In March of 2012, I purchased a VIP Pass for $79.99 which allowed me unlimited entry to Sea World,MovieWorld and Wet'n'Wild until June 30 2012. Absolute bargain when you consider it costs that much to get into one of the theme parks if you purchase tickets at the gate. And I'm happy to report that in those 3 months I not only managed to get to all 3 theme parks, but I was so impressed by Sea World, I went back for a second visit!
I have such fond memories of visiting Sea World as a child, so it was a nostalgic thrill ride for me, and I was delighted to discover that as an adult, Sea World had lost none of its charm.
From the minute you step inside the gate and are confronted with the seaside arena where they hold the Jet Stunt Extreme show and SpongeBob ParadePants, the atmosphere is electric; I don't know how to describe it except to say it just feels like fun - your insides bubble up with excitement and it feels like the epitome of fun.
Which brings me to the downside - of course Sea World isn't perfect, so let's get all the negatives out of the way. I was shocked at the price of hiring a locker (think it was $10 for a small and $15 for large), the food is limited, largely unhealthy and ridiculously overpriced, long line-ups for the rides, there are a number of attractions that aren't included in the General Admission including the pedal boats, SkyClimb and the Water Park and yes, everywhere you turn there are opportunities to spend more money. But once you stop grumbling, get over it and accept that's the way it is, then you can get on with enjoying yourself.
As there were all adults in our party we didn't deeply explore the children's Beach Break Bay area but a quick glance saw several 'thrill' rides, a gorgeous carousel, carnival style games and of course the outdoor theatre dedicated to a Dora The Explorer show, where kids have the opportunity to meet Dora and her friends.
Our first stop at Polar Bear Shores proved disappointing as both Hudson and Nelson were sleeping, but our second stop later in the day was amazing. We spent a good half hour observing them rolling around in the dirt and frolicking together in the water, full of energy and ridiculously cute.
We decided to amp things up a little at this point and hit the thrill rides, but the Sea Viper Rollercoaster was closed for maintenance (on both our visits) so The Jet Rescue was our only option. We hit it 4 times and loved it; I think the speed (70km/hr) is the drawcard. Then we moved onto my personal favourite, the Viking's Revenge Flume Ride and got just wet enough to cool us off.
A lunch stop could have ruined the day but thankfully our expectations were extremely low so we were prepared. The hot chips were yellow and undercooked, a horrid little pizza from the Dominos store cost $10 and a $2 half corn on the cob tasted as if it had been drowning in an urn of water for 3 days. On the positive side, there was a small Mediterranean pasta salad for $5 which wasn't too bad, a $6 Spinach and Cheese roll which was passable and $6 Criss Cross fries - fresh and crispy at least. There is Seafood Baskets ($16.99), Crumbed Calamari ($12.99), Chicken Caesar Burger ($12.,99) and a range of sandwiches and wraps. A tip for the vegetarians - they seem to prepare a limited amount of vego food for the day, so get in early or you'll miss out and be stuck with bright yellow chips.
A short stop at Ray Reef to reach in and gently touch the sting rays which felt like smooth, slimy velvet, and we headed to Shark Bay. Here you can ride a glass bottom boat ($10), do a Tropical Reef Snorkel ($50), swim with the sharks ($150) or simply observe from the bridges and the phenomonal Underwater Viewing Gallery; I was completely captivated by the motion of the marine life and could've spent hours there.
The fairy penguins were beguiling and the Imagine dolphin show was truly breathtaking; the beauty and grace of these magnificent mammals apparent in their every intelligent move. For $200 you can swim with the dolphins - outrageous I know, but it's on my Bucket List (I tried to swim with the dolphins at Tin Can Bay once but sadly, they kept swimming away from me).
Castaway Bay proved to be a multi faceted playground - no doubt aimed at children but we weren't the only adults to make the most of it. Battle Boats move mechanically around a pool with water cannons on both the boats and the shore, creating a spectacular water war. We played tiggy on the Sky Fortress, a five level playground of ropes and bridges, until one of us got hurt. And again, for some reason the Sky Climb had negated it's usual fee so the rest of my party took to the harnessed heights to navigate the sky high balance course (having a small issue with heights I was happy to be the designated photographer).
WIth the day coming to a close we rode the SkyWay chairlift back to the front which afforded us awe-inspiring panoramic views of Sea World and its surrounds. We also caught a glimpse of Dinosaur Island, a new attraction which I believe has just opened.
Our last stop was the Penguin Encounter to check out the fabulous King and Gentoo penguins from the underwater and raised viewing platforms. I think we saved the best for last, they were truly mesmering and fascinating creatures to observe.
The greatest thrill for me will always be the gift of observing marine animals at such close proximity - I struggle with the notion of animals in captivity but love it or hate it, it's an incredible experience and I console my conscience with the knowledge that Sea World does so much in the way of marine animal rescue and rehabilitation. Convenient I know...here are some of my Sea World favourites.
Beyond the thrills of your General Admission, one can purchase Animal Adventures, Helicopter Rides and Whale Watching. And of course there are close to a dozen Gift Shops scattered around the park if you're interested in an over priced souvenir.
All in all, for me, it's an absolutely fabulous day and I'm considering purchasing another VIP Pass - right now they're $99.99, valid for all 3 theme parks up until June 2013, and you can buy 3 and get 1 free. If you're thinking of venturing to a theme park this year, then for my money, these passes are an absolute bargain!
If you are heading to Sea World here are a few tips:
If you're going for a particular ride or attraction check the website first to ensure it's not closed for maintenance.
Consider taking your own lunch -seriously. Although the website does mention a ban on bringing food, beverages and eskies into the venue -fruit is allowed.
To avoid long line ups, try and go on the rides during lunch or when the big shows are on.
Remember to take adequate sun protection.
* Try to forget about the fact that you're being exploited at every turn and just have fun.