I had to chance to preview the new SEA LIFE Orlando attraction this past week at the new I-Drive 360 and was pleasantly surprised at how well done it was.
Designed for families and kids alike, SEA LIFE Orlando’s goal is to immerse you in the environments of the sea life and bring you up close and personal with them. They accomplish this by providing very intimate spaces to interact with them.
Upon entering the facility, you have the opportunity to take a fun photo. A couple fun poses are done using a green screen to put you in some cool action shots. With the souvenir book, the photos run about $35.00.
From there, you enter the “Pre-Show” area; an astounding 360 Aquarium with a CGI film on top. While it was fun to look at, the volume of the show was hard to hear due to the dome-like nature of the room. It reminded me a lot of the CGI from Turtle Trek at Seaworld.
From there, you visit several different themed areas, such as the Ocean Caves, Ocean Invaders, Pacific & Atlantic Ocean, etc. Each area has it’s own unique feel and theming to it. In each area, there are staff members that are very willing to educate you on the sea life. They were very knowledgable!
In Ocean Caves, you can duck inside capsules to be super close with Eeels and other sea life. I thought this was a fun way to immerse yourself in the experience (and great for the kids!). This place is going to be a fun place for visitors to take pictures.
Throughout the facility, there are many interactive elements as well. In Ocean Invaders, you can learn more about Sharks with an interactive touchscreen display. Or, you can interact with Sea Horses and Starfish in another. Some of the displays at the time were not 100% operational, so I wasn’t able to fully interact with them.
You are also issued a Dive Log Book – this book kids can carry around to each themed area to learn more about animals and how to protect them. Once you collect all nine stamps, you can bring the book back to claim a small prize from the Sea Treasures Shop.
The tight and intimate feel of SEA LIFE is definitely one of the fun aspects of this attraction. Lots of crawl spaces and unique aquarium shapes/sizes make this a great experience with the sea life. Some of the crawl spaces are a little rough for us adults though. They were very creative with how they designed some of these tanks!
In the Atlantic Ocean section, SEA LIFE offers a 360 Aquarium Experience. Although it is a short tunnel, it is still a nice feature and beautiful to look around in. I liked being able to stand inside and just admire the scenery. It is a great photo opportunity.
Venturing on, SEA LIFE has a small area with two small tanks with different types of seahorses. I am a big fan of this sea life, so I admittedly spent a good deal of time admiring them.
Stingray Cove offers a large viewing tank as well as small duck spaces on the other side. However, unlike Seaworld, there is no Stingray touching.
In Everglades Wetlands, the aquarium offers a look at some of our Florida species and has notes about the endangered ones. This area was still a work in progress when I visited.
Coastal Rockpools is SEA LIFE’s touch and feel area. In this section, guests can touch starfish, sea urchins, and some types of Sea anemone. The staff here is also very pleasant to deal with. They are educated on each species and can give you information on each one. Don’t be afraid to be hands-on! They actually encourage you to touch and feel everything in the tanks.
Eventually, SEA LIFE will offer a Behind the Scenes Tour at the Exploration Station. From their official website:
“Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour, a 25-minute guided tour through the inner workings of the Ocean Habitat or the SEA LIFE Discovery Experience, a 60-minute interactive journey and meet a member of the SEA LIFE Dive or Aquarist team.”
There will also be a kid’s playground area. Both were still closed at the time of my visit.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. This is going to be a hit with families and kids. It is a nice, intimate, and relaxing alternative vs. going to a big marine park, like Seaworld. This experience brings you up close and personal with sea life and educates you at the same time. I spent about 1 1/2-2 hours inside. I would plan about that time or more to truly take in the experience.
The attraction opens officially on May 4th, 2015.
Adults (13+) are $20 at the door or $18 online (but must be purchased 3 weeks in advance). Children (12 and under) are $20 at the door and $13 online.
You can also bundle this with the other I-Drive 360 attractions for more savings.