One question often asked by family and friends is “what’s been the highlight of your trip so far?”. We take a few seconds to consider our answer – swimming with sharks was amazing, spending a day at Disneyland was tremendous fun and feeding giraffes was a lifelong dream.
But we can’t select just one adventure that has definitively been our highlight so far. Until now.
The Beluga Whale Interaction at SeaWorld San Antonio was an experience that allows us to answer that question with conviction. For both of us, it’s been the major highlight of our journey so far!
Ever since she was young, Amy has had a love affair with these adorable creatures and swimming with them was one of her 25 before 25 list items. On a scorching Texas afternoon, we drove our rental car from downtown San Antonio to SeaWorld and were first taken to the SeaWorld Interactive Center for an introductory video on the beluga whales.
We were then given our wetsuits which seemed crazy considering the near 100-degree temperature outside, however the beluga pool is set at arctic temperatures and they were certainly needed. Our trainer Megan then led us to the pool and introduced us to our beluga whales for the day – 11-year old Luna (pictured below with Amy) and 4-year old Oliver (pictured with Kieron).
The first half of our interaction was to be spent with Oliver – the younger, chubbier beluga whale with a head described as a “big ball of jelly”. After getting a few happy snaps with him, Megan then proceeded to teach us more about beluga whales in a hands-on environment using Oliver as our subject.
We got to feel what a beluga’s skin felt like (it was so ridiculously soft and smooth!), examine his dorsal ridge (what belugas have instead of fins) and even tickle and poke Oliver with hilarious reactions.
Megan then showed us inside Oliver’s mouth and his peg-shaped teeth, which were still growing inside his young mouth. Very cute!
The two of us then got to have some playtime with Oliver as he cheekily squirted us with some water before showing us some of his tricks including the ‘torpedo’ where he set off at high speed and leapt out of the water.
But before we knew it our time with Oliver was over and it was then time to meet Luna, the bigger of the two beluga whales participating in our interaction. We posed for a few more photos with her, our favorite being “silly faces” where she mimicked our facial expression.
Megan then got Luna to show us her collection of tricks and they left us in awe! We got to become the trainers for the next few minutes as we gestured to Luna with our arms and she followed up with an impressive trick and bobbing on the water.
After a few more tricks such as rolling over (in perfect sync with us) and shaking hands, it was then Luna’s turn to show us her ‘torpedo’. She leapt out of the water on a couple of occasions, each jump higher than the last and leaving a greater splash behind.
Megan then showed us Luna’s curved tail fin and then told us to slap the water repetitively as she quickly moved out of the way. Why was our trainer deserting us? Because Luna would take the opportunity to completely drench the two of us using her tail fin!
But we just couldn’t stay mad at this beautiful face and rewarded Luna with some fish for a job well done.
The beluga whales at SeaWorld are trained with positive reinforcement using their favorite toys, a high-pitched whistle and of course, food.
While the Beluga Whale Interaction Program might seem expensive at $159 per person, it was truly worth every penny we spent on it and will take some beating to strip this experience of the title of “the highlight of our journey so far”.
To view a full photo gallery of our Beluga Whale Interaction, please visit our Facebook Page.
Did you know? Facts about Beluga Whales.
- Beluga whales are born a blueish/brownish grey and turn white as they mature and reach their adult coloration at 7-9 years old.
- Belugas are known as the “canary of the sea” because of their extended repertoire of vocalizations.
- Blubber accounts for nearly half of a Beluga Whale’s body weight.
- Beluga whales can weigh over 3000 pounds.
- Belugas have 34 peg-shaped teeth.
- They feed from the bottom of the ocean and their diet consists of clams, lobsters, oysters.
- A 1-year old beluga whale eats approximately 20 pounds of fish per day whereas older belugas consume 40 pounds per day.
- There are 80,000 – 100,000 beluga whales in the wild. They are a protected species.