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SeaWorld – North End: Pacific Point Preserve

Rating: * * * *
Type: Outdoor aquatic habitat
Time: Continuous viewing
Kelly says: Don’t miss feeding the sea lions

Over 50 sea lions roar and bark with delight in this two-and-a-half acre, open-air, sunken habitat. SeaWorld’s design team traveled to the Pacific Northwest to take molds of the rock outcroppings along the coast to build this remarkable re-creation. Adding to the verisimilitude is a wave machine, similar to those used in the water theme parks, that creates waves of anywhere from a few inches to two feet in height. The viewing area extends entirely around the exhibit, and while the sea lions (and a smaller number of harbor seals) are safely out of reach, it’s almost as if you can touch them.

But if you can’t pet them, you can feed them. Small trays of fish are available at certain times for the princely sum of $15 or $20, depending on the crowds. (Passport holders get 10% off these prices) and their contents will very quickly disappear down a sea lion’s gullet. It’s all great fun and, if you aren’t careful, you can very quickly squander your lunch money. The sea lions, for their part, have learned how to part you from your smelt and will bark furiously and even leap decoratively up onto the edge of the pool until their hunger is satisfied, which it never is. Fortunately, watching other people feed the sea lions is almost as entertaining as doing it yourself. The feeding stations are open regularly and it is only on extremely crowded days that the allotted ration of fish is sold out before closing time.

While their feeding behavior might lead you to believe these animals are tame, they are not. The sea lions you see perform in the Clyde & Seamore show just around the corner live separately from their cousins in Pacific Point. They have been trained for years and habituated to interacting with humans. The animals in Pacific Point Preserve are wild and like all wild animals unpredictable. In other words, don’t dangle little Susie over the edge to get her within smelt-tossing range.

Tip: You might want to ask someone on the education staff when the main feeding will take place that day. While the public certainly helps with the feeding, the staff has to make sure that their charges are adequately fed. They do this by serving up fish by the bucketful at least once a day. This is a highly entertaining ritual so it’s worthwhile to check the schedule. Also, the handlers have to hand-feed some of the older sea lions and seals who don’t compete well for food with their younger rivals. You and your kids will undoubtedly find this part of the feeding particularly touching.

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