Discovery Cove has a
different philosophy to any of the other parks. To create a unique experience
& completely negate overcrowding, entrance is limited to a thousand guests per day, so pre-booking is essential. The slightly less adventurous can
choose park entrance without the 'up close & personal' dolphin encounter
but, from personal experience, the dolphins make the visit unique.
We would suggest that pre-visit you equip yourselves with some form of footwear that you won't mind getting wet - either flip-flops or beach shoes; there's plenty of sand to walk on but the main paths are concrete & get very hot.
Car parking is free & as your group enter the atrium you are each given an identity tag with your 'photo which will allow entrance to either Sea world or Busch Gardens for 2 weeks (or both for an extra fee), you are told when & where your dolphin encounter is scheduled & a group 'photo is taken.
It's not a huge park so it's very easy to orient yourselves &, although no park maps are issued, there are occasional ones inscribed in stone dotted about & there are many personnel to assist you. Find your way to one of the changing rooms where you will be given a string bag with a snorkel (yours to keep), mask & suntan cream. (Note: suncream must be dolphin-friendly, they prefer you to use theirs). Unusually, lockers, towels, a continental breakfast, a very good lunch, all-day snacks & all drinks (Anhauser-Busch products) are free. When changed, you choose either a life vest or wetsuit shortie - you are not allowed to swim without one or the other....
With the exception of the dolphin ponds, the waters of Discovery cove are heated so you are unlikely to get cold except during your dolphin encounter. There are two main swimming areas, the first being a sort of 'lazy river' without rings which has an area where you duck under into an aviary where you can haul out of the water & wander.. The second is a very large (& deep) 'natural' pool with many species of fish free-swimming with you....
There is a large (but fairly shallow) ray pool where you can, at certain times, feed the rays.
The highlight of the day has to be your dolphin encounter. There are three separate dolphin pools (Cabanas) where, at your allotted time, you will first see a very well produced video before your dolphin swim. Family groups stay together & although 'photos are allowed, the best vantage point is from the water where you can't get - but Discovery Cove staff with video cameras can !! They offer you a video (DVD) or extensive 'photos of your visit (at extra cost) but must admit that their photography is very good....