Epcot Dolphins in Depth Behind the Scenes Tour Explained
I’ve done a lot of things at Disney World. I have been under the streets of the Magic Kingdom at the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. Walked above the Kilimanjaro Safaris on a Wild Africa Trek. I’ve had a sneak peek at brand new lands and rides before the rest of the public. But recently, I did something brand new. And it was something that I didn’t even know was possible at Disney World. I got to interact with dolphins! At the Epcot Dolphins in Depth tour at the Living Seas, you get up close and personal with dolphins.
Dolphins at Epcot
When you ride Nemo and Friends at the Living Seas, and then visit the aquarium after the ride, you may see the dolphins. But you may not. They can be elusive because the tank is so huge! Did you know that the Living Seas aquarium is the second largest aquarium in the U.S.? The only one that’s bigger is the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. In fact, you could fit the entire diameter of Spaceship Earth inside of the Living Seas Epcot aquarium, and still have room for a Disney bus to drive around the perimeter! I found this completely unbelievable. During the Epcot Dolphins in Depth tour, you will be at the top of the aquarium and have the chance to see the entire tank from above. And it truly is just massive!
So what does the Dolphins in Depth tour include?
Dolphins in Depth is an exclusive and intimate experience. Like all behind the scenes tours at Disney World, the level of guest interaction is unmatched. This tour provides guests with a behind-the-scenes look at the dolphins and the work being done to care for them. Participants get to tour the facilities and observe the dolphins during training sessions, learning about their behavior and intelligence. They also get to meet the dolphins up close and interact with them, which is a very unique and memorable experience.
This tour is limited to 8 participants at the maximum. There is no age requirements, but there is a height requirement of 44 inches. This is due to the depth of the water during the experience. The small group size allow for very intimate interactions with the dolphins and with the trainers.
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What’s included in the tour?
This tour is 2 hours long and does NOT require a park ticket, which is very unusual for Disney tours. So what does the Epcot Dolphins in Depth tour include?
- Use of wetsuit and booties
- Use of shower facilities complete with towels, shampoo, hair dryers, and more
- Fish friendly hair ties (these are required to be used to tie up hair that is past shoulder length)
- One photo per person with the dolphin
There are no personal photos allowed on the tour. In fact, you have to leave your phone in your provided locker for the duration of the tour. Since this is a research facility, I understood why there were so few pictures allowed. But I was surprised that only one photo was provided. This was in stark contrast to the Wild Africa Trek experience, where nearly a hundred photos are provided after the tour.
What will you learn on the Epcot Dolphins in Depth Tour?
The Dolphins in Depth experience is led by trained specialists who are knowledgeable about dolphins and passionate about their conservation and protection. They provide guests with detailed information about the dolphins and their habitats, as well as the challenges facing these animals in the wild, such as pollution and habitat loss. The specialists also answer any questions guests may have and help them to get the most out of the experience.
During our experience, we had two wonderful tour guides. And then during the dolphin part of our tour, we also had two research team leaders showing us research in progress! This was one of the most fascinating parts of the tour. We were given headphones to be able to listen in to what the dolphins heard underwater. And then the dolphins were able to choose the correct shape based on the sound that they heard. Various stimuli were added and removed in order to test different scenarios. But this was incredibly interesting and informative. It was one of the most authentic and in depth animal interactions I’ve ever seen.
It was also these research leaders that led our time in the water with the dolphins. Our tour guides were always present if we needed something. But the research team leaders took over once we were in the water with the dolphins. They have such a deep relationship with these animals over years of working together that they are the most trusted individuals to be able to work with them. We were able to ask questions and interact with these cast members in a very personal way. All of our questions were answered and then some!
Epcot Dolphins Depth Tour Elements
During our time at the Epcot Dolphins in Depth tour, we were also able to experience two additional elements of the tour that are not always included. The reason they are somewhat variable is because this is a working facility. It’s hard to tell exactly what will be going on at any moment during the day. But during our tour, we were able to visit the kitchen, as well as the manatee rehab pool.
At the kitchen, we learned about the massive amounts of food prep that go into feeding the Living Seas animals. Did you know that manatees eat 70 heads of lettuce per day? Each animal under Disney’s care is carefully studied, with diet changes made as needed. They are fed the highest quality ingredients. It was fascinating to see this food being prepped by Cast Members and stored for use throughout the day.
We also had the chance to visit the manatees. Did you know that all of the manatees at Epcot are there because they were injured or harmed in the wild in some way? And Disney World is providing their care and rehabilitation in hopes that they can be returned to the wild. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission makes the decisions on which animals can be safely returned to the wild, and work closely with Epcot and Walt Disney World to make those decisions. We loved seeing these beautiful creatures swimming and eating from backstage.
Is it worth it?
This tour is not cheap. It’s $199 per person. But there are occasional annual passholder discounts available occasionally. We made use of this discount when we went on our special one on one date. Since our kid dates are a special gift to our kiddos, we are fine with spending more money than we would on a regular Disney day. So for my special one on one date, we were ok with this price tag. But for two hours, $200 is a steep rice.
However, this is one of the most unique experiences that I’ve ever had at Disney. It was also truly one of the most educational experiences I’ve ever had. Having a personal, close-up interaction with an animal is always an experience that has a steep price tag. So I felt this was a reasonable price for 30 minutes of such a personal experience. But that’s an individual decision! If you want to book this tour, be sure to reach out to your Disney travel agent for a free quote, or visit Walt Disney World’s website.
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