Just for the kids

Friday - - Hot List -

the heat and bak­ing sun­shine can be un­com­fort­able and that’s where Sea World, with its com­bi­na­tion of rides and old-fash­ioned wa­ter dous­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, is a saviour.

The Dol­phin Ex­pe­ri­ence is world fa­mous and has been op­er­at­ing since 1971 when it of­fered water­ski shows that com­bined com­edy, aqua ballet and ac­tion. Now the em­pha­sis is on con­ser­va­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of marine life. And the cur­rent show, Imag­ine, is quite sim­ply en­chant­ing.

In fact, prob­a­bly the only time si­lences de­scended upon Sea­World is when we took a seat in the shel­tered au­di­to­rium, thank­ful for a cool breeze.

We stud­ied the sur­face of the dol­phin pool – well it is more of a trop­i­cal sandy-bot­tomed la­goon – as our host roamed the arena with a head mike, ed­u­cat­ing us about our mam­mal friends. A trainer, ag­ile and with the physique of an Olympic gym­nast, was in the mid­dle of wa­ter, up to her waist.

Sev­eral loud gasps es­caped from the au­di­ence – us in­cluded – as she shot up sky­wards, her en­tire body pro­pelled by the nose of her dol­phin who then, with­out a wob­ble, guided her back into the wa­ter.

The trainer led the ap­plause as the dol­phin play­fully nuz­zled her neck and then dived be­low be­fore ap­pear­ing with a flour­ish of wa­ter at the other end of the pool. All in the blink of an eye.

A cou­ple of lucky guests were called for­ward to pat the dol­phin’s nose as he wrig­gled for­ward on the view­ing plat­form. Their mam­mal squeaks are adorable and, not be­ing a par­tic­u­lar fan of zoos,I was re­lieved to see th­ese an­i­mals thriv­ing in cap­tiv­ity. It’s no se­cret that dol­phin num­bers are at risk – ev­ery tuna fan is aware – and the speech de­liv­ered about nur­tur­ing and breed­ing at Sea World was not lost on the au­di­ence.

It was still hot as we left the dol­phins so we headed to Sea World’s Cast­away Bay for a cool off. It hap­pened a lit­tle bit ear­lier than ex­pected as we were soaked by a cheeky fam­ily rid­ing the Bat­tle Boats. Th­ese are mini pi­rate ships fit­ted with wa­ter canons to drench un­sus­pect­ing tourists. But we soon get our own back – pump­ing up one of the canons fit­ted land side in a hys­ter­i­cal wa­ter fight. Later, clutch­ing an ice cream and a latte as we dried off, we moved to the wa­ter park where Max and other kids frolicked in minia­ture wa­ter-filled play­grounds of slides, jets, show­ers and shade.

No visit to Sea­World th­ese days can be checked off with­out see­ing a burger-flip­ping yel­low sea sponge. It was the pan­tomime to top them all – Sponge­Bob Pa­radePants danc­ing around Bikini Bot­tom.

Max took off to get us a seat so we could see Sponge­Bob in the flesh, or rather gi­ant in­flat­able suit. But I was happy to join him. Even I ap­pre­ci­ate it’s not ev­ery day you get the star of a multi-Emmy Award-win­ning TV se­ries, movie and mer­chan­dis­ing ge­nius will­ing to en­ter­tain you in an ac­ro­batic jet-ski stunt show. His co-stars Sandy Cheeks (a squir­rel), Pa­trick Star (a starfish), Eu­gene Krabs (a crab, nat­u­rally) and Squid­ward Ten­ta­cles (a squid) danced in se­quence be­hind.

Next time we prom­ise our­selves we will squeeze in a trip toWet ’n’ Wild, al­though I’m al­ready shud­der­ing at the thought of its new wa­ter slide, the Con­stric­tor, where rid­ers hit speeds of up to 30kmh.

Per­haps that’s one for Dad to try – he can test his nerves fly­ing down an en­closed flume slide into a se­ries of corkscrew turns be­fore snaking back and forth in a se­ries of spi­rals on multi-per­son rafts. Yep. Def­i­nitely one for him.

As we de­parted to the sound of a fa­mil­iar pi­rate hol­ler­ing just like in the car­toons “Are you ready kids!” and turned on to the high­way past the Palazzo Ver­sace ho­tel, it was hard not to no­tice that the Coast was pump­ing. Add to that the ca­sual, friendly vibe of Queens­lan­ders and a visit to the state’s theme parks cre­ates mem­o­ries that last for­ever.

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