Close-up Animal Encounters and Rides to Enjoy at The SeaWorld Parks, Florida

*This is a collaborative post

During our trip to the SeaWorld Parks, I was thrilled to find so many rides that have been designed for you to experience exactly what it feels like to become some of the animals you see in the parks - you really do go from seeing to being which is something I haven’t experienced in any theme parks before. 

Manta | SeaWorld, Orlando

Many rides have been designed for you to experience what it’s like to be an animal. Mako at SeaWorld is the first ride we experienced like this and really gave us an idea of what to expect from the rest of our trip. First of all, we came face to face with Sharks in the Shark Encounter - we loved seeing their scary looking teeth up close! We learned that Mako Sharks can travel up to 60 mph when hunting their prey which was fantastic to experience for ourselves straight afterwards on the Mako ride (which travels even faster than a shark, reaching speeds of 75 mph),

Shark Encounter | SeaWorld, Orlando
Mako | SeaWorld, Orlando

Another ride that allowed us to experience what it’s like to be an animal at SeaWorld was Manta. Mantas are large rays that look super graceful as they float around the water. We were able to get up close and personal to some rays before our ride and had lots of fun feeding them their lunch (they like prawns). A little too much fun at times as one of the rays splashed me right in the face much to the delight of the kids. We washed our hands and then climbed aboard Manta to experience life as a ray ourselves. As we faced the floor and were whizzed around the track, it was easy to imagine us gliding through the water just like the rays we had just met. 

Feeding Rays | SeaWorld, Orlando

I've put together a short video featuring some of the thrills you'll experience at the SeaWorld Parks below: 

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a fun ride that the whole family can enjoy and ends in a penguin habitat. It’s super chilly in here so a fantastic place to cool off but also a lovely place to watch these super cute animals up close. The penguins are full of character and the baby chicks were super cute. 

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin | SeaWorld, Orlando

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin | SeaWorld, Orlando

Over at Busch Gardens, the ride that we were all super excited to try was Cheetah Hunt. Cheetahs are well known for being the fastest land animal and as we watched one basking in the Florida sunshine, we couldn’t wait to experience these speeds for ourselves and as we were strapped into the Cheetah Hunt rollercoaster, the excitement really started to build. Cheetah Hunt is like no other rollercoaster I’ve ever experienced as it actually speeds up the inclines and as you dart from side to side, you really do feel as if you are a Cheetah hunting its prey. Out of all the rides we tried in Florida, I think Cheetah Hunt is the ride that really stands out as acting exactly like its namesake and it was so much fun. 

Cheetah Hunt | Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens is also home to Cobra’s Curse - the anticipation builds as you walk through the tomb-like tunnels and climb into your cart before coming face to face with a giant Cobra. This ride really snakes around the track and along with the authentic drum soundtrack, it really feels as if you could be in the Egyptian desert. 

Cobra's Curse | Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay

SheiKra at Busch Gardens is designed around an Asian African Hawk. This floorless rollercoaster replicates what it’s like to hover in the sky before diving down to the ground and is a ride where you definitely experience the wind in your hair. 

SheiKra | Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay
The SeaWorld Parks aren’t just about marine life, you will find animals from all different continents and we enjoyed multiple close-up animal encounters throughout our trip that it’s really hard to list them all. Definite highlights for us included feeding a wide range of animals - from Sea Lions and Rays at SeaWorld to Flamingos and Giraffes at Busch Gardens. You can purchase animal food at an additional cost at a variety of stations throughout the parks and I would highly recommend you did this on your trip. I feel as if the opportunity to feed the animals really provided us with a special connection and some of the widest smiles from our holiday occurred during these experiences. 

Feeding Sea Lions | SeaWorld, Orlando

Feeding Flamingos | Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens is home to a huge variety of animals from all over the world and taking part in the Serengeti Safari (available as an optional extra) gave us the chance to get super close to some of the animals in the park. So close in fact that we were able to take a selfie with a giraffe! This tour was fun and informative and we really learned a lot from our fabulous guide.

Feeding Giraffes | Serengeti Safari - Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay
Swimming with Dolphins at Discovery Cove was the experience that Heidi was most looking forward to during our time in Florida and it really did not disappoint. Children from aged 6+ can join in with the experience so it’s something we were all able to try together which really made the whole thing extra special. Small groups are invited into the water and are able to get up close with these beautiful animals alongside learning about their behaviour from their trainers. Our dolphin was called Daphne and watching the joy on Harry, Heidi and Jack’s faces as they interacted and learned (and then put into practice) some of the signals that the dolphin trainers used is something I’ll never forget. Heidi left the session declaring that she was going to work with dolphins when she grows up. Discovery Cove also allows you to snorkel with rays in The Grand Reef and as an optional extra, adults and children aged 10+ can take part in SeaVenture - an underwater walking tour of the Ocean floor where you have the opportunity to hold various sea creatures and are surrounded by the most wonderful tropical fish. 

Swimming with Dolphins | Discovery Cove , Orlando
Sharks are one of Jack’s favourite animals. He was sadly not tall enough to ride Mako at SeaWorld but still managed plenty of shark encounters. From snorkelling near sharks behind a glass wall at Discovery Cove to Dining with Sharks at SeaWorld - he really relished the opportunity to look at their teeth close up and spent most of his spending money on Shark toys and memorabilia in the SeaWorld gift shop. 

The Grand Reef - Shark viewing  | Discovery Cove, Orlando
Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about animals and the role SeaWorld takes in conservation, there are plenty of opportunities to meet and chat with the Animal Care Staff around the park.  We were saddened to meet a few Sea Turtles who had been crashed into by boats and were suffering from what’s known as ‘bubble butt’. Staff explained how they try a variety of treatment methods to try and help the turtles and are currently trialling treatment with honey. 

Chatting with Animal Care Staff | SeaWorld, Orlando

I could write pages and pages about all of the fantastic animals we met and the rides we experienced in Florida. The SeaWorld Parks provide countless ways to not only get up close to the animals but also learn about them, how we can protect them and also actually experience what it’s like to be some of the animals you see during the rides. 


  1. Wow your animal encounters look fantastic, so jealous you got to feed the flamingos, I'd love to do that!

    Rides designed to let you experience what it's like to be certain animals is such a genius idea!

  2. wow I had no idea seaworld had such thrill seeking rides, I visited years ago and it has changed a lot! It sounds like you all had an amazing time, what a fantastic experience x


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