The Seas Aqua Tour located at Epcot may be the best experience in all of Disney World. That’s pretty high praise considering all of the different activities and events one can experience while on Disney World property.
First, a disclaimer. The Seas Aqua Tour is an additional paid experience. It’s on the pricier side, with the current cost checking in at about $150 per person as of 2018. Before you balk at paying that while you’re probably already paying a ton for a resort room, food and tickets, the Seas Aqua Tour falls into that “must-do” territory. We had a bit of a tough time stomaching that price, but later considered it an amazing value.
The Seas Aqua Tour is a little over a two-hour experience that we were lucky enough to experience on our trip this January. We weren’t sure what to expect. We read a bunch of online reviews, but we still were a bit nervous as the program promised scuba-snorkeling (had no idea what that actually was) and the treat of swimming with fish, turtles, rays and sharks.
Our tour was scheduled to meet at 12:15pm at Guest Relations just outside Epcot’s main entrance. Upon our arrival, we saw that there were others waiting too, including one group that had already done an Seas Aqua Tour a year or two ago. Surely this must be good if they’re back for more, right?
Backstage and Pre-swim
A guide came out to collect some basic info (name, show size for booties for your fins, etc) and it quickly became apparent that Disney restricted these experience to just about 10 people. We soon moved backstage (no photography allowed, of course) and learned about the water filtration and the overall food preparation for all of the animals living in the Living Seas at Epcot.
From there, we signed a waiver (it is an experience involving live animals, water and a breathing apparatus) and went to get changed into our suits and wet suits (shorties). When everyone was ready we paraded (yes, paraded) through a backstage door through the onstage viewing areas following the Nemo ride. It was … an experience. All of the kids think you’re some sort of hero, ready to dive into the deep. Not a bad feeling, but not a great feeling if the idea of parading around in a wet suit isn’t your idea of fun.
We then got the rest of our gear (breathing tanks, flotation device and fins) and were given some brief instruction on what to do (look at everything!) and what not to do (don’t touch anything!). You’re briefed that you’re essentially equipped with all of the gear necessary to dive, but you’ll be wearing a personal flotation device to keep you on the surface. All you have to do is pick your head up out of the water if you have a problem. It’s that easy.
Time to Swim
The aquarium is enormous. The viewing windows don’t do it much justice as the water messes a bit with your depth perception. Seeing it from above, and from in the water itself, it’s truly huge. The animals have a ton of space to move around as they please – something they do even with a bunch of strangers in the water.
The stars of the show, meaning the turtles, rays and sharks, all provided memorable experiences. The sharks all lurked near the bottom and rarely came up more than halfway up the tank, let alone anywhere near the surface. However, a couple younger looking sharks would cruise by below and keep a visible eye on your location. A creepy, intense feeling.
And then there’s the turtles. The turtles are protected by law, so it was stressed – and stressed again – to not touch them. However, they are apparently a bit like bumper cars and that means they occasionally get real close. Oh, and they didn’t sign a waiver so they’re free to touch you if they wish. You don’t realize how big these turtles can get until one is a couple feet away. They’re enormous!
The rays, and there were some massive rays, floated around as rays do. Some of the smaller ones came close, but the ones that looked like they could be the size of a very small car mostly kept their distance.
Keep in mind that the public is watching while you’re enjoying your swim. Wave and smile as you’ll end up in plenty of their pictures!
After the Swim
Following the swim, towels and private showers are provided (with shampoo and body wash) and you receive a great photo of you and your party to take home. Hot water and cocoa were offered in case you were still feeling chilly.
The Seas Aqua Tour allows for about 30 to 40 minutes of time in the water, give or take a few minutes. If you run out of air early (it happens if you’re nervous), they’ll give you another tank and send you back on your way.
It’s a very surreal feeling to be apart of an exhibit with live animals, especially one as famous as the aquarium at Epcot. From the friendly, personable staff to the uniqueness of the whole experience, this was an incredible time that we can’t wait to do again.
We will warn that it is a chilly experience. It’s really tempting to float around and take everything in, but you soon realize that 77 degree water is actually pretty chilly even with a wet suit if you’re sitting still.
Disney World offers lots of tours and experiences, and though we haven’t experienced very many of them, we’ll cast our vote that this is one of the best that you can find either at Disney World or anywhere else.