What To Expect at SeaWorld’s Career Camp
SeaWorld’s Camp for Aspiring Marine Animal Trainers
More than a year ago, I received an e-mail form Elijah Ozbat, an aspiring marine animal trainer, who discussed his time at SeaWorld’s Camp! With his permission, I have included this e-mail with pictures. If you are considering attending one of SeaWorld’s camps, read about Elijah’s experience below!
You can also read Elijah’s article on operant and classical conditioning.
What is SeaWorld’s Career Camp Like?
What I want to talk about is my experience at career camp in SeaWorld Orlando! We did a large variety of activities that involved all seven animal departments at SeaWorld: animal training, animal care, aviculture, aquarium, education, quarantine, and water quality. I made some new friends that had some similar interests. One of them actually did something like an independent study about why water pressure cause an orca’s dorsal fin to collapse. We all love SeaWorld and have strong opinions about it. We all know about Blackfish and we are strongly opposed to it. I’m glad that I’ve found a group of people that have the same interests that I do. Below, I will talk about some of the things that we did each day of camp.
Learn about SeaWorld Orlando Career Camp for 7-9 Graders.
Learn about SeaWorld Orlando Career Camp for 10-12 Graders.
A Week At SeaWorld’s Career Camp!
We did some icebreakers and got to know each other. We saw One Ocean, which I really liked. I liked it so much that I downloaded the album off of iTunes. I instantly fell in love with the orcas. They are truly one of the most beautiful and majestic animals in the world. We ate and then went through the shark exhibit, which was neat. We then went to Wild Arctic to see the mammals there. We laid our sleeping bags down next to the beluga whale and harbor seal habitats, although the belugas were not in the main pool, so we didn’t get to see them.
We woke up early to go above the shark habitat and watch the shark feeding. An aquarist talked to us about what her job entails. Then, it was time to get into a wetsuit and enter the shark cage! It was really cool to go below the surface and see the sharks up close. It was also fun to wave at people in tunnel and momentarily feel like I worked there. After lunch, we got to see Blue Horizons, which was also really cool. At the end of the day, we got to feed the sea lions, which I also fell in love with! They are so cute and so funny, and I love how they are very vocal (that’s also why I like beluga whales). We ate and then went to our hotel.
Early in the morning, it was time for our penguin encounter! First, we went in the fish prep room and the aviculturist showed us how they pack vitamins into the fish, and we got to try it ourselves. Next, it was time to go into the exhibit. It was so cool to touch and interact with the large variety of penguins. My favorite penguin was Whopper, a male king penguin. We spent the rest of the day at Aquatica, where we rode the rides and got to see the beautiful and amazing Commerson’s dolphins.
This was a very busy day. First, we climbed into the stingray lagoon and scrubbed certain parts of the habitat. After this, we fed them and then went to see the rescue center. It was really cool to see all of the different parts and how intricate the center is. We had an animal care specialist talk to us about the manatees and some of the different animals that she has worked with. We then got to see something very few people ever get to see: the quarantine facility. After that, a veterinarian talked to us about some of the different procedures that the vets do with all of the animals, and we got to see part of a surgical procedure the vets were doing on a sea turtle. We ate lunch and ten did our in-park presentations. This was when we stood by specific exhibits and answered questions and gave facts and information to guests of the park. I wanted to get assigned to the beluga whales, but I got assigned to walruses, which was still cool.
Next on the docket was a talk with a Shamu trainer! She has been working in Shamu Stadium for the past three years (you probably know her, but I forget her name). She talked briefly about her personal journey and then let us ask a bunch of questions. She also gave us tips for the swim test and she shared how she had failed the orca swim test the first two times she took it.
Swim Test Lessons
After this, it was time for something that we were all looking forward to. We were going to take three portions of the regular swim test, and we were going to do it in the Whale and Dolphin Stadium!!! We got to try the freestyle, underwater swim, and treading portions of the test. The two trainers were very nice and let us use goggles, so I did. I knew you can’t goggles in the test, but I just wanted to get a feel for it. For the freestyle, we had to swim from one end of the pool to the other and back. I passed this part, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. Next was the underwater swim, where you had to swim from one end to the other in one breath. I failed this part; I was maybe a meter away from halfway across the pool. Finally, we all did a group tread. We had to keep our hands out of the water and above our heads for five minutes. I kept my hands out for maybe a minute, and then I had to put them back in the water, so I failed this part too. I was still happy because I got a feel for what the swim test is like, and I know what I have to work on and what I need to prepare for. Oh, and the water is COLD!!!! It makes it a little more tiring to swim, but the saltwater does help you tread a little bit easier. We ate and then went to the hotel.
[For information on becoming a marine mammal trainer and passing the swim test, read Wear a Wetsuit at Work: How To Become a Marine Mammal Trainer.]
Our final day at camp, and we spent it at Discovery Cove! We started with our dolphin encounter. Our dolphin was the dominant female of the pod, and her name was Thelma. She was really beautiful and really sweet. We spent the rest of our day feeding the birds in the aviary, swimming in the saltwater reef with rays and fishes, and swimming in the tropical river. After that, we went back to SeaWorld and had a group discussion about Blackfish and PETA. We had free time, and then we ended the day by seeing Light up the Night! The next day, it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes, and we were really sad. I almost cried when I left.
The things that I took away from this camp are that I need to continue practicing. I am also going to join a swim team, because the trainer told us that being on a swim team or doing competitive swimming will really help you to prepare for the swim test. Also, after seeing the world-class staff and facilities at SeaWorld, I really want to work there now! I do have one tough decision to make: do I want to work in the animal care or animal training department? I want to work with orcas one day, but I also want to work with beluga whales! I am leaning towards animal training, but I’m still not entirely sure.
I just wanted to talk about my experience at this camp. It is a great, great opportunity for aspiring trainers who are still in high school.