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Monday 26 January 2015

Seaworld: Autism-Friendly REVIEW + PHOTOS

This post originally appeared on 'Our Autism Adventures' blog page, sister blog to Josie's Juice.

Visting Seaworld in Queensland, Australia as part of our first big family holiday adventure was an event we highly anticipated. However, as a mother of a special needs child (my son Rafael has mild autism), my husband and I were a little worried about how he'd perceive particular attractions at the theme park.

As we were staying at the adjoining Seaworld Nara Resort (an incredibly beautiful, medium-priced hotel), the Seaworld theme park was our first stop, the second we arrived, changing into our cossies and leaving our bags with the wonderfully friendly hotel concierge.

We headed in, armed with the park map and hopping onto the adjacent monorail (the first of its kind opened in Australia by QLD pollie Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen), and there we were in a aqua park heaven.

Heavily themed with all the kiddie fave Nickelodeon characters including Spongebob Square Pants, Dora The Explorer, and many more, it's an instant fave with the kids. And my TV aficionado twins were no exception.

As all good theme park experts will tell you: check the times of all the shows and happening of the day so you maximise your day there. You will become an expert in an instant, and park staff can help you find where everything is, plus all the clearly marked signs around the park.

A little tip: have the kids (and you!) dressed in either swimming costumes with little cover ups, or quick-dry fabric clothes; you'll need to dry up quickly when you go on the famed Castaway Bay and Viking Revenge rides.

Halfway through the day (and I know readers of this blog will relate), it was proving difficult to wrangle my son's demands to be a part of the action. (My son has a mild autism diagnosis, and his perception of what's possible and what he can participate in is sometimes skewed) So, for example, we'd see the amazing daredevil ski-jump show, and he'd want to be a part of it, not understanding that the danger level to participate is very high (and it's not even possible for the audience, bar some audience interaction with the performers on the edge of the water/arena).

The same went for seeing dolphin show - it got tricky with explaining he could not be a part of that show.

I did uncover however, thanks to the super lovely, helpful staff, a daily special needs program run by Seaworld. Here is some information on the program:

 -  the cost is $114.99, and the program duration is 45 minutes in total, with 20 of those minutes in the water. Each participant must have a carer with them (mum or dad or a guardian) who can participate free of charge (as they are there purely to assist).

A photo is included in the price, and the DVD of your experience is an optional extra, at $24.99. (This information is correct as of 14 January 2015, and is subject to change).

Before booking, it's highly recommended guests contact the Seaworld Guest Services team on 07 5588 2423, and they will be able to better assist with further information on the program.

Here are some photos from Seaworld, as well as my own happy snaps (taken on my new iPhone 6 - I am so pleased with the shots).

Oh, and for more on Seaworld including ticketing and accommodation and showtimes, scroll down for link.

Would I recommend Seaworld to families? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. So, so much to do. Get there early, grab a map, and plan your day. If you are staying next door at Seaworld Nara Resort (and I recommend you do), it's a super short stroll to the monorail. The theme park is attached to the hotel. And the hotel itself? Fantastic. Kids will love the nighttime fun in the hotel waterpark, and just quietly, the spa is heaven after-hours.

Keen on seeing the other famed theme parks there (Movieworld, Seaworld, Wet 'n' Wild)? Go the multi pass! Click here to buy.

For questions on marine life at Seaworld and how they're looking after them, click here.

The seal show below! So much fun:

The Dora show! Must-see. And, look out for the meet and greet also available post-show:

Ohhh, Seaworld Nara Resort breakfasts. To-die. Yum:

Hello, breakkie pastries!

The Penguin Encounter! You will love watching how these cute critters interact. Go at feeding time!

The famous Affinity dolphin show:

The truly hilarious 'Fish Detectives':

Dora meet and greet!

My kids at the Dora and Diego meet and greet! They were stoked:

The view from our room:

The truly fun waterpark. Open all day. Closes at night. Then open again for a mini waterpark disco:

The characters pop into the Seaworld Nara Resort hotel lobby for a snap:

More meet and greet!

Helicopter rides. Ask at the hotel desk:

Ninja Turtle fun:

A note on getting the airport: we used Town Cars (see www.towncars.com) - call the 24 hour call centre (Sydney metro area) on 02 8874 5000. Go to this link for more info and to book. It's an affordable, fuss-free way to get to the airport. The best part? You don't need to leave your car in an airport carpark for days, and the bonus is that for kids with special needs, it's a low-stress experience.

For more info on Seaworld, click right here.

Our Autism Adventures was a guest of Gold Coast Tourism. For all your GC needs and questions, click here.

You guys, there is a reason the sunny Gold Coast is famous for families - it is kinda unbeatable, and there are a gazillion things to do. To that end, next up: more QLD theme park reviews, on TwinnieWorld and Josie's Juice. There's so much to do, so much we got up to! Stay tuned for more.

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