Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Whale of a Tale

Also known as "how Kelly forced her blog readers to look at her vacation photos whether they wanted to or not."

In the most annoying way possible, of course.

Also, this post? Going to be a REALLY long one...because that's how I roll.

Did I mention the resort was incredible? This was just one of the pools where I spent the day being waited on hand and foot and getting my drink on.

This guy? Fortunately not to be found in the swimming pool. He's one of the inhabitants of the Shark Reef exhibit at Sea World. Since it's underground and dark, this is the only one of my shark pictures that came out. This is a Sand Tiger Shark.

One of my favorite animals at Sea World: Commerson's dolphins. Hard to get pictures of because the late afternoon soon was making everything reflect off the glass.

But they are so cool looking that I decided to show the pics anyway - even with the crappy reflections.

Commerson's are quite rare - have a very small habitat area in the Southern Ocean. Also, they spend a significant amount of time swimming upside down...even chasing and eating their prey in that position.

Then it was off to the penguin exhibit. This one is a Magellanic penguin - they live around the tip of South America and are adapted to a much warmer climate. That's why their exhibit is outside in the California sunshine.

As opposed to inside with their Antarctic cousins.

There were a number of penguin species in this exhibit. I know the big one on the left is an Emperor penguin, but not sure what the other two are.

Harbor seal - they released a bunch of these guys into the water right as we got to the exhibit, but I was so slow with the camera that I only managed to capture the last one into the pool.

Got a pretty good shot of one of the walruses, though.

And it was polar bear naptime....SNNNNZZZZZZZZ!!!

Two beautiful beluga whales shared the same pool with the harbor seals. I love how they almost "glow" underwater.

Boy, did they pop up fast when it was feeding time, though!

California Sea Lion (also known as Great White Shark Chow).

We were feeding them fish - this one is loudly protesting how long it's taking me to throw him another one. If you want to hear what they sound like - I'll be posting a couple of videos on my Facebook page about them.

Then, it was time for a really special event. While we were visiting the dolphin enclosure, one of the trainers mentioned that they'd had some cancellations for their "Dolphin Encounter" - where you get to actually pet, feed and help train the dolphins. It cost some extra money, but I have ALWAYS wanted to do this so Ryan and I signed up to come back after lunch and meet a dolphin.

Meet Kametta. She's a 25-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. That's Ryan's hand giving her a chin scratch.

And Ryan's hand giving her the signal to spin in a circle. Dolphins can't hear on the frequency that carries human speech so they respond to hand signals and high-frequency metal whistles (like dog whistles).

There's Ryan giving her the signal to "wave." Right after I took this shot, she turned on her side and waved at us with her flipper.

Bye, Kametta! Nice to meet you.

(Okay, you just KNOW she's thinking "stupid humans!")

And since I can never get enough of dolphins (I was allowed to watch WAAAYYYY too many episodes of "Flipper" as a kid), off we went to Dolphin Stadium for the dolphin show. This stadium has been completely re-done - when I was a kid, this was where Shamu performed, but the killer whales have all been moved to a much larger, much newer stadium which I'll show you later.

This show has added a whole lot of diving and aero-acrobatics (a la Cirque du Soleil) in with the animal tricks.

This gal is kind of the star of the show and she dives off that upper platform area and then gets to ride around on some dolphins in the water.

Then, they have these guys on platforms on either side doing all kinds of spinning, rolling, Olympic-style diving into the water.

Then this gal comes through on this lift and swings all over the whole stadium...

...and down into the water. She even picks up some of the divers out of the water and swings THEM all over the stadium.

Meanwhile, scarlet and military macaws are flying through the air and dolphins are diving, spinning and, like this one, posing for the camera. It's wild!

They were so fast that this was the only really good jumping shot that I was able to get. Everything else was a splash as they hit the water LOL!

This show also features Bubbles and Shadow - the only two PERFORMING pilot whales in the world. They have been around since I was a kid. Bubbles is 47 years old...that's older than ME! Hey, at least SOMEONE is!

Remember I mentioned that the killer whales had a new stadium? This is it.

Okay, I know I didn't fit the full whale in the picture, but I wanted to show this because it really gives you some idea of just how big they are when you see the trainer standing right next to the whale. Oh, and this whale? Not fully grown - they have about 4 juvenile whales in the show and only 1 full-grown adult. This is one of the youngsters.

Again - one of the babies.

This would've been good if the trainer was just standing on the other side.

This is the adult whale. Check out those teeth! They don't call 'em killer whales for nothing!

This is one of the babies jumping.

And a side view - they tell the whales apart by their markings. That white "saddle patch" right behind the dorsal fin is the main marking they use to tell them apart.

And here is the adult whale. It always amazes me how high they can jump - so incredibly powerful.

If, like me, you are a marine biology junkie and this isn't enough for you, check out my Facebook page. I've got two Sea Lion videos, a GREAT dolphin video and a penguin video that I'll have up by tomorrow (most of them are there already, but I had some technical difficulties with one of the Sea Lion videos so have to work on that tonight).

Hope you enjoyed the impromptu visit to Sea World San Diego. It's a bit silly, I know, but I have been in love with this stuff since I was Ryan's age. Now that I've actually gotten to pet a up is getting to swim with one! And yes, I will post umpty-zillion annoying pics and videos of that when it happens so I'm just warning you now!



Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures; beautiful place.

Paige said...

Thank you for bringing my along to Sea World...even if it was just virtually! :) I've always wanted to go...the closest I've gotten is the New England Aquarium. Those dolphins and whales are beeeautiful! So happy you had fun. :)

Elisabeth said...

Great white shark chow - you crack me up! Love all your pix - haven't been to Sea Wold in ages!

lunedreams said...

too cool! aren't they all amazing creatures? I have never seen or heard of those black and white dolphins. beautiful! like mini orcas who won't eat you.

EB Bead and Metal Works said...

Thanks for sharing the photos of your trip to Sea World. I always had a blast when I went! Love the new stadiums, the baby whales, the dolphins, and, and, and.
Have a great day and weekend!

Kristen said...

Oh what great pics!!! I have been able to pet a killer whale and a beluga whale and I will never forget them! I am so glad you showed those pics! I cant get enough of them!


chacha1 said...

Haven't been to a Sea World since I was in high school. And that's a looooong time ago. It's nice to see the fresh, big facilities they have now ... though I'm still conflicted about keeping animals that intelligent penned up for entertainment. Thanks for the beautiful pictures (especially the underwater shot of the belugas!).

Pretty Things said...

What amazing photos! My seven-year old would give up quite a lot to go to Sea World so I'm really going to have to look into this now. We normally never take an actual vacation, just go on short two-day trips here and there, but wow!

We're members of the Baltimore Aquarium and we've seen a lot of dolphin shows but this one is toooo cool.

kelleysbeads said...

I have never been to Sea World, but it's on the list when we drive down to Orlando over Thanksgiving. I love the penguin and walrus pics. That cirque du soleil stuff with the dolphins seems kinda weird...

artybecca said...

I like the sea lion and seagull photo. They look like buddies, just hangin' out in the neighborhood.

Diana P. said...

I havent been to Sea World in ages. This makes me want to go back!

EmandaJ said...

Hi Kelly,

I would have posted a comment yesterday (Now you have more than 4!) but I didn't get to read it yesterday! Love the mini vacay.