Grandma Travels: Sea World San Diego Shamu, Sea Lions, Dolphins Oh My


sea world san diego

(Why, hello there Mr. Beluga Whale)

Grandma Travels: Sea World San Diego
Shamu, Sea Lions, Dolphins, Oh My

Part of our week in San Diego, while staying at the beautiful Sheraton Hotel and Marina, we got to spend some up close and person time at Sea World. We can’t thank the awesome folks over there enough for the behind the scenes tour and especially ‘Sea World Susie’ as Ethan has come to call her, for making our day so incredibly special. Fair warning, this post will be very long and pretty graphic intense. There’s just no way I could break it up into multiple posts and convey the awesome experience we had. Take the time and read through it all! It was such an awesome day to remember! We had over 250 photos from our day at Sea world and it was so hard to pick which ones to include. I really could have kept right on plugging them in!

Ready? Off we go!

sae world san diego

 (there’s my hair I warned you about, get the giggles out of the way now)

Our day started bright and early with a visit to see Trainer Mike. His job is to prepare all the food for every animal at the park. Which is no small task! Those guys eat human grade food, and hundreds of tons of it too! All of the seafood fed at SeaWorld — even the fish fed to Shamu — is purchased from sustainably-managed fisheries. Sea World as you know is famous for all the majestic ocean life on display and involved in entertaining shows. What most people don’t get to see is all the behind the scenes activities that go on. Here, we are watching Trainer Mike prepare the food for some of the rescue animals they rehabilitate and hopefully will get to release.

sea world san diego

(This guy was rescued after mom couldn’t care for him)

At 9 weeks old, they are still bottle fed a fish smoothie formula of sorts.  We watched Trainer Mike mix it up carefully while Ethan and Harris made some small talk. What you can’t see in this photo is Harris sitting (not so patiently) as this little guy ‘barked’ at him. Harris barked back and they became immediate friends. I have no clue what they were chatting about, but they certainly enjoyed each other!


sea world san diego

(fish smoothie formula!)


It was interesting to watch as they knew exactly what was going on! Trainer Mike explained that since mom couldn’t care for them, they learn the sounds of food being prepared at Sea World and much like kids hearing dinner being made in the kitchen, can tell it’s time to eat! He stopped chit chatting with Ethan and Harris and got busy on breakfast. And yes, we did say ‘AAwwww’ a lot. Probably, 48594032 times while we were there. Although, Ethan’s OCD did kick in a bit and the ‘fishy’ smell was not making his stomach growl as it did for this little guy.


sea world san diego



This little girl is another rescue. She’s blind! They have just completed eye surgery on her and are hoping to restore her vision so she can be released. Because she’s blind, she’s unable to find food on her own. Also, she’s not able to protect herself from danger. We can’t have this sweet face harmed, right? No way Jose. Let’s hope the surgery works and she can be released. If not, she stays put and the fine folks at Sea World will take great care of her.


sea world san diego


These guys are Pacific Penguins. They don’t have to be in the freezing cold like their Arctic Penguin cousins. We learned that more than 75% of the penguins population is endangered or threatened. Sea World has an excellent program where they ‘share’ their penguins with other places around the US for breeding purposes. They actually take them on airplane flights IN THE CABIN for transport so they won’t become extinct. Can you imagine sitting there on your Southwest flight settling in to fly to Grandmas and up come a troop of penguins walking the aisle to find their seats? That totally happens!


sea world san diego

(he said they feel like a wet dog….)


See the tag there on the penguin? That’s how they keep track of each ones specific needs. They all do kind of look alike. It’s hard to tell who’s who when they are in such a huge group. So, all their medical needs, age, etc are kept right there in those tags. The tags help not only for identification purposes but to make sure each one is having all their health needs met properly.

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(Notice Harris… He really wanted to play!)

Penguins really have no fear! Harris sat there the whole time we learned about the penguins like a perfect gentleman and well trained service dog. (Thank you Canine companions!) They are very social animals and while I didn’t let him go off and play fetch with the penguins at Sea world, I’m pretty sure they would have been happy if he did! There are 18 different penguin species. Penguins dine on a diet of shrimp-like crustaceans called krill, as well as fishes and squids.


sea world san diego

(he touched the smelly fish!)


I have to put this photo in to show you that miracles really do happen when people interact with animals. I’ve talked a lot about Ethan’s OCD. This extends to smells (he has to smell EVERYTHING) germs, textures, the whole shebang. If something smells ‘off’, he gags. ‘Off’ to him is quite different than ‘off’ to you and I, hard to explain. The fish in that bucket, it smells off. Texture goes from the way certain clothes feel when he wears them (socks with green letters saying ‘Hanes’ are ‘off‘) to the way food ‘feels’ in his mouth. (fresh, raw  carrots are good, cooked carrots are ‘off’) And germs… well, they are just everywhere and he’s a constant hand washer.


sea world san diego


When the Sea World trainer gave him this bucket to feed the penguins, we thought No Way will he do. Won’t Happen. Well I’ll be damned if he didn’t stick his hand right in there without hesitation and grab a handful of fish! Sea World Susie and I sat in the background whispering that at any second, it was going to hit him that this whole scenario was ‘off’… it never happened. He kept reaching in and grabbing handfuls to throw for the penguins! It was really amazing!

sea world san diego

(Manta Roller Coaster)


Next, Grandpa went off to ride the newest roller coaster at Sea world. The Manta! We were told it’s it’s kinda like the Orlando ride’s little cousin. It’s smaller and tamer, and is much more family-friendly. Not too scary for the small fry’s but enjoyable for the adults too. Manta at SeaWorld San Diego satisfies a growing demand for small, but entertaining coasters as an alternative to the mega-coasters that have taken over many of the world’s theme parks. It even goes underground! It was awesome to sit there and watch. Grandpa liked it so much, he played sneaky and got back in line and went for a second go ’round!


sea world san diego

(Again, he’s TOUCHING them!)

While Grandpa was off getting his adrenaline fix riding The Manta, Ethan, Sea World Susie and I took off to go make friends with some sting rays. At first, Ethan and his obsessive worrying had a million questions about safety. Would they ‘sting’ him, will he die, what if he falls in… Sea World Susie was so kind and patient and answered every question he threw at her. Once she had adequately calmed all his fears, he again grabbed some squid and dove right in to feed them! He learned you have to hold the squid between you fingers. Since the sting rays mouths are under neath their gigantic bodies they sort of hover over you hand and suck it in. (not the very best ‘technical’ explanation but…) Again, the OCD with smell, texture, germ thing was… gone… Not even a grimace! We stayed there for a good 45 minutes while he had a blast!


sea world san diego

(Lunch Time!)


By now we were all getting pretty hungry. Sea world Susie treated us to lunch at Shipwreck Reef Cafe. They have delicious food with a  fun, castaway theme all served up aboard a unique shipwreck artifacts setting. While you’re dining, you can also watch unsuspecting passers-by get a drenching surprise on the nearby Shipwreck Rapids. There’s so many dining choices while at Sea World you definitely don’t have to worry about what to feed the family, that’s for sure! There’s something for everyone!

Sea World Susie Tip On Eating At The Park:

Time your meals according to the Shamu show! Get to the restaurant of your choice AS the show is starting. The lines are much shorter (ours was not even a ‘line’) during a show. While 2000 people are watching a show, YOU will have plenty of tables to chose from (pick one in the shade!) and no waiting in long lines!

sea world san diego

(Sea Turtle!)

After lunch, we hit up the Sea Turtles exhibit. Sea World Susie taught us Sea turtles are a global species found in temperate and tropical seas worldwide. They have survived in the seas for more than 200 million years and are among a small group of reptiles that depend on the sea for survival.

sea world san diego

Since 1980, SeaWorld has rescued more than 1,500 sea turtles. Whether cold-stunned from below normal water temperatures, entangled in fishing gear, injured from a motor boat strike, or impacted by an oil spill, they needed some help. Did you know that sea turtles can stay under water for up to 45 minutes? AND!! They grow to be nearly 6 feet long. These suckers were HUGE!


sea world san diego



Next we popped in on the Shark Encounter! Of course Ethan had a million questions on the safety of doing this. But, there was his new BFF Sea World Susie to explain away all his fears of being so close to such huge, powerful and feared creatures. She really was amazing with him!

sea world san diego

We learned that sharks are slightly different from fish because their skeleton is made of cartilage instead of bone. (like your nose!) There are more than 400 species of sharks,. But, unfortunately a growing number are listed as either threatened or endangered. Sharks eat mostly other fish but also squids, octopuses, and crustaceans. Some larger sharks, such as great white sharks, eat marine mammals. They get a bad rap because you hear of all the shark ‘attacks’ involving people. But, actually they are quite rare.


sea world san diego

(Big girl SQUEEEE!!!)


Now we’re off to my favorite thing ever! The dolphins! I could have stayed right here, all day and been perfectly happy. We got to feed, play and interact with them on such an intimate level, I was just in awe. They are the most familiar of all marine mammals Dolphins are charismatic and intelligent. Their extraordinary adaptations and behaviors allow them to thrive in an often harsh ocean habitat, only vulnerable to our impacts. Sea World Susie calls them ‘The Labradors of The Sea’ because they are really just as good natured and lovable as the breed of dog.

sea world san diego

(Ignore the hair, LOOK AT THE DOLPHIN!!!)

Bottlenose dolphins are not endangered, but they face many challenges in their environment. Illegal fishing tactics being the number 1 obstacle they face. They eat a wide variety of fish, squids and crustaceans (like shrimp)

sea world san diego

(Ethan trying to climb in!)

Because kids under 10 aren’t allowed in the water to interact with the dolphins, we were only able to get this close. One day, I will go back and put on that awful wet suit and swim with my beloved dolphins! It’s totally on my bucket list! You can bet on that!


sea world san diego



And, of course not trip to Sea World would be complete without catching the spectacular show put on by Shamu and his whale buds! Their impressive size and fierce hunting skills have earned killer whales the title of “Top Predator Of The Ocean.” Human are the only mammal higher on this food chain. WE endanger them! Sad, right? whales live in pods. They form long-term social groups primarily composed of matrilineal (moms!) groups that include a female whale, her offspring, and often her grandchildren. Kinda like Grandma Juice’s house, right!!

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(Well, hello there)

The newest show, One Ocean celebrates the spirit of the ocean. It envelops you in a multi-sensory celebration of life underneath the sea. It entertains, educates and inspires. The majestic killer whales at Sea World join you on a journey into a world that drenches your senses in the vivid colors, vitality and global rhythms of the ocean. You realize that we all have the power to make a difference in this planet we share. One ocean, one planet!


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(Ethan & Sea World Susie)


We can’t thank Sea World San Diego and, especially Susie, for making this such a day to remember. Ethan felt like such a VIP with the day long behind the scenes tour. We were able to see and experience this once in a lifetime treat that most people never get the joy of doing. It has made such an impact on our lives above and beyond the ‘trip to Sea World’ we could have ever imagined. If you’re planning a family vacation to San Diego, we can’t recommend strongly enough that you take a day and visit Sea world. Get wet, have fun, feed the sting rays. Take in the Shamu show and talk with the dolphins! You really will leave changed for the better!

And tired!

sea world san diego

Our trip to San Diego was partially sponsored by Sea World San Diego.


  1. You got some amazing photos! What a great experience, I am local and would love to experience Sea World behind the scenes. Oh, and nobody should laugh at your hair because mine ends up the same way!

  2. I’m a Disney girl, but my husband ADORES Sea World! 🙂 So we have to split our time in SoCal! LOL

  3. Omgoodness! I’ve always wanted to go to Sea World!!! That Manta Rollercoaster is calling my name! <3 I love how tuckered out he is at the end, must have had an AWESOME time! 😉

  4. So cute! I grew up in Orlando and used to love going to Sea World as a kid. So nice that San Diego is such an easy trip from Vegas. I love going there!

  5. Whew! I’m tired just reading your post! What a day full of fun and cuties {love the seals} <3

  6. we love sea world! we went to the one in orlando when we went to florida this summer and my boys were out of their mind excited! great pics!!

  7. I knew it would be life changing. I am so happy that you did this!

  8. Awesome! Living in Orlando I have been to Sea World countless times. I love going! You had such an incredible experience!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Wow, what an amazing trip and Yeah! Ethan!
    I’ve never been to Sea World but this is now on my to do list. I think my grandchildren would so enjoy the interaction with the sea life.

  10. I loved reading your post. Great pics, too. I would love to take my family there. Thank you for sharing!

  11. What an AWESOME trip! I’m jealous – I wish I was there! haha! 🙂

  12. How cute! Seems like a lot of fun!

  13. We love sea world – it looks like you guys had a fabulous time!

  14. Such a fun day! We’re visiting Sea World Orlando in November and are super excited about it!

  15. I would LOVE to take my kids to see the animals at Sea World. We just went to Six Flags that week and my 4 year old loved seeing the see lions and dolphins.

  16. Wow! That looks like so much fun! You got some great pictures there. I especially like the shark!

  17. That looks like so much fun! To go behind the scenes like that must have been such a fabulous treat!

  18. NYC Single Mom says

    what a fun day! havent been to Sea World in a hundred years. Cant wait to take my daughter.

  19. Ethan will never ever forget your trip to SeaWorld.Wow, they really did make the day super special!!LOVE the photographs!!

  20. Alisha Kostiuk says

    I can’t wait this is one of the great stops on our vacation for next year.

  21. looks like an awesome place to visit! He have an annual pass to Orlando Sea World and love it!

  22. I love the penguins!! So cute!!

  23. Fun time. Great pics. I love Sea World too and always have a great experience there too!

  24. Looks like you all had a blast!!!!

  25. How awesome! We’ve never been to Sea World, but always wanted to go. Loved all your photos.

  26. OMG AMAZING. I want to go. It seems like heaven

  27. Love Sea World – I cant wait to take my girls to experience it. Great Photos!!

  28. Love it! So happy that Sea World offered Ethan the experience of a lifetime and that they allowed your service dog in. What a remarkable company! And thanks to Sea World Susie, for her tips on eating meals there at the park.

  29. Ahh some of my fav childhood memories are of Sea World! So much fun!

  30. Great post! My kids love Sea World, and the Belugas are my favorite exhibit

  31. Stephanie Phelps says

    I went with my sons school class and it was not nearly as cool as your trip. getting to go back stage and do all that was super cool.

  32. Jessica Snow says

    It looks like you all had a wonderful time. I haven’t been to Sea World since I was 9, so it’s been 21 years for me. I think I need to go back for a visit, especially after seeing this. =)

  33. I really enjoyed your pictures! I would love to take my grandson!

  34. Absolutely love Sea World! It is so heart warming to see sea life, like dolphins. So glad you had a blast!

  35. PaulinaChills says

    Looks like you have a memorable time. Seaworld is the best educational, fun, and contact with nature. <3

  36. I adore Sea World. Your photos really tell the story of your visit! I love the photos of the rescue animals the most – SO cute!!

  37. If I could go anywhere in the world, it would be Sea World. I hope I get to go one day;)

  38. Diane Sallans says

    I love SeaWorld! It’s such a wonderful place for families – gives kids an appreciation for nature.

  39. It sounds like you had fun! I love SeaWorld.

  40. It looks like you all had so much fun! I know the roller coaster was a blast!

  41. It sounds like you all had a wonderful time. All the pics were great. Thanks for they chance!!

  42. You are so lucky to have been there. Always wanted to, haven’t yet had a chance to. Love dolphins and the pictures are gorgeous. Your post makes me feel like I was there. Glad you had a great time!

  43. I am SPEECHLESS! And a Whole lot of JEALOUS!!! WOW. That is outstanding 🙂 I am so glad that Ethan was able to enjoy so much of the experiences there.

  44. cute!

  45. Sherry Compton says

    I recently went to SeaWorld in Florida with my grandkids and would love to go again. I love the marine life just like you. We had a great time feeding the dolphins and watching the shows. Great tip on timing your eating with the shows. I hope you get to go again, too.

  46. Looks like a really good time. I want to go and hang with Shamu and some penguins.

  47. I love Sea World. I haven’t been since 2004. We didn’t get to do some of the hands on stuff you did. I would love to go back again some time but we’re in CO and a trip to CA isn’t in the cards for the time being. 🙂

  48. Looks like the perfect day with the kids!

  49. Looks like you had a great time. I know when I was little I lOVED Sea World. I begged my parents to buy me a orca whale.

  50. Andrew Sellen says

    Nice Pictures

  51. We live on the east coast and are used to Sea World Orlando. I would love to travel to San Diego and see the other Sea World. It’s my husband’s favorite place in the world.

  52. ashlee walls says

    WOW what great photos and memories. I love sea world but unfortunately the one where I live closed a few years ago. It looks like you had a wonderful and unique experience 🙂

  53. I love your pictures. It’s amazing what the staff go through to take care of the animals.
    I went to Sea World in Orlando and we loved it. I especially love the Dolphins and the little Penguins. 🙂
    Thank you for this outstanding review.
    Carol L.

  54. What a great day! We will be at Sea World in Orlando in 3 weeks – can’t wait

  55. wow, that would be soooooooooooo fun!

  56. It looks like you had a great time! I would love to go behind the scenes too. I think the sea turtles look so peaceful.

  57. Wow I’m so jealous!! I would LOVE to go to Sea World!!

  58. Lauren Guilbeau says

    What fun! love seaworld. I like to hear that the animals eat so well!

  59. Seyma Shabbir says

    Awesome! We were in Sea World in Texas and we loved it. Got to feed the dolphins!

  60. It’s been years since I first visited Sea World. I can’ wait to have a chance to go back with my own family to enjoy a wonderful and unique experience.

  61. ThePixieSprinkles says

    Oh wow! That Manta Roller Coaster looks amazing! I use to be such a roller coaster junky, but now that I am older I cannot stomach them anymore! lol My husband would love it though! I haven’t been to Sea World in years! Thanks for the post! =)

  62. Julie O'Brien says

    That is so cool. The pictures came out great. glad you guys had fun!

  63. That behind the scenes tour was really neat. I have done one at Sea World Orlando that included touching a penguin, but nothing like what you were able to do. Thanks for sharing, especially the great pictures.

  64. I love Seaworld! I hope to take my kids someday!

  65. Awww! How cute. I’d love to get that close to a dolphin!

  66. Hm, I’d rather see the animals out in the wild.

  67. You all are so incredibly lucky to have gotten to experience this- I may become a blogger 🙂

  68. Christina Schmidt says

    OMG! Sea Lions are sooo much cuter as babies. I live near San Fran so I see the big scary beat up ones all the time.

  69. Jennifer Jo Archdeacon says

    Wow it looks like you had quite an adventure and lots of fun. I always wanted to go there and hope to someday.

  70. This looks so awesome! I would love to visit seaworld some day..Ihave always been fascinated by ocean life and so want to go there..I love the discovery channel but this would be so much more great seeing them in person 🙂

  71. Richard Hicks says

    Looks as though this one super vacation get away. I am intrigued with everything they have to see and do. Will put this one on our wish list

  72. I really love Sea World. I am going with my family in November to the one in Florida. The penguins and the new Turtle exhibit are the favorites to see. Can’t wait to go.

  73. tracey andino says

    Thanks for such a great review. I love seaworld! Great Pictures!!

  74. Awesome pics! Thanks for the review! Love SeaWorld!

  75. I wish I could have gone with you! San Diego is one of my favorite places, and I LOVE going to Sea World 🙂 Loved seeing your pictures.

  76. I’ve been to Sea World a bunch of times, and love seeing all the sharks and penguins!


  1. […] the Kids San Diego is also famous for its zoo and SeaWorld. SeaWorld has theme park, marine mammal park and oceanarium. The facility is building touch pools where […]