In part two of our review of Discovery Cove Orlando, we discuss exploring The Grand Reef, lunch offerings, and re-visit the Explorer’s Aviary to feed a few birds. If you missed part one, you can find it here.
Picking up from where we left off, I had secured a mask and snorkel to check out The Grand Reef at Discovery Cove. You may remember I mentioned how far I felt from my comfort zone.
However, these days, I’m more open to new adventures than I have been in quite some time. For some of us, the older we get, the more we want to grasp hold of these kinds of experiences.
So I got over myself and decided to see what it was like to swim in a somewhat controlled environment among creatures we’d normally only find in the ocean. It was sensational.
Even now, tears form on the brim of my eyelids as emotions rush back. Naturally, there was some discomfort and fear I had to fight through initially.
But after reassuring myself that I was surrounded by plenty of other guests, including my teenage niece and her cousin, I began to let go of my inhibitions. What a life.
Swimming in the Reef at Discovery Cove
Discovery Cove boasts thousands of fish and sting rays in its 875,000-gallon attraction.
As far as depth goes, the reef is set up similarly to the ocean. From the sandy beach area, the water starts out shallow. It then deepens up to 15′ (feet) in some areas.
From what I could tell, the deepest part is a ravine-like area that runs through the center of The Grand Reef. Along the sides, you can stand or sit on rocky areas.
Since we are all strong swimmers, we were able to swim and dive without life jackets. However, we made our little guy wear his life jacket for most of the day.
It’s fairly easy to snorkel with a life jacket, you just can’t do any diving. Additionally, there were lifeguards every few feet or so around the reef.
Unfortunately, you can’t take photos with your phone underwater. Thankfully, I had purchased a SEAWAG at the Waturi Marketplace at Volcano Bay a few months ago.
A SEAWAG is a waterproof phone case. You can preview them here on Amazon (affiliate link).
Had I known how well these worked when I started the site, I would have bought mine in advance. As you can imagine, I paid a good bit more for it at the water park.
Therefore, all the photos in this review were taken with my iPhone in the waterproof phone case. I turned the video recorder on for underwater photos and then put it underwater. So those specific photos are screenshots from videos.
No, these probably aren’t the highest-quality photos. But I was able to capture and record some memorable moments of my family during our visit.
First Aid at Discovery Cove
By this time, we had explored the Wind-Away River, Fresh Water Oasis, had a snack, and swam in The Grand Reef. All of that swimming can work up an appetite. To our surprise, it was nearly 12:45 p.m. when we decided to find lunch.
When we got out of the water, my niece was complaining of a stinging, burning sensation. It looked as though she had a small bite on her leg.
My niece, her cousin, and I headed to find the first-aid station. First aid was located behind Laguna Grill.
We never were sure what happened, but the nurse mentioned that it could have been a bee sting and asked if we had any allergies. She applied a small tube of a salve that contained a numbing cream. Within a short time, her stinging sensation disappeared.
Our other gal asked if they had anything for blisters, and the nurse promptly bandaged the back of her heel. You could tell they both felt pampered.
So I decided to use the experience as a teaching moment. Since I’m at the theme parks and water parks often, I try to know where to go in the case of a small need or, worse, an emergency.
I told the girls that every park like this had a first aid station, and they were there to help. While this sounds simple, we don’t always think clearly when an unexpected issue occurs.
You don’t necessarily have to leave or send someone to go purchase something you forgot to bring. Check with first aid to see what they can do. From my experiences, I can assure you they are more than eager to help.
Lunch at Discovery Cove Orlando
After getting bandaged, we met up with the rest of our group, who were getting lunch. Lunch was served at Laguna Grill, where we enjoyed breakfast.
Again, since this is an all-inclusive experience, food and beverage costs are included in admission. So all you have to do is get in line and pick out what you would like.
Lunch hours at Discovery Cove are between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
We had plenty of options for lunch. But unfortunately, I had left my phone in the locker, so I didn’t get any photos of our meal.
However, here is a list of the options we had:
- Laguna Beach Burger
- Caribbean Spiced Salmon
- Grilled Churrasco Steak
- Grilled Jerk Chicken
- BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
- Pasta with Marinara
In addition, there were many other items you could add on or combine to make a meal:
- Seaside Wraps (ham, turkey, or vegetable)
- Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
- Laguna House Salad
- Seafood Pasta Salad
- Quinoa Salad
- Berry Cole Slaw
- Pickle Spears
- Hot Dogs
- Chicken Tenders
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Pasta with Marinara
- Pina Colada Cupcakes
- Chocolate Decadent Cake
- Carrot Cake
- Various Fruits
You can preview all the items included here on Discovery Cove’s website.
I ordered the salmon and had a Caesar salad made without chicken. For dessert, I enjoyed a slice of decadent chocolate cake.
Most of our group ordered the steak or salmon, and we were all impressed with the meal. Of course, you probably know you can be hungry, and then there’s theme park hungry.
Most of us feel famished when we sit down for a meal in the theme parks. So it’s only natural that our meals tend to vanish rapidly.
However, the nice thing about Discovery Cove is that you can go back for seconds or even thirds if you desire. Likewise, if you ordered something that wasn’t agreeable, you could go back and try something else.
Ultimately, I felt that this setup probably works in everyone’s favor. I didn’t notice anyone over-indulging because they had a “we paid for it” attitude.
It felt more like options were available nearby if you wanted or needed anything. From breakfast to lunch and the snacks stand in between, at any point, you could take a break and find something if you were hungry.
Touring the Explorer’s Aviary at Discovery Cove
After lunch, we decided to go back and visit the Explorer’s Aviary. You may remember that we had floated through the aviary earlier that morning.
However, we weren’t ready to leave the winding river to tour the area at that point. So this was now our priority and one of the few things we had yet to experience.
We decided to take the river back around to the aviary. There are places where you can enter or exit the aviary from the water. However, you can also walk to the Explorer’s Aviary if you prefer not to take the river.
When we got to the aviary, we went back under the waterfall and exited at the next set of stairs. It was a good deal more extensive than what I expected.
At each entrance, there were places to pick up a cup of food to feed the birds.
At first, I was a bit skeptical. Some of these birds looked rather large.
This guy pretended we weren’t there.
Finally, our dear Nanna was able to land a few birds.
And before we knew it, we had them eating out of the palms of our hands.
Well, we had them eating out of the cups in our hands.
Except for this bird, he didn’t seem interested in what we were selling.
That’s because he was a carnivore. One of the staff members gave him a mouse while we were observing him.
A bridge crosses the river inside the aviary.
What a beautiful place indeed.
After we finished feeding the birds, we hopped back into the river and headed on around the bend.
Unlike The Grand Reef, the water in the Wind Away River is warm and pleasant. While the river is similar to a lazy river, Discovery Cove feels as close to the real deal as you can possibly get.
As we headed back, we decided to check out Serenity Bay. Serenity Bay is a large body of water with a beach-like area.
The water at Serenity Bay is heated to 85 degrees. It also serves as the main entrance and exit point for the Wind Away River.
After we rested at Serenity Bay, the girls wanted to explore The Grand Reef again. With only a few hours left in the day, we separated to do some of the things we enjoyed most.
Another part of our group had purchased an upgrade to swim with the dolphins. So they were off on that experience.
Since the Dolphin Lagoon sits between Serenity Bay and The Grand Reef, we stopped to check it out. Our extended family had a wonderful experience there.
When you purchase your tickets to Discovery Cove Orlando, you can add any available upgrades.
Some of the other add-on experiences included:
- Flamingo Mingle
- Swim with the Sharks
- Trainer for a Day
Every upgrade is listed here on Discovery Cove’s site.
When we returned to The Grand Reef, we ran into the rest of our group. During their dolphin swim, they received a little insider information that the Sting Ray feeding was about to begin. We were encouraged to go over to the far side of the reef and check it out from a distance.
When it’s time to eat, all of the rays come to the party. Within moments they were everywhere.
While we had been swimming with them off and on throughout the day, this was a unique way to see them grouped together.
The trainer appeared to be hand-feeding them as the rays eagerly awaited their turn.
Every so often, the trainer would warn guests not to get too close.
After we observed the feeding, we decided to swim around the entire reef. By the time we were finished, we had a little over an hour left in the day. I suggested we go back and make another trek around the river, and that’s how we finished things.
At the end of the day, my niece told me she had had the best day ever. And I had, too.
Going into this experience, I had reservations about the price. After arriving, I had reservations about swimming with live animals.
But after leaving, I have often marveled over the time we enjoyed here together as a family. It was worth every penny. Now, I can’t promise I would be as open to jumping in the ocean on a dive after our day at Discovery Cove.
But you never can tell.
If you would like to purchase tickets to Discovery Cove, our affiliate links are provided below. These links only refer you to Discovery’s Cove site and come at no extra cost to you.
*Our tickets to Discovery Cove were purchased at our own expense. This review is based on our personal experience.
In the Comments
What did you think of part two of our day at Discovery Cove Orlando? Do you have any other questions about visiting the park?