Friday, July 4, 2014

SeaWorld San Diego

Wednesday we drove down to San Diego to spend the day at SeaWorld.  We had found a vet/doggie daycare place very near the park where we left Sophie for the day.  I know it's confusing for her to be going to so many different new places, but this was the best alternative.  Really liked what we saw online about this place, as they allow lots of playtime for the dogs to be with other dogs of similar size.  She really loves being with other dogs, so this was a lot better alternative than the park's kennel.  We were really pleased with the staff there, and it was quite convenient to SeaWorld.  We had decided on spending this day here based on the weather forecasts, as it was getting progressively hotter in LA, and the temps were predicted to be a good bit lower in San Diego.  As it turned out, it was a bit warm there, as much of the time at SeaWorld involves sitting in the big arenas for the shows, and that got hot.  But it was a fun day!

We started out with the whale show at Shamu Stadium.  These animals are so beautiful and sleek and I've always enjoyed these shows.  Of course John wanted to sit in the "Soak Zone," where the whales use their tails to soak the audience for the first 16 rows.  Fortunately for us we were up a ways into this section so, while we got wet enough to have a good laugh, we weren't completely soaked like the folks in the first couple of rows.  Unfortunately I really wasn't able to get any decent photos, since by the time I saw the whales coming out of the water for jumps the camera wouldn't respond quickly enough, but it was a great show.  Then John wanted to feed the manta rays and I took that chance to ride the big Manta roller coaster, which was a bit too much for his taste.  It was a great ride and the one thing about SeaWorld on a weekday is that the crowds were much, much smaller than we had experienced at Disney and Universal, so there was virtually no line for the ride.  Though it was still before noon, the little boy in the seat next to me said it was his 6th time of the morning riding the coaster!

Then we saw the Cirque de la Mer show, featuring lots of acrobatics combined with water, the actors diving off high platforms and performing on trapeze swings--very exciting and beautiful show.  We saw the sea lion show, and it's always amazing to me how they can train these animals to do these things, all choreographed into a story line.  The cutest of this show, though, was this little sea otter, whose small size juxtaposed to the larger sea lions made it just so cute!  Then we got to feed some sea lions and John really loved that.

Then on to the flamingo island, where there were tons of flamingos nesting on these little mounds, with the indention in the top for a single large egg.  Both parents take turns incubating the egg by sitting on the mound--pretty cool for the father to participate in this--Trisha gave a rousing cheer for this behavior!! The parents would periodically stand up, seemingly to stretch their legs, and then lean down and apparently inspecting the egg, seeing if it was ready to hatch, and turning the egg over from time to time.  Incubation takes about a month and when the chick is ready to hatch, it uses a pointed growth on its bill called an "egg tooth" to break through the shell, and this process takes between 24 and 36 hours.  The egg tooth is really not a tooth, and falls off the bill shortly after the chick hatches.  It takes a while for the new chick's bill to grow into the hooked shape of an adult flamingo, and it depends on the parents to feed it until this happens.  Even though chicks begin to band together in groups soon after they're born, known as chreches, the parents can apparently pick out their own chick by sight and vocalization at feeding time, and a parent will only feed its own chick.  Adult flamingos eat by first stopping their feet to stir up the food and then dragging their curved beaks back and forth across the bottom of the water, filtering out mud, etc. to get to the food.  Very interesting to watch them do this.

After lunch Trisha and I rode the gondola over the park for some nice views, while Todd and John went to the arcade where John had another good day at the games--he won a couple of big stuffed animals, as well as a number of tickets to redeem at the end.  Then we took in the dolphin show, which has always been a favorite of mine, love to see them swimming so fast, with the trainers diving under water, only to be joined by  dolphins speeding along underneath them, picking them up for a ride and breaking through the surface--very dramatic.  They combined this with lots of trapeze and acrobatics, along with exotic birds flying overhead, and it was a really exciting show.  Then off to the shark encounter, going through the underwater tunnel to see the sharks swimming overhead.

While John and Trisha went back to pet the manta rays in their pool, Todd joined me for another spin on the big roller coaster.  By late afternoon the sun was taking its toll on all of us, so we headed back to Anaheim, and made it back in time for one last Disney fireworks display.  They added some new twists for the 4th of July and it was a spectacular show, and a fitting end to our time here.

Thursday morning we bid goodbye to John and Todd as they flew back home and we headed off across the desert en route to St. George, Utah.  Last night, here at Lake Mead, the winds really picked up and we woke up with the RV shaking pretty heavily, so I pulled in the slides to guard against any wind damage to the slide topper awnings.  Lake Mead is very beautiful, and the color of the water was just brilliant blue as we were driving into the campground.  And early this morning I took Sophie out for a walk and then sat outside at the picnic table to watch the sun come up over the lake.  Didn't take long for the sun to start warming things up, so we'll head off to St. George before too long.

John at the petting pools for Cleaner Fish as we entered the park

 Shamu Stadium

 Some kids getting up close and personal with some dolphins--apparently you have to make reservations a couple months in advance to be able to do that, but they put the kids into "official" SeaWorld trainer wetsuits and take them into the pool to let them try their hand at giving signals to the dolphins--looked like a lot of fun!

 John petting a manta ray

 The Cirque de la Mer show

 Petting the starfish

 Learned how a starfish can regenerate arms when damaged, here one has a total of 7, while the norm is 5
 Some of the lovely flowers throughout the park

 Flamingo Island!

 Flamingo dragging its beak across the bottom of the pond, filtering for food

 Egg in the little indention in the top of the incubation mound
 New chick, probably a couple of weeks old
 Sea turtles at Turtle Reef

 Look, Pop, I'm riding a sea turtle!!
 The sea lion show

 Cute little sea otter
 Feeding the sea lions

 Dolphin show

 Trapeze "bird" as she was flying over the crowd, suspended by cables

 Shark Encounter!!

 Megaladon jaws

 Shots from the gondola--this is the back of the Cirque stage
 Looking down on the marina and skyline

 Looking up through the glass underneath the mantas

 Loved these flowers

 Bamboo sharks for petting as we left the park.

 Scenes from our drive across the desert

 Coming into Lake Mead


 Sunrise on Friday--Happy 4th of July!!

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