This article is about photography and related information at Discovery Cove.
You should see the other guidebook pages and forum for other details.
I have avoided any discussion on prices of cameras, both digital and film, due to the fast pace at which prices move. Start a new thread in the Photography Forum at the time you are thinking of making a purchase, and the community will advise on current models and prices.
When you get to Discovery Cove, for the best photo options ask for two things:
1) For your interaction to be in “Starfish Cabana”.
The Starfish Cabana is the first area in the Dolphin Lagoon, and so being there early in the morning, or even phoning ahead to book your interaction, is good advice.
2) To use South Lockers as your base
These are usually the last lockers to be used, but I have asked and been allowed to use them. As you will see further into the article, they are very close to the prime photoi locations and present the least risk of sand and water to your equipment!
So as not to harm the animals, (people tend to drop or discard unwanted maps) they don’t give out paper maps at Discovery Cove, so they provide these stone maps around the park for you to see. The park is very well laid out, and getting lost is never an issue.
SECTION ONE – THE DOLPHINS
Some quick tips and Discovery Cove rules
Dolphins will grab hold of shiny things, and so you are not allowed to take shiny things into the Dolphin Lagoons. That means cameras, jewels, certain glasses and of course jewels.
If you are going to buy the DVD or Video, be conscious of where you stand in relation to the camera man. Half of the average group get lots of footage of the back of their heads!
What happens during my interaction?
You will learn various signals that the dophins and humans have learnt, get to stroke and pet the dolphin, get a kiss and even be taken for a tow over the lagoon.
If you fear being out of your depth, you can of course choose not to do that.
Can I take my own pictures
You can’t take a camera into the Dolphin lagoon, but you can stand on the beach, or better sit on the side as shown below if your party is in Starfish Cabana.
Click below for an interactive map:
Microsoft Bing Map
I sit here to take pictures of my party, and also of many great things that happen around the lagoon.
You can cut through a gap in the bushes next to the south lockers. (Location two)
From here you can get good pictures of your group with almost any camera. It is a great location.
A good zoom, much preferably an optical one to a digital one, is useful for taking pictures beyond the Starfish Cabana area.
A 300mm+ DSLR zoom will get you the whole area, including some nice close ups of “Behind the Scenes” things that happen at the back of the lagoon. I have seen dolphin training, feeding and some clever attempts by the local birds to steal fish!
AndyJ: Canon 1ds Mk2, 300mm DO IS Lens
The south lockers are the best location if you plan to take photographs in the park. It is right next to the two best lagoon locations, and not far from the bird aviary.
A wheelchair friendly path down through the bushes leads to a glass underwater viewing area. Trainers will often, between guest interaction times, bring a dolphin over here for people to take pictures of and ask questions about.
Below is a picture taken from Location One of Location Three.
AndyJ: Canon 10d, 300mm DO IS Lens, Auto Mode
What is the quality of the pictures the “pros” take?
In the main they are very, very good. I’ll be honest here; if you have a consumer point-and-shoot camera, and are a novice at selecting settings, then professionally taken pictures may be a good option for you if getting a printer-ready magical memory is important.
They will take family group pictures, a one-on-one picture of you with a dolphin and a picture of you being pulled across the lagoon.
If you are a repeat visitor and already had a “Dolphin kiss” picture, you can ask for something different on a second visit. I was asked to hold my hand out and the dolphin, Hutch, repeatedly hit it with his nose. It’s very amusing when seen on the DVD.
As well as your 30 minute Dolphin interaction, you are given a documentary about Discovery Cove, Dolphins and other wildlife at the park. Be aware of your position relative to the cameraman if you are planning to get one.
You get a selection of “Stock” photographs of the park as well as your selected pictures. They are stored in very high quality large files, so you can print them comfortably at A3 size at your local printer, or online.
One free print is given to you of a shot taken as you enter the park. They normally take a couple of pictures, and so if there are problems with it ask to see the others. As a bonus, you will often get 2 or 3 free prints as they let you keep the ones you are not happy with!
You can also get prints of the Dolphin interaction, and other places you may be photographed around the park.
Dibber Highlander447 wrote:
One tip is if you book the basic birthday package you get a free photo of your group, not just yourself.
They also do T-Shirts, key-rings and other bits and pieces you can have your photo's put onto.
Don't forget to allow them time to do this if you don't wish to visit another day to collect!
Section Two – Underwater Photography
What are my camera options?
You can get film based underwater cameras and film at the park, but of course you pay a premium for it relative to visiting a local store such as Walmart.
If you buy one of these cameras from Discovery Cove they write your name and date on it, so if you drop it in the bottom of the reef they can get it back to you. If you buy yourself one outside of the park, it is a good idea to do the same!
Dibber Loadsapixiedust wrote:
We managed to get really good shots with a Fuji disposable and they are cheap enough for everyone in your party to have one. The kids especially will enjoy snapping away under the water and you can get some surprisingly good fun shots this way.
There are a few digital waterproof cameras now available (Sept 2006) such as the Pentax WP / W10. I own one of these and find it very good and very good value.
You can buy underwater cases for many normal cameras as well, but they can often be as expensive as the camera itself! Weigh up the price against a dedicated underwater cameras such as the Pentax ones – which has a dedicated underwater setting to adjust the exposure as well.
This is a great location to get some close up pictures of rays and your party. You are allowed to touch the rays in this pool, where in the reef you are not, so be quick on the mark for some great interaction shots.
There is an area in the pool on the opposite side to the ramp in, where some rocks jet out into the pool.
Here you can sit and the rays come up to within a foot (30cm) of the surface and provide a great location for taking pictures or just stroking the rays as they gracefully glide by.
As this is freshwater, not salt, it is a good rest for the eyes!
The river starts off in a small lagoon, which is idea for getting to grips with your provided snorkel, and then heads into a small cave area.
In here there are some dark coves for you to explorer, and get a feel for how cave snorkelling feels. Vents in the floor of the caves blow bubbles up for some great shots.
Moving on along the river, you come to the Discovery Cove Aviary. This will be discussed in the next section. To stop the birds escaping from the area, two waterfalls at each exit exist for you to swim through.
The final section of the river is a journey of discovery. There are statues, pots, canons and other artefacts lying on the floor of the river for you photograph.
AndyJ - Pentax WP1
The sun makes a huge difference in the quality or originality of the shots you take in this area. If the river is brightly lit you will get a much more vibrant picture from any camera you use.
Some half out, half in shots can also be interesting. Many areas of the river have interesting flowers and shrubs on the side.
The coral reef area of the park is a man-made reef where you can swim with a remarkable amount of wildlife.
2-3 metre long rays swim below you as you snorkel around the lagoon. There are some corners of the lake where they have to come close to the surface to get round, and these are great places on a summers day to get a good shot of them.
AndyJ - Pentax WP
Even the fish are fairly timid! Again, there are many areas where the fish come close to the surface or are available to shoot on light sandy backgrounds in brightly lit areas.
AndyJ - Pentax WP
As with the other underwater areas, a good amount of sun beating down into the water helps get better quality pictures.
Your underwater camera may have a specific setting for being actually under the water, check on that in the manual whilst on dry land!
Section Three – The Aviary
The Discovery Cove aviary is a netted area containing many different species of birds.
The fresh water lazy river flows through the aviary, and two waterfalls at each entrance/exit presvent the birds from escaping.
You can also enter the area from dry land using a double set of doors located near the south lockers.
Discovery Cove staff memebers are available to talk about the birds with you, and will hand out little pots of food for you to hold.
It is not unusual at all for multiple birds to land on your arms to indulge in the snacks you hold.
Many photo chances present themselves. Also, staff photographers will take pictures for you to collect later.
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