With the release of Finding Dory in theaters, Walt Disney World was teeming with excitement on June 11, 2016. Speak Like a Whale Day was an exciting event The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion at Epcot, and my girls and I were thrilled to take part.
Those interested in the tour were given a button and credentials and directed to The Seas With Nemo and Friends attraction. Once we exited the ride, there was a team of guides available to give us an educational look at all the pavilion has to offer. Our particular tour guide was an animal behavior specialist, who told us all about how they acclimate new fish to the tanks and train all the sea animals to expect food at certain times and locations. I never thought about things like conditioning the sharks to eat using a beam of light at feeding time and using a long claw to distribute the food, so that they don’t associate humans with meal times. This helps ensure the safety of both the keepers who have to enter the tank and the guests that take advantage of diving experiences. In addition, the sharks are kept well fed so that they maintain a “fish are friends” relationship with the other residents.
We wandered through the pavilion for almost 2 hours, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to engage with the marine biologists, animal scientists and other professionals who were wandering the area. Some were armed with artifacts (such as a turtle skull, which was a favorite of my kids) and others with information about the animals in the tanks. We saw coral, rays, sharks and other sea life and learned how Epcot created the reefs inside the tanks. Taking such a large amount of living coral from the ocean would have severely impacted the environment, so they created one out of concrete and other materials. A cast member told us the fish interact with it just like they do with habitats in the wild – each school has their own territory, that they defend and maintain.
Walt Disney World also has two manatees that they have special permission to study in captivity – typically it’s illegal to touch, disturb or otherwise interact with them in the wild due to their extremely endangered status. Their keeper told us about the project and how the Disney Company is working hard to help save the ocean wildlife.
It’s not often that the backstage staff of the animal care facilities at Epcot are out and available for guests to learn from. My daughter Jessa was able to learn a lot from one of the marine scientists about getting the necessary experience in college to prepare her for the Disney College Program or a professional internship. She was able to find out what path several people took from college freshman to working with animals professionally at Walt Disney World. The experience was fun and educational, and I am so glad my girls and I were able to participate.
Even when it’s not Speak Like a Whale Day, The Seas Pavilion has a lot to offer guests. Besides the fun attractions The Seas With Nemo and Friends attraction and Turtle Talk with Crush, there are all sorts of exhibits to explore. I particularly enjoyed pressuring my girls to take a photo in the Bruce’s Shark World exhibit, because I wouldn’t be much of a mom if I didn’t make my kids do ridiculous things, now would I?
The next time you’re in Epcot, I highly recommend spending a portion of your day exploring The Seas Pavilion. I know I saw and learned lots of new things! Please feel free to comment below and let me know your best experience in The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
Aly Miller is a lifelong Disney fanatic. She recently discovered the WDW Radio Podcast and became a member of the WDW Radio Nation. When she isn’t obsessing over all things Disney, she and her husband run Chad Miller Auto Care, an independent full service automotive repair shop in San Antonio, TX.