This fabulously immersive attraction located in the I-Drive 360 complex opened its doors to the media this week and turned on the tap, literally, launching a nearly 2-day process that will fill their Atlantic and Indian Ocean exhibits in preparation for the arrival of their permanent inhabitants. A 5-person Sea Life team handled the big hosepipe from the upper floor, giving media a view over the aquarium, which will have multiple viewing areas from ground level when it opens to the public.
Curator Steve Blair offered us a Q&A session after our tour, with the aquarium’s rising waters as his backdrop.
“This is the Indian Ocean section behind me,” he said. “And today was very exciting because we started the water fill, with 192,000 gallons being pumped in. It will take a full day and a half to fill the tanks and then we gradually add 90,000 pounds of salt. The life support systems will be added in early March and then we can bring in the animals, about 5,000 of them, once we have decided the environment is all good for them. The animals come from 450 different species, and we then have 32 exhibits for a really immersive experience.”
Sea Life Orlando is obviously ideal for families and adults, but what about the youngest guests? Will there be anything special to keep them engaged?
“We aim to be very kid-friendly, with things to crawl through and touch, as well as just viewing the animals.”
We know how popular the Sea Life aquarium centres in Britain and inside France’s Val d’Europe are, and many of our readers will have been there. Will U.K. visitors find something new here in the Orlando Sea Life centre?
“This is a view and style many people familiar with Sea Life will recognise, but this is also the biggest Sea Life we have ever built from scratch, from the ground up, so we are more diverse than many other centres. We also have a couple of different things, with a cold-water touch pool and diver feeding shows. We are really hoping to get guests involved with the exhibits and educational aspects about the animals. Every 45 minutes or so there will be a presentation at one of the exhibits, right up to the grand show of watching a diver in the water.”
What can guests expect to see during a visit?
“There will be a lot of popular fish and, while I love them all – I have to as the Curator – we will also have some bigger, more eye-catching ones like sharks and stingrays, as well as the ones everyone loves, such as seahorses. We will have a lot of diversity.” Jellies and Sea Turtles are also part of the Sea Life family.
With conservation being a big watch-word these days, will Sea Life give back to the natural world in terms of financial or physical support?
“Here in Orlando, we have started a trust on global conservation issues and we are also working with a coral restoration programme.” The Breed, Rescue and Protect programme is a global concern, benefitting sea life around the world.
What do you hope visitors will take away from their Sea Life experience?
“I think the theming here is so beautiful, and we hope people take away with them the feeling they have experienced something unique. I think people will be very impressed with the tunnels, arches and rockwork. We think it will be a sixty to ninety minute experience and I am hoping it knocks people’s socks off!”
Sea Life Fun facts:
- 45,000 pounds of sand have been placed inside the aquariums.
- More than 90,000 pounds of salt will be used to acclimate the water.
- Sea Life Orlando will have temperate habitats which will help create a more diverse ecosystem to house colorful and vibrant animals.
- The 360-degree tunnel weighs eight tons and has a buoyancy of 60,000 pounds, lifting it like a bubble.
- The animals that will call Sea Life Orlando home include: Sand Bar sharks, Pacific Black Tip sharks, Grey Reef sharks, and Bowmouth Guitarfish.
- The aquarium’s windows are approximately four inches thick.
- More than 40,000 gallons of water are held in an underground reservoir beneath the aquarium.
Attraction Tickets Direct will be offering tickets for I-Drive 360 attractions - including SEA LIFE Orlando - very soon!
Looking for lunch, dinner, or drinks after your visit to Sea Life Orlando? We recommend The YardHouse, just steps away from the attraction, with 130 beers from 16 countries, plus dozens of U.S. craft breweries. Beers available in Shortys (a ‘tasting’ size’ at 9.25oz), Goblets (the traditional Belgian measure at 12oz), Pints and Half-Yards. They also have gluten-free beers. Most popular sellers are Stella, Blue Moon and Cigar City IPA (from Tampa), but we suggest branching out and trying something different.
YardHouse has an extensive menu, including soups, fresh salads, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, pizza, steaks and ribs, seafood and a fantastic vegetarian menu that goes well beyond most restaurant offerings. Their drinks menu includes wine, cocktails, martinis, mules, and a delightful Fresh and Skinny drinks menu, with each cocktail having a modest 140-200 calorie count.
Happy Hour runs from 3pm-6pm, Monday through Friday, with an additional late Night Happy Hour from 10pm-12pm Sunday through Wednesday.
Hours are Sunday through Thu 11am-12.30am, Friday and Sat 11am-1.20am.
The YardHouse is located at 8367 International Drive. Call 407 351 8220 or visit www.yardhouse.com.