’t get to see Daphne after all, she poked her head up out of the water to the point we could see her. He was so excited. That one glimpse was all it took to make him (and therefore his momma) happy.

Taking a Behind-the-Scenes Tour at SeaWorldAfter that, we fed the sea turtles. Most of them were green sea turtles, which we learned were green due to their diet. It was fun to see them swim after the lettuce and my son found it interesting that they eat the same lettuce as our tortoise at home, although to be honest, he was still talking to me about how he was glad that he got to see Daphne. He was still giving me hugs about it and had tears in his eyes.

I know that most people don’t have the reason I did to book a SeaWorld Behind-the-Scenes tour, but having done it several times, I can tell you that even without that, it really adds to a day at SeaWorld. Seeing the animals in the main pools and the shows is fun, but seeing how they are cared for and learning about the rescues is really amazing.

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