SeaWorld debuts up-close encounters with otters, seals, flamingos — for a charge


SeaWorld San Diego is doubling down on its animal exhibits by introducing this summer several new up-close encounters — from whales, seals and sea otters to flamingos, walruses and sea lions.

The park, which has had a variety of animal encounters off and on over the years, announced this week that it is adding five new experiences, including a flamingo encounter that will also be available at its water park, Aquatica.

The individual experiences, which come with a surcharge ranging from $45 to $85, focus on specific marine mammals, although one of the offerings, the Family Adventure Tour, is more broad-based. Its featured activities, which are scheduled before the park opens, include touching and feeding bat rays, interacting with moon jellies and a dolphin playtime session.

Such behind-the-scenes attractions, which are a staple at all three of SeaWorld Entertainment’s namesake parks, have proven increasingly popular at theme parks in general and offer a revenue stream beyond admission.

Last January, SeaWorld San Diego offered for a limited time Inside Look, another version of the behind-the-scenes theme, providing a window into its rescues and “oiled wildlife care center.” While offered for only a short time, it proved especially appealing to guests and will return in the fall, said SeaWorld San Diego spokesman David Koontz. Unlike the new offerings, Inside Look was complimentary.

“Now the Orlando and Texas parks are doing Inside Look,” Koontz said. “Our zoological teams are constantly sharing the best practices of experiences at their parks that have great appeal to our guests, so I wouldn’t say one park is taking the lead from another park. Our goal is we want to connect our guests with animals, as well as with other offerings, but that pillar is never going to go away.”

The new sea lion, flamingo and beluga whale encounters only recently started, the sea otter attraction debuts on Friday, and the Family Adventure Tour will start next Tuesday.

While most of the just announced animal encounters are new, SeaWorld is reprising its former sea lion up-close tour of years past. The park already has several other similar experiences like the dolphin encounter and killer whales up close tour.

Its Orca Encounter, which replaced the former Shamu shows, is included in the price of admission to the park.

New SeaWorld animal encounters

  • Beluga and Walrus Encounter: $60
  • Family Adventure Tour: $85
  • Sea Otter Encounter: $70
  • Flamingo Encounter: $45
  • Seal and Sea Lion Encounter: $45


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Twitter: @loriweisberg