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Hug a Beluga Whale at Sea World’s Beluga Whale Interaction Program
Sep 12, 2012 (Updated Sep 12, 2012)
by Thomas Wikman
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Beluga Whales, Beluga Hugs, Beluga Kisses, Beluga Touching, Beluga Feeding, Beluga Tricks, Educational.
The Bottom Line: The Beluga Whale Interaction Program at Sea World San Antonio, Texas, makes memories for life.
Beluga Whales are white intelligent and harmless whales that are easy and safe to handle as long as you take it slow and easy. They are skittish and have a strong flee reflex. They are bigger than dolphins and more rarely seen at aquariums, oceanariums, shows, and interaction programs, and therefore perhaps more interesting than dolphins. A few weeks ago we visited Sea World in San Antonio with friends and we did the Beluga interaction program. It is the second time that we do it. Well the kids did it as we were watching them and listening.
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Overview of the Beluga Whale Interaction Program at Sea World San Antonio
Beluga Whales are toothed cetaceans living in the Arctic. They are white, blubbery, and can be up to 18 feet and weigh 1,600 kilograms, or more than 3,400 pounds. At the Beluga Whale interaction program you will enter a fairly cool pool (that is why you have a wet suit) together with a group of 3-5 people. Then a guide will introduce you to a Beluga Whale. You will touch the Beluga Whale, lay down with it and hold its fin, you will feed it, and the Beluga Whale will give you a kiss or a hug, and the Beluga Whale will do tricks for you. The guide will tell you various interesting things about Beluga Whales as you do all these things.
Participants have to be at least seven years old and 48 inches and if you are under 18 you must be accompanied by an adult. You bring your own swimsuit but they provide towel and a wetsuit. The program starts at a specific time so you need to be on time. However, if you arrive a little bit late they will still let you in (but don’t be late). The check in is by the “Hat Shack” in Sea World, which is something you need to know. I estimate that the whole thing takes about two hours.
The Beluga interaction program is not included with the entrance fee to Sea World. You have to buy a separate ticket for it on top of the Sea World entrance fee. It is fairly costly. The cost is $159.00 per person during peak season (this is when we went). It is less (down to $99.00) during the rest of year. However, if you want to photo package, which we did, you pay another $40.00 and you also pay $10.00 for each spectator.
I am unable to include the link to the Beluga Whale interaction program in San Antonio Texas because the editor says it is too long. But you can Google it (or send me an email).
The Beluga Whale Experience
Our last visit to the Beluga Whale interaction was a not too hot Saturday in the middle of August. Therefore there were a lot of people and Sea World was crowded. Buying a Sea World ticket, and then standing in line for the security check and ticket scan took a long time. On days like these you probably should arrive an hour before the program starts. Well we got there on time but we got some help from the Beluga staff personnel.
First you assemble in a class room featuring posters of all the whales in the world. Someone speaks about the program, what to expect and how to behave. You also learn about Belugas and you watch a movie. Then the ones that are going into the pool change into their bathing suits and wet suits in a change room. Parents may need to help younger kids (not needed this time, but last time). Then you all march out to the pools where you are divided into groups. Each group is about 3-5 people, well last time we were three, and two groups enter each pool, and each pool has two Beluga whales.
The interaction programs starts with an introduction and the Beluga whale comes and says hello. Everyone takes turn touching the Beluga and the Beluga is making high pitch sounds and various tricks. The participants get a kiss or a hug from the Beluga whale, gets to lie down in the water and float on their backs beside the Beluga whale and hold his fine, as if they are sleeping beside each other, and they get to feed the Beluga and many other things. You also take pictures with the Beluga. Parents are allowed to take any amount of pictures but they also have a professional photographer with a good DSLR camera. Smart phone cameras are pretty lousy, so unless you brought a good camera yourself and know what you are doing, the photo package might be worth it.
Kids of all ages love this kind of stuff, and it is one step up from Dolphin interaction, which is also great. However, Beluga interaction takes the cake. Since Belugas are docile and friendly there is no risk despite their larger size. However, they are very skittish so they tell you not to make sudden movements or start splashing. That will end the show with the Beluga swimming to other side of the pool. Overall the program is fun, safe, and the staff is knowledgeable and helpful, and nice to the kids.
Below I have included a few pictures from the Beluga Interaction program from a few weeks ago. Scroll down to see more. Soon I will add a lot more pictures.
Below I have included a few pictures from when we visited the Beluga Interaction program about 4 years ago. My daughter has grown since then. Anyway a Beluga Whale is not a narwhal. Excuse my poor zoology skills. I will fix that.
$159 is quite expensive for a couple of hours but the Beluga interaction program is a quite special experience. The Beluga interaction program at Sea World San Antonio is professionally presented by knowledgeable people who care for the animals as well as the participants. If you can afford it I highly recommend it.
Finally I would like to give my thanks to Phil (popsrocks) for adding this attraction to the epinions data base
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