This post continues my report on the SeaWorld Adventure Camps’ Fathers Day Sleepover that my 8 year old son and I attended at the San Diego park back in June. If you missed previous installments, check them out here, here, and here.
I don’t consider myself the over competitive type, at least not usually. But when it comes to something big (like getting the best sleeping spot in Wild Arctic), look out.
It seemed like there was plenty of room in the exhibit’s lower level to ensure a satisfactory spot for all parties, but Boo and I weren’t about to take chances. We had scoped out the area during polar bear class earlier and had set our minds on a fine patch of concrete next to the beluga whale tank.
I saw other families eying that spot too, and I wondered what their plans were. Is it going to get hairy? Would anybody try to crowd us out? Was there some secret to securing the holy grail of all Wild Arctic spots?
“I’ll tell you what,” one staff member offered. “When it’s time to brush teeth and change in to pajamas, whoever gets done first picks their spot first.”
We’d have to brush teeth and change quickly, then.
Or, as Boo and I thought simultaneously, we could skip that step altogether.
“I won’t say anything to Mom if you won’t,” the spirited 8 year old assured me. In high stakes games, you do what you gotta do.
I should pause here to describe the anatomy of Wild Arctic. Wild Arctic is a flight simulator/walkthru combo attraction that showcases Arctic wildlife. Typically, visitors enter the attraction via the simulator ride—a “Star Tours” style helicopter flight to a research station deep in the Arctic.
After disembarking, visitors find themselves inside Base Station Wild Arctic, a double-level structure built around the remains of an old shipwreck. The station is heavily themed with randomly placed crates (a must for all adventure-centric theme park attractions), electronic research equipment, and other 80’s-era stuff that one might see lying around a real Arctic base.
Here’s a short promo video from SeaWorld:
Central to the experience are the multilevel polar bear and beluga whale exhibits, which provide both above and underwater viewing of the pools. Naturally, our group would set up camp in the underwater viewing area. I don’t care what age you are—this was beyond cool.
By the time our freshly brushed and jammied friends returned to Wild Arctic, Boo and I had staked our claim and were sitting comfortably on our fleece throws, watching beluga whales dance 2 feet from our pillows.
Soon, the entire underwater viewing space hummed with the sound of battery-powered mattress pumps. Beach blankets were spread and heavy sleeping bags unrolled on top. We quietly mocked the mattress campers as we studied Allua and Ferdinand, the two belugas on the quiet side of the acrylic.
When the clamor died down, James gave a parting briefing and answered a few questions. There was no bathroom in the exhibit. And no, there was no A/C they could turn off, nor heating system to make things warmer. It’s called Wild Arctic for a reason. The constant cold, James explained, comes from the frigid water outside. I glanced at our Wal-Mart fleece throws, which would double as mattresses and sleeping bags. Suddenly the mattress campers didn’t seem so dumb.
James and crew bid us good night and the row of dim ceiling lights was extinguished. It was about 1:00 am. A good 30 seconds passed before we heard the first snorer. He (I’m assuming it was a he) was loud and steady, and as the minutes passed he led a burgeoning chorus of a half-dozen more nocturnal lumberjacks.
Boo was determined to stay up all night to talk and watch the whales, but his voice faded as he chatted. I don’t blame him—it had been a long day packed with enough excitement to drain any kid. Allua and Ferdinand were mostly still, their white forms reflecting the moonlight above. They appeared as streaks of blue in the darkened pool, and their whale song was audible through the paneling. I’m not sure what made me happier: the situation itself or Boo’s delightful immersion in it.
Boo’s all-nighter lasted until about 1:45. I pulled his hood over his head and straightened his covers, then tried to find a comfortable position on my concrete bed. At some point I joined the snoring chorus myself, though it wouldn’t be for long.
Coming up: Sting rays, Moray eels, and a moonlight excursion. In the mean time, here’s a short clip from the next day showing where we slept: