In June 2005, SeaWorld Orlando announced that they were planning a third park in Orlando. In August 2005 the plans were approved by Orange County and construction started in early 2006.
The new park, called Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Water Park was originally scheduled to open in the summer of 2007 but this was pushed back to a soft opening date of March 1, 2008. The official opening was on April 4, 2008.
The park is located on 59 acres of land, on the east side International Drive, south of Sea Harbor Drive between the existing SeaWorld park and the Williamsburg residential subdivision. It is about one third the size of the original SeaWorld water theme park and about twice the size of Discovery Cove with visitor numbers limited to around 7,500 people per day.
Aquatica is a combination of animal experiences, water rides and slides, high-speed thrills and relaxing sandy beaches and will appeal to all ages.
SeaWorld’s aim is to offer “a high level of service without long lines” and they are slowly expanding the park with new rides, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls in 2014 and Ray Rush scheduled for the spring of 2018.
Aquatica is a direct competitor to the two Disney water parks; i.e. Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon and to Universal’s Volcano Bay (and previously Wet ’n Wild. Aquatica is slightly more expensive than the other water parks but less than the exclusive Discovery Cove.
There are two large side-by-side wave lagoons, offering two very different experiences; one has crashing waves and five foot swells whilst the other has a gently rolling surf. It is possible to generate nine different wave patterns.
The winding rivers also offer different journeys from calm to extreme with gentle waterfalls past exotic parrots into an undersea grotto full of colourful tropical fish in one and rolling rapids, racing waters and rushing geysers in the other.
Amongst the dozen or so main attractions there are also eight-lane racing slides, racing tunnels, triple-drop raft rides and inner tube river adventures.
Small children and toddlers are not forgotten with an enormous interactive water play area including a 60 foot high rain fortress besides a 15,000 gallon pool plus special family orientated slides and water cannon.
Aquatica also boasts over 80,000 square feet of white sandy beaches where you can relax in the shade of your own personal cabana and take advantage of the beachside service.
Some attractions bring the guests into close proximity with dolphins and other marine animals; a “total immersion in the sea”. Animal Ambassadors can also be found wandering around the park with several unusual animals including a giant anteater and a spoonbill.
The landscaping is themed on the beautiful lush flora of the South Sea Islands, New Zealand, Australia and New Guinea with crystal clear rivers, hidden grottos and sparkling waterfalls.
Buildings are brightly coloured and there are carved totem poles decorations taken from New Zealand’s Maori culture.
One of the signature attractions of the new park is a very special water slide.
It consists of a pair of clear acrylic tubes that swimsuit clad guests will slide down through a pool inhabited by black and white Commerson’s dolphins, giving the impression of flying under water.
Though you are not be able to touch the dolphins (unlike at Discovery Cove) you get very close to them.
The Commerson’s dolphins look a bit like a miniature killer whales and are smaller than the more familiar bottlenose dolphins more usually associated with theme parks. They are very agile and will often jump out of the water.
There are not many Commerson’s dolphins in captivity and they have been brought over from SeaWorld in San Diego. In 2016 SeaWorld announced that they will no longer breed or replace the Commerson’s dolphins so they will most likely be the last ones kept in captivity.
Future of Wet ’n Wild
George Millay (one of the founders of SeaWorld and Wet ‘n’ Wild) wrote in his book, The Wave Maker, that one of the reasons he sold Wet ‘n’ Wild in 1998 was because of the increasing land lease charges.
He also predicted that Universal, who owned Wet ‘n’ Wild would move it from its current location on International Drive, to their own property in Orlando before 2012 as the lease charges continued to rise. In fact is stayed open until the very end of 2016 before Volcano Bay opened in 2017.