2017 Training Stats

Miles Completed = 29.01
(Run/Walked = 29.01, Biked = 0.0, Elliptical = 0.0)

Countdowns!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sea World Mammal Keeper Part 2 - September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009 Continued...

After feeding the manatees, which are amazing and gentle curious creatures we hopped in the cart and headed back towards the Wild Arctic. On the way we were going to go past the birds, small animals and dog area. We stopped as there was a beautiful Bald Eagle, and two different Hawks out front sunning themselves while their main areas were being cleaned. It's really amazing just how big Bald Eagles are - so glad we ended up with these majestic birds as our national bird instead of the Turkey :). this area also houses the search dogs they have - two labs. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see them, but we heard them. Since I have two lab mixes of my own I would have loved to say hi to them, but that's okay. Then one of the animal keepers told Maggie that we could come in. So we went inside and all the way at the end of the hall was an anteater.

Did you know that anteaters are classified as class 3 animals - that means they are dangerous. Crazy right - I had no idea they were considered dangerous. When we saw this interesting critter it made more sense. She was huge! She was sound asleep and the keeper went in to wake her up. How do you wake up an anteater - give it a good slap on the back and holler very loudly. He most certainly didn't hurt or bother her - she just sort of opened her eyes looked around and decided she didn't want to be up. They have amazing long skinny faces. I've petted little anteaters before, but I'd never seen a full sized anteater up close and it was something very cool. Maggie had never actually been in this building before so it was a real treat. We thanked the trainer a lot for giving us this opportunity!

After our little bird/anteater encounter we continued on to Wild Arctic. This is one of my favorite areas and I was super excited to go there. We headed in the back entrance to meet the trainers. Then it was time to head in and meet some new friends. First we met two harbor seals. They are just fat little things (okay, they aren't that small) that are so awkward on land. They sort of just bounce themselves along. The trainer brought them out to us and we got the chance to see them do a couple of behaviors and then we got to pet them. So cute - they remind me of my dogs!

Next up - my favorites - the Beluga Whales! There are three (or four, but I only remember three) Beluga Whales at Sea World Orlando - Maple (the smallest), Klondike, and Juno (the biggest). All three of these whales are younger so they are still grey and a little hyper as they are still learning all the time. I went with one trainer and Krista and Shawn when with the other trainer and we went out in to the exhibit (yes, in our wet suits) where other guests could see us.

I started out by meeting Maple. I got to give him some commands for behaviors (talk, circle, wave) and rub him down and just get to know him a little bit. Then we switched whales and I got to give Klondike a big hug and do some more behaviors. So great!

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Then we headed backstage to the back pool and got to interact a little more with the Beluga Whales. This time I got to meet Juno - the biggest whale. He was huge. It was amazing to see the difference. When you rub him down you can tell how much more weight he had. My goodbye was a huge splash from his powerful tail and I got pretty darn wet. So awesome!!!

This was the end of the first portion of the program. We headed back to the locker room to change out of our wet suits and back in to normal clothes. Then we headed to the employee cafeteria to have lunch. Maggie whet to get our food (she asked us what we wanted earlier) which was all ready for us. My lunch consisted of a turkey croissant, fruit cup, potato salad, a huge chocolate chip cookie which was half covered in chocolate, a rice krispie treat and a bottle of water. Lunch is included with the price of the program and I have to tell you that I didn't even eat half of my meal - it was just way too much food. What I did eat was very good and I was pretty hungry since I didn't eat breakfast.

Maggie sat and ate her lunch with us and we had a great conversation about things going on with the parks being for sale - rumors were stirring, but nothing definite yet. I asked how things had changed since InBev took over and she said they were much more about the bottom line and every purchase had to be explained and justified, but other than that not so much. We talked a bit about animal rescues and releases and working conditions at the park. One thing’s for sure - you won't get rich doing Maggie's job...I'd be okay with that since it would be so great to work with these animals everyday!

After lunch we were right back in the swing and next up were the Pennipeds (Seals, Sea Lions & Walrus).. We headed backstage at Pacific Point Preserver and first up was meeting three huge male sea lions. They were being introduced to each other slowly and feeding time was one of the ways they were getting used to being around each other. One of the big males is older and cannot see any more - he was fed using voice commands and it didn't really seem to slow him down too much. Then we got to see some young seals and sea lions - oh man, they are adorable. Love these guys!

We headed to the food prep kitchen for the Pennipeds and this is where we got a full cart of buckets of fish. We took all the fish out to the onstage area of Pacific Point Preserve and got to throw fish to them. The only rule was to make sure that we didn't really aim for Kenny the alpha male. There was a sea lion named Oprah - she was a talker, she made so much noise it was amazing. It was really fun to decide which seal to aim for and watching them catch the fish in mid air and gobble them down. So cool! Once all the fish were fed out we headed back to the kitchen and scrubbed down the buckets.

There was a sea lion in the back that is being kept separate because he is not behaving. His name is Squeaker and he eats his food then throws it back up and plays with it for no reason other than to amuse himself. He was so gorgeous and you could just see his wheels turning - he was trouble with a capital T. He was having a blast sliding in the water and splashing all of us. They were slowly trying to get him back to eating and not throwing up his food by cutting his food in to smaller pieces and any other tricks they could think of.

The next part of the program took us back to Wild Arctic. This time we got to go backstage and see the Polar Bears. When born, a Polar Bear is about the size of a new born puppy - tiny little things and then they grow up and when standing on back legs can be over 8 feet tall. They have a mural in the back to demonstrate this and it's really pretty amazing. Then we headed in to a viewing area that is in the back area where the dens are. They have four dens, but only three bears right now (one passed away not long ago).

We got to see Snow in the back. She was playing with a 50 gallon Rubbermaid type trash can - you know the big thick ones. It was completely crushed and she was carrying it around like a chew toy. You really can't get a good feel for how big they are until they are right next to you. Awesome! She had been onstage so it was nap time and we watched her settle in for a nice nap.

Some truly amazing and very smart mammals were next on the agenda - the walrus! There are two walruses in the Wild Arctic Exhibit - Dozer and Garfield. These two are huge. They are around 2700 pounds. Garfield is 30+ years old and used to be one of the show animals. Dozer is about 16. Garfield can't see well, he has bad cataracts and his eyes bulge, but he still gets around fine and he does everything using voice commands. The back area for the walruses is created with human escape routes - that means the bars are big enough for humans to get through, but not the walrus. Basically, they use the same setup that is used for elephant areas.

We headed to the entrance to the exhibit and they called the two walruses to come back to meet us. Here they came - massive and surprisingly fast for their size. The two of them could barely fit next to each other in the opening, but they squished together and came right up to fence. The trainers had them demonstrate a couple of behaviors (speak, breathe, wave). When Garfield eats he makes a sucking/clucking noise, like a baby sucking on a bottle - this is a habit they think he picked up as a baby. It's really rather cute!

The trainers asked if we wanted a kiss from a walrus. Of course! We stepped up to a line a little way back from the walrus and extended our fist out towards the walrus. They said, "kiss" and the walrus kind of sucks your fist in and makes a fabulous kissing noise. Love these guys! How cool it must be to work with them and see all their quirks and intelligence.

This was the last part of our program. I'm very sad that it's over and I am just astounded at how much fun I had! We headed back to the locker room to get our belongings out of the lockers. At this time, Maggie gave us a conservation video and a Sea World Orlando t-shirt. Then we escorted back to the front of the park to the photo pick up area. We were shown our pictures and given the options. They have a very cool option - when you purchase all of the photos taken of you they come on a 1 GB thumb drive instead of a CD and the cost - $42.59. Can you believe that? The photos are yours, your given full licensing to do whatever you want with them. Disney could learn a thing or two about pricing for photo CDs from Sea World.

I bought all the photos and there are about 90 photos total on the thumb drive. The cool thing - the thumb drive is shaped like a Killer Whale Tail Fluke - love it!

We all said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. The program started at 6:30am and ended right around 2:30pm. It's not a cheap program - $399 and includes a seven day admission to Sea World. Is it worth it - if you love animals and want to see the backstage areas and have special interactions – absolutely? To tell the truth, this was the second time I've done the program and it was just as good this time as it was the first. Every time will be a bit different based on what animals are doing what and which guide you have. It's such a special treat and I'll probably do it again if I get the chance!

Before I left for my trip I pre-paid for the Dine with Shamu dinner for this night - it was the last night it was available when I would be at Sea World. The total for Dine with Shamu is right around $45 per person. I went to check in and make sure I didn't need to do anything and I was all set and had to check in at 5:30pm.

I went and looked around the shops and bought a frozen Mocha Cappuccino drink because I was hot and thirsty.

As I wandered around I ended up making over to the theater where A'Lure was showing. It was 4:15pm and the next show was starting at 4:30pm so I headed in and sat down. This is a Cirque du Soleil type show with acrobatics and dancing. The show was okay, but I liked it much better when it was Odyssea.

It was hot and I was so thirsty I grabbed bottled water and continued to walk around the park. As I was walking it started to rain - no big deal, I grabbed my umbrella and kept on walking. Finally, I grabbed a bench at the Shamu underwater viewing and waited to check-in for dinner.

Check-in for dinner was very slow and unorganized, but I eventually got checked in and was sent to have my picture taken - apparently you get a souvenir picture free with the dinner (I'm not sharing this one - you can tell I was working with a wet suit and fish all day). Next I headed over to get in the line to be seated.

I was seated all the way at the end of the dining area under an umbrella all by myself - probably a good thing since I kind of smelled like fish and wet suit :)! I headed to the buffet to get food. The food here is actually really good. There was Caesar salad, pineapple, cantaloupe, rice, shrimp Alfredo, chicken with Dijon sauce, beef stew, mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy and a bunch of other things. The food was really good. I really enjoyed everything I tried. They had a ton of desserts as well - red velvet cake, lemon cake, chocolate cake, cookies, brownies, Jell-o, pudding and more.

There was supposed to be a Believe Show (the Shamu show) during our dinner, but it was cancelled because of the storm and so our Killer Whale interaction session was postponed until the storm passed. The storm did finally pass and Tillicum, a 12,000 pound Killer Whale was showing off all his tricks for us. He breached, waved, posed for pictures, played catch, pit at birds, vocalized and looked like he was really having fun.

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Dinner was really nice and I'm glad I did this again. It was really fun to watch Tillicum, the food was great, and the service was good. It's worth doing if you have the time and want a good meal with a little extra time to see a whale up close.

After dinner I headed straight over to Sea Lion & Otter Stadium to watch Sea Lions Tonight. This show is amazing. Now, I like Clyde and Seamore, but this show was even better than that! Basically, they make fun of all the other shows in the park - so entertaining.

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After the show I decided to head out. It was a long walk back to the car. Basically, I had to walk out the front of the park, through the parking lot, past the bus and taxi cab area, through the bushes to the employee parking lot. It wasn't hard to find the car, but by this time it's after 9pm and I'm tired!

It took a long time to get out of the parking lot, but I finally made it. I did get in the wrong lane and had to make a turn around, but I made it back to Pop Century without too much trouble.

I parked and as I was headed to the lobby I saw a car and a motorcycle in the parking lot with their lights on in the 90's lot. I decided to someone at the lobby concierge desk know - I didn't know if they could or would do anything, but I had to at least try.

I headed over to Everything Pop! to grab some water and a Power Ade then headed back to my room. I have some sort of rash or burn over most of my body - I thought it might have been the wet suit, but I even had it where the wet suit wasn't actually touching my skin. It wasn't sore or itchy or anything, but it is kind of strange.

By the time I was ready for bed it was 12:10am and I was more than ready for some sleep. It was a long fabulous day, but tomorrow should be just as good!

Today I logged ~12.86 miles and that was not including the time I was in the wet suit...A lot of walking today!

From Passporter Pockets
The weather today was nice, sunny, humid and then rainy.
The best thing today was the Marine Mammal Keeper Program.
The worst thing today was walking up late and the amount of walking.
The funniest thing today was getting drenched by a Beluga Whale.
Today I tried feeding Manatees spinach and the result was a fabulous experience watching them gobble it up.
The most magical moment today was everything about the Marine Mammal Keeper Program.

2 comments:

Richard said...

It sounds like a wonderful program from your report. It sounds like it was well worth the expensive price tag.

Annie Wood said...

I'm doing the Marine Mammal Keeper Experience in a couple of weeks. Thanks so much for the detailed description; I am extra excited now! :)

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