In the thrill of the moment, between laughs and the rush of excitement, it can be easy to forget about all the careful planning that sometimes goes into making a memorable, meaningful vacation experience a reality. The same can be said of Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, a unique, all-inclusive day resort where guests enjoy once-in-a-lifetime animal encounters they would likely never experience anywhere else in the world. Whether swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with thousands of tropical fish, hand-feeding exotic birds, strutting alongside flamingos or just relaxing on the beach, guests at Discovery Cove can’t imagine all the planning it takes to provide such a spectacular array of outdoor adventures, or the deep commitment to conservation that lies at the heart of it all.
Beyond the unparalleled opportunities to interact with animals with exclusive experiences, Discovery Cove is committed to protecting and preserving the many animal species in their care at this 35-acre tropical oasis home. Discovery Cove is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and an active participant in the association’s Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program, dedicated to helping ensure the survival of selected wildlife species. The AZA’s flagship Animal Conservation Program, Discovery Cove has several animals within its various habitats, which are a part of this program.
Following specific guidelines from the AZA, Discovery Cove’s expert zoological operations team manages the breeding and care for such SSP animals including popular park inhabitants as the Zebra Shark, Asian Small Clawed Otters, Kinkajous, Two-toed Sloths, and more than 20 birds in the Explorer’s Aviary. Spotted Eagle Rays are among the most successful species in the program at Discovery Cove, with nine pups born at the park since 2019.
In addition to its commitment to conservation and authentic experiences, Discovery Cove is dedicated to educating guests about the importance of each species and its habitat. Throughout the park, guests will encounter zoological professionals who are there to help them connect more deeply with the animals by sharing interesting information about a species-specific activity, needs, habits and more. Discovery Cove prides itself in fostering lifelong animal advocates through the natural interaction it provides between animals, ambassadors, and guests.
Some of the most popular places to connect with animals and their ambassadors include:
Dolphin Lagoon: Guests experience up-close encounters with dolphins, where zoological professionals offer interesting information about dolphin habits, behaviors, and communication. Guests learn about the special relationships park staff build each day with these incredible animals, and, most importantly, what they can do to help preserve the natural world we share with marine mammals.
The Grand Reef®: The Grand Reef features multiple levels of exploration – from shallow waters to deeper swimming adventures, and from white sandy beaches to snorkeling among tropical fish and rays through canyons inspired by reefs around the world. Whether wading close to shore or snorkeling into deeper waters, guests can safely discover the wonders of a below-the-surface world teeming with exotic fish, graceful rays and other colorful sea life all around them. Zoological professionals are in the water and on the shore, providing guests with tips on snorkeling and fish identification, and sharing stories about the park’s conservation efforts.
Freshwater Oasis®: Providing a fun and “fresh” look into conservation, Freshwater Oasis features wading adventures and face-to-face encounters with playful otters, as well as an island where a family of marmoset monkeys may be spotted. The Oasis is staffed with zoo professionals who provide educational information, scheduled enrichment sessions, and more.
Explorer’s Aviary: Home to more than 250 exotic birds, this free-flight aviary allows guests to hand-feed and interact with feathered friends as tall as four feet. Guests enter the aviary’s lush, tropical environment by way of the park’s beaches or by drifting under the refreshing waterfalls in the Wind-away River. Along the way, aviculturists are available to offer information, give breeding updates, offer feeding tips, and share conservation messaging.
Along with white sand beaches and palm-covered waterways, every admission includes endless food and drink options (including beer and wine), wetsuits, snorkel gear, towels, and many more amenities. Discovery Cove also requires reservations and limits the number of daily guests, making the experience one of the most exclusive attractions in the country, with ample room to enjoy the warm Florida weather.
For more information on the Species Survival Plan, or to start planning your visit, head to DiscoveryCove.com.