Sunshine Saturday – 10th January predicted to be busiest day of year for holiday bookings

10th January is predicted to be the busiest day of the year for holiday bookings according to leading holiday providers Thomson and First Choice.  Based on booking patterns over the last five years and with great deals available including 20,000 free kids places, the holiday giants are expecting over one million people to go online or visit their high street stores on what is being termed Sunshine Saturday.

  • Over one million people expected to visit a Thomson or First Choice shop or website this Saturday
  • 37,000 customers expected to book in 24 hours
  • Mobile and tablet bookings expected to hit all time high with 40% of bookings made on devices

As the post-Christmas blues kick in and Brits look to escape the weather for warmer climes, Thomson and First Choice are expecting to see 37,000 customers book to go on holiday in 2015.  Bookings are predicted to peak in-store at 2.30pm and online at 8.30pm.

Furthermore, Thomson and First Choice are expecting more people than ever before to search for and book their holiday on a tablet or smartphone.  Over 40% of the online bookings made this Saturday are expected to be made via these devices, up 10% versus last year.

With the introduction of the new MyThomson and MyFirstChoice apps with search and book function, Thomson and First Choice are predicting a new mobile booking record for 2015, beating last year’s single purchase of nearly £14,000 for a family holiday to Orlando via a mobile device.

The most popular short/mid haul destinations for the coming year are anticipated to be the Balearics, Canaries and Greece, whilst for those looking for some faraway sun Costa Rica, Mauritius and Mexico are set to top the list.

Thomson Cruises’ Cuban Fusion and Pride of Panama winter itineraries on-board the Thomson Dream are expected to be Sunshine Saturday bestsellers as Brits look to explore countries like Cuba and Central America from the ship’s new home port in Montego Bay, Jamaica. With Thomson Celebration also based in Caribbean for winter, replacing the Dream in its previous port in Barbados, Thomson Cruises also expects to see strong demand for the already popular itineraries sailing to Caribbean favourites such as Antigua, St Kitts and St Maarten. Sailings from Dubrovnik on-board the Thomson Celebration in the summer are also expected to be a hit with adult only itineraries available.

Taking all these holidaymakers away over the coming year, Thomson Airways will carry over 78,000 tonnes of luggage, flying over two million miles to 73 holiday destinations.

Andrew Flintham, Commercial Director, for Thomson and First Choice said: ‘With Christmas now out of the way many people feel they need a holiday in the sunshine to look forward to. Over the last few years we’ve noticed that our customers are booking holidays earlier and with searches over Christmas hitting an all-time high, we’re expecting the rush to continue with our busiest day of year this Saturday. It’s also the perfect time for Brits to take advantage of some of the great new year deals available to places like Croatia and Greece or further afield to Costa Rica, Thailand and Jamaica.”

© Thomson


Tropical winter treats from Thomson and First Choice

  • More variety in Mexico with new twin centre and Pacific Coast holidays
  • New additions to the Thomson Couples collection
  • Thomson 787 Dreamliner flights to all destinations* including, new for winter, Mauritius

Thomson and First Choice’s new winter programme for 2014 goes on sale on 14th November, including Mauritius and the Pacific Coast of Mexico in the winter schedule for the first time. Highlights include increased Thomson 787 Dreamliner flying, twin centre holidays and brand new hotels.


New and exclusive for winter 2014/15, Thomson and First Choice are giving customers the chance to explore Mexico further and experience two different worlds within the country, with the introduction of the Pacific Coast and Holbox – a island sanctuary in the Caribbean Sea untouched by tourism.

The new exclusive route into Puerto Vallarta, which begins operating for summer 2014 directly from London Gatwick and Manchester, will continue as a new destination for the winter season offering an all-round fantastic holiday experience. This amazing tropical destination mixes old world charm with a party spirit offering golden sands, lush tropical jungles and the stunning Sierra Madre mountain ranges. Introduced for the winter season, holidaymakers will be able enjoy whale watching excursions for once-in-a-lifetime sights and memories. Customers travelling with Thomson and First Choice can choose from an extensive range of properties including hotels from the Thomson Couples, A la Carte and Platinum ranges as well as First Choice Premier.

Thomson offers 14-night holidays to the Thomson Platinum 4T+ Riu Vallarta on an all-inclusive basis from £1,149 per person. Price includes return flights departing from Manchester airport on 29 November 2014 and transfers.

The hideaway island of Holbox will be available through a ‘twin centre’ offering where holidaymakers can stay for seven nights on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast at one of a range of hotels, followed by a transfer to Chiquila Port where a ferry takes them to the island paradise of Holbox for a further week with a choice of four authentic and peaceful hotels.

Thomson offers 14-night twin centre holidays to Mexico combining a seven night stay in the Grand Riviera Princess, with a seven-night stay in the Casa Lupita, Holbox from £1,399 per person. Price includes flights departing from London Gatwick airport on 16 November 2014 and transfers.


The Thomson Couples collection will expand for winter 2014/15 with two new additions.

The Platinum Yucatan Princess All Suites and Spa Thomson Couples resort is situated on the Caribbean coast in Playacar, Mexico. The adults-only hotel will offer 11 swimming pools, seven restaurants and 24-hour all inclusive.

Thomson offers 14 night Couples holidays to Mexico staying at the 5T Platinum Yucatan Princess All Suites and Spa on an all-inclusive basis, from £1,475 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing and includes Thomson 787 Dreamliner flights departing from London Gatwick airport on 26 November 2014 and transfers.

Further adding to the Thomson Couples collection in Jamaica is the Grand Lido Negril Resort and Spa – an adults-only property with luxury touches. This 5T stylish and contemporary resort is spread across 1,000 feet of the Caribbean’s most famous beach and is home to six bars, six restaurants including Japanese, Italian, French and Jamaican cuisine, an amazing spa and 24-hour all inclusive offering.

Thomson offers 14-night Couples holidays to Jamaica staying at the 5T Grand Lido Negril Resort and Spa on an all-inclusive basis, from £1,749 per person. Price is based on two adults sharing and includes flights departing from Manchester airport on 30 November 2014 and transfers.

Showcased in the winter sun portfolio for the first time is Sensatori Jamaica, a stunning resort that offers swim-up rooms, fine dining, a world class spa and exciting reggae lounge offering a vast array of local rums. Already a popular choice for summer, this idyllic resort is set on the world-famous Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica – one of the top 10 beaches in the world. New for winter 2014, Sensatori Jamaica offers an adults-only section for couples looking to enjoy a child-free holiday.


A new destination for summer 2014, the beautiful island of Mauritius is now available to Thomson and First Choice customers for winter holidays. Thomson will fly directly to Mauritius, an island famous for laid back luxury, from London Gatwick on the 787 Dreamliner. Customers will be able to experience stretches of idyllic long sandy beaches, explore the jungle terrain and relax in the resorts of Belle Mare and Trou d’eau Douce on the East Coast and Grand Gaube near the cosmopolitan area of Grand Baie in the North of Mauritius. Hotels from the Thomson Couples and Platinum and First Choice Premier collections offer sleek and contemporary interiors with a desert island backdrop – the perfect exotic getaway.

Thomson offers 14-night holidays to the Thomson Couples 4T Ambre Resort & Spa, Mauritius on an all-inclusive basis from £2,025 per person, based on two adults sharing. Price includes Thomson 787 Dreamliner return flights departing from London Gatwick airport on 30 November 2014 and transfers.

For holiday makers looking to balance a week of relaxing on a tropical beach with a week of a little more action, twin centre holidays will be available in Jamaica for the first time. This means customers can experience Ocho Rio’s extensive range of activities, shops and sights together with the world renowned beaches of Negril with its laid back atmosphere, pristine white sands and crystal clear waters, all on one trip.


All winter 2014/15 long haul destinations will be served by flights on the Thomson 787 Dreamliner*. This summer over 240,000 customers travelled on more than 860 Dreamliner passenger flights. The quieter flight, enhanced in-flight experience and spacious legroom (38” in Premium Club and 33 or 34” in Economy Club) have proven popular with customers. A massive 99% of respondents would recommend the airline after travelling on the Thomson 787 Dreamliner, and 97% of those completing the survey rated their experience on board the aircraft as excellent or good.


Thomson guests staying in Orlando can also benefit from a host of perks including extra theme park hours at Universal and Disney parks, Kids Eat Free cards and our very own hassle free All in One holidays.

Mark Hall, Director of Product for Thomson and First Choice, says:

“We’re thrilled to announce the addition of new and exciting hotels, destinations and twin centre holidays to our programme. Mexico is a popular holiday choice for our customers and we are delighted to be able to show them the different sides of the country – from the Pacific Coast to the peaceful island of Holbox, we are confident holidaymakers will have an unforgettable holiday experience.

“We continue to grow our portfolio of exclusive hotels offering customers unique holiday experiences they can’t find anywhere else and travelling in style and comfort on the Thomson 787 Dreamliner to our full range of long haul destinations.”

© Thomson

London Gatwick takes on busy half term getaways

Around 628,000 passengers look set to depart from Gatwick Airport over the next week as half term holidays are underway. Many are making the most of the school break with long-haul destination Orlando jumping into the half-term top ten this year, alongside city favourites Dublin and Amsterdam and hotspots such as Barcelona and Nice.

• Around 1,230,000 passengers to travel through Gatwick during half term week with around 628,000 set to depart
• Orlando jumps into top ten half term destinations while European breaks continue to prove popular
• Around 270,000 departing passengers expected across the bank holiday weekend
• From porters and pushchairs to airport entertainment, Gatwick’s family-friendly facilities and services help get breaks off to the best start

Many British passengers appear to be taking the full week off – and with the awful weather the UK is currently experiencing who can blame them! – with Sunday 1st June (the day before schools go back) set to be the busiest day in arrivals with around 68,000 passengers expected at the airport.

However, the bank holiday is also afforded the chance for many to take a shorter trip away. Around 503,000 passengers are predicted to have travelled through Gatwick between Friday 23rd May and Monday 26th May – of which around 270,000 are departures.

The top ten half-term destinations are:

1. Barcelona
2. Malaga
3. Palma De Mallorca
4. Nice
5. Faro 
6. Alicante
7. Dublin
8. Amsterdam
9. Orlando
10. Dalaman

Gatwick is encouraging parents to make the most of the airport’s tailored family facilities to make the journey as easy as possible. On the back of passenger feedback, Gatwick has recently introduced free-of-charge pushchairs to help passengers with young children get from the plane to the arrivals hall with ease while kids’ zones are also on hand to help keep youngsters entertained.

Nick Pope, Terminal Duty Manager at London Gatwick, said: “Gatwick offers a choice of over 200 leisure and business destinations across the globe – more than any other London airport – as well as quick and easy access to and through the airport, so it’s no surprise we’re expecting plenty of passengers. We want the airport experience to mark a great start to any journey and we will be on hand to provide a warm welcome, great service and plenty of fun for the whole family throughout the airport.”

Highlights of Gatwick’s family facilities and half term activities include:

For families arriving into Gatwick, the airport has recently introduced free pushchairs for the journey between the plane and the arrivals hall where own pushchairs are returned.

Family Assistance Lanes:
Gatwick offers dedicated assistance security and immigration lanes for departing families to provide extra help and time.

Kids’ Zones:
Gatwick’s kids’ zones are the perfect place to keep children entertained whilst waiting for flights. The zones include a separate area for the kids to play and watch TV, plenty of seating for parents and are free of charge so make keeping an eye on the children that little bit easier. In North Terminal, parents can book into the new No.1 lounge that has separate family areas for the under 6’s, a games room and even a cinema for older children.

For more information on Gatwick Airport’s family offering please visit:

© Gatwick Airport

Aquatica Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is now open

Ihu’s Breakaway Falls – the tallest, steepest and only multi-drop tower slide of its kind in Orlando, USA – is now open at Aquatica water park.

Riders climb 126 steps to the top of the eight-story tower, which stands at almost 80 feet tall, stepping into one of three ‘breakaway boxes’. As the door closes, riders cross their arms and give a thumbs up in preparation for their drop – but they’ll never know when the floor beneath them will disappear. Facing each other, thrill-seekers watch as their fellow riders fall.

Adding to the anticipation is the sound of a heartbeat, which can be heard in the background while bracing for the drop.  Once the floor disappears, riders drop 20-24 feet per second launching them into a spiralling speed slide and ending in a final splashdown.

Riders who are not quite brave enough for the breakaway boxes can try the open slide so that they can decide when they drop – but be warned, this is the steepest of the four slides and the most intense.

“Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is the reason to visit Aquatica Orlando this summer,” said Bryan Nadeau, Aquatica Orlando vice president. “From the daring height, crazy drops, and intense speed, this thrilling new attraction brings a whole new level of excitement to an already amazing park that has so much for every age.”

Fear the Falls … fun facts

  • Those who dare to brave Ihu’s Breakaway Falls will experience an almost vertical drop for nearly 40 feet, the steepest slide of its kind in Orlando.
  • Ihu’s Breakaway Fall is the longest water thrill slide of its kind featuring three “breakaway boxes” – orange, green, and blue — and one open slide – purple – offering four completely different slide paths.
  • Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is theonly high-speed water thrill slide in the world with three breakaway boxes that face each other so riders can share the full experience.
  • Once the floor disappears, riders will drop 20-24 feet per second.
  • The orange slide is the longest of the four slides measuring 420 feet.
  • The green slide path has the shortest drop, but it’s still a 28-foot fall – that’s the same as four seven-foot tall basketball players.
  • The blue slide is the steepest slide with a ‘breakaway box’.
  • The purple slide is actually the steepest slide.© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Arctic explorer couple say “I do” at SeaWorld’s penguin attraction

An adventurous couple who met in Antarctica have tied the knot in SeaWorld Orlando‘s icy Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction.

The bride and groom braved temperatures of -1◦C and shared their big day with 250 king, adélie, gentoo and rockhopper penguins – all dressed in their black and white “tuxedos” fit for the occasion.

The couple, Susanne Grieve and Jeff Rawson, met when they were both working in Antarctica in 2012, braving average temperatures of minus 76 degrees fahrenheit. Fresh produce and mail were two of the many conveniences the couple went without during their time in Antarctica.

“Antarctica is such a beautiful and intense environment. When you experience that with someone, the bond you create is rare. Having our wedding in this realm that so perfectly captures the essence of the continent brought me right back to the day Jeff and I met,” Susanne explained.

“Having our wedding here really represented the place we built our relationship. It was so fascinating to see the elements the designers replicated from this continent only a handful of people would ever typically be able to experience.”

Fancy doing the same? Or, maybe you just fancy a holiday to Orlando, USA? The weather there at the moment is considerably better than ours! For further information, click here.

© 2014 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc

What’s new in 2014 at Seaworld

2014 is the year of celebration and new heights at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment in Orlando, USA, with a world first face down drop tower, Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa, Aquatica Orlando’s all-new terrifying free-falling water slide, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls and SeaWorld’s 50th Anniversary celebration, Sea of Surprises.


In spring 2014, Busch Gardens Tampa is taking guests’ experiences to new heights with Falcon’s Fury, the first drop tower of its kind in the world, mimicking the dive speeds of the fastest animal on earth*

Falcon’s Fury will stand at 335 feet (102metres) and take riders plunging 60 mph straight down.  At the ride’s highest point Busch Gardens has added an element of surprise.  Like its bird of prey namesake, riders will pivot 90 degrees in mid air to a face down dive position. An instant later they’ll plunge 60 mph at 3.5 Gs straight down with speed and power like they’ve never experienced before. With no connecting structures, it will be the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America.

The surrounding area of Falcon’s Fury will be redeveloped into Pantopia. Currently known as Timbuktu, the fully remodelled Pantopia will boast elaborately jewelled theming, feature thrilling rides and attractions, sensational new food and beverage, exciting entertainment, shopping, a renovated indoor theatre and much more.

50-year celebration at Seaworld

The original SeaWorld Park opened its gates for the first time in March 1964 on Mission Bay in San Diego. To commemorate a key event in the company’s history, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will launch a multi-park 50th celebration in 2014 – Sea of Surprises.

From 21st March 2014 SeaWorld parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio will share the excitement through celebrations that will highlight some of the most memorable SeaWorld experiences. 

For nearly five decades, SeaWorld has surprised and amazed guests with unique entertainment, thrilling rides and up-close encounters with marine animals. During SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration, visitors will be invited to take part in the celebration through new interactive experiences, shows and pathway performances, even more up-close animal encounters throughout the park and the SeaWorld Surprise Squad treating guests with prizes every day.

Highlights include…

Even more surprise encounters with roaming animal ambassadors throughout the day such as Magellanic penguins, lemurs or even a flamingo parade.

Celebration giveaways in park…The SeaWorld Surprise Squad will be offering spot prizes including exclusive access to rides, behind-the-scenes experiences, celebration t-shirts, Shamu-themed merchandise, reserved show seating and more.

On the spot entertainment…SeaWorld park pathways will come to life with spontaneous entertainment at unexpected moments, including performers with sea-inspired costumes and props, a bubble brigade and splash mob.

Art for animals…To highlight SeaWorld’s commitment to the environment and passion for protecting the ocean, a series of giant sea life sculptures will be displayed throughout the parks. SeaWorld has commissioned environmental art group Washed Ashore to make the large-scale art created from ocean debris.


Aquatica Orlando’s all-new terrifying free-falling water slide Ihu’s Breakaway Falls opens in 2014. The drop slide will be the tallest, steepest and only multi-slide ride of its kind in Orlando.  The slide is named after Ihu, Aquatica Orlando’s colorful gecko, who searches for the biggest thrills, steepest hills and the coolest spills in the waterpark.

Watch a sneak peak of the ride here.

Last but definitely not least…

UK visitors to Florida can now experience three parks for the price of two until 31st December 2014. The 3-park ticket offers 14 days unlimited entry to SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica AND Busch Gardens Tampa. Prices start from £89 for adults and £85 for children, for more information and bookings click here.

Check the weather before you go! Click here.

© SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment

Festive fun in the sun

Fancy ditching a chilly Crimbo for some festive fun in the sun? Check out these five fantastic holiday destinations and make this Christmas one to remember…

Cape Verde
If you want total relaxation this Christmas then head to Cape Verde. These beautiful islands are only around four hours flight from the UK but you will feel like you have landed in the Caribbean thanks to the stunning white, soft sandy beaches and glorious sunshine. It is no surprise that Cape Verde is fast becoming the place to be if you want winter sunshine, peace and tranquillity. Fancy spending your Christmas Day sipping cocktails on the beach and taking a dip in warm turquoise waters? Click here to check the weather forecast, then get booking those flights!

Costa del Sol, Spain
Christmas time is a great time of the year to visit the Costa del Sol. You may not be able to sprawl out on your sun lounger all day as you would in the summer but there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy in the wintertime. Hiking in the Mijas Mountains is spectacular on a crisp winter’s day or hit the golf course while they are a little quieter. Christmas celebrations in Spain are pretty spectacular with lots of festivals and partying. Take a trip to Malaga and look at the city illuminated with hundreds of Christmas lights. You should also stay around for New Year and ‘Kings Day’ on the 6th January when the Spanish traditionally exchange gifts. For a weather update in Costa del Sol, click here.

Agadir, Morocco
If you really want to shake up your normal Christmas experience then the stunning destination Agadir in Morocco could just be what you are looking for. As Christmas isn’t a festive season that is celebrated in Agadir you can avoid all the usual hype and cheesy Christmas songs on repeat on the radio. Here, you are free to sit back and enjoy the sandy beach and sparkling Atlantic Ocean. If you are looking for a break from the beach then the shops, cafes and restaurants at Agadir Marina will make any Christmas shopping spree a pleasure. For a truly memorable experience go on a camel trek into the Sahara Desert – you won’t forget those humps in a while…To top it all off, the weather in Agadir around Christmas is fabulous, check it out!

Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
Craving some sunshine on Christmas Day this year but can’t face a long haul flight? Then head to the Canary Islands for some guaranteed sun with temperatures sitting in the mid 20s. Playa Blanca on the beautiful island of Lanzarote offers everything you need for a perfect Christmas getaway. The three main beaches Playa Flamingo, Blanca and Dorada are sandy and family friendly whilst the abundant bars and restaurants along the promenade are the ideal place to wine and dine. Need to do a spot of Christmas shopping? The Limones shopping centre is ideal. Private villas in Playa Blanca are plentiful so you can still enjoy your favourite Christmas traditions in the comfort of a home but with a private pool and stonking weather thrown in too, what’s not to love?

Orlando, Florida
Celebrating Christmas in OrlandoFlorida would equate as a very special festive time for most people – young and old. Add a trip to the magical Disney World from the 8 November to the 20 December and you can expect to see the ultimate in holiday parades, spectacular fireworks and live entertainment from 7pm until midnight. Kids can meet their favourite characters and enjoy the spellbinding atmosphere; indeed, this time of year is truly enchanting and arguably showcases Disney World at its very best.

Florida, otherwise known as the ‘Sunshine State’, offers great weather throughout the year and during the Christmas holidays this is no exception. You can expect 7 hours of sunshine with temperatures reaching between 10°C to 22°C in December. So planning a pleasant trip out to the beach is a very real possibility with the Gulf Coast 90 minutes drive west from central Florida. If you don’t fancy cooking on Christmas Day you can be assured a great slap up festive feast if you head out, as portions are plentiful and suitably Christmassy. However, be sure to ring in advance and check with your chosen restaurant, as some require a reservation.

For further information please visit


The Walt Disney Company donates 1.5 million to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan

The Walt Disney Company has promised to donate half-a-million dollars to Save the Children and the American Red Cross to support humanitarian aid and rebuilding efforts related to the recent tragedy in the Philippines. In addition, eligible donations from employees to organisations involved in disaster relief will be matched, dollar for dollar up to set limits, by Disney Employee Matching Gifts: A Program of The Walt Disney Company Foundation.

“Our hearts go out to the millions of people in the Philippines affected by this tragedy,” said Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. “We hope this donation and our employee matching gift contributions will help families begin to rebuild their lives in the wake of this devastation.”

The Walt Disney Company is committed to working with humanitarian organisations to help rebuild affected communities and assist families.  The announcement to donate is part of Disney’s ongoing disaster preparedness and response program.  As a proud sponsor of the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program and Save the Children’s Emergency Fund, Disney provides support for disaster relief services, as well as comfort and hope to children in impacted communities.

If you want to donate, go to:

© The Walt Disney Company

SeaWorld: On track for record year in 2013

SeaWorld a leading theme park and entertainment company in San Diego and OrlandoFlorida, USA has reported strong performance throughout the summer season. Despite challenging weather conditions at the start of the summer, preliminary year to date total revenue and admissions revenue through August 2013 increased by approximately 3% and 4%, respectively, when compared to the same period in 2012.

“Performance was particularly strong at our flagship SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Diego,” said SeaWorld Entertainment President and Chief Executive Officer, Jim Atchison. “Based on our previously issued full year Adjusted EBITDA guidance range of $430-$440 million for 2013, we remain on track to achieve a record year for SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.”

About SeaWorld

SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) is a leading theme park and entertainment company delivering personal, interactive and educational experiences that blend Imagination with nature and enable its customers to celebrate, connect with and care for the natural world we share. The Company owns or licenses a portfolio of globally recognised brands including SeaWorld®, Shamu® and Busch Gardens®.

Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 11 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind collection of approximately 67,000 marine and terrestrial animals. The Company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests. In addition to its theme parks, the company has recently begun to leverage its brands into media, entertainment and consumer products.

To book tickets to SeaWorld, click here.

© SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc


Every day of the year, SeaWorld in San Diego and OrlandoUSA opens their doors to entertain, amaze and educate guests. Behind the scenes, there also is a mission to care for the environment and the animals beyond our park’s borders.

Pole to Pole: Environmental Awareness

SeaWorld’s Pole to Pole is more than just a gift shop. It provides a variety of kid-friendly activities, including educational crafts, to create awareness of environmental issues aside from offering a variety of winter-themed merchandise. SeaWorld’s popular Pole to Pole Fun Run took place in April 20, 2013 and raised important funds for Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI) to help animals in need and endangered species.

Recycling Efforts

From hosting electronic recycling events to green construction, SeaWorld San Diego continues to embrace initiatives that address some of today’s most pressing environmental challenges in the areas of waste, water and food.

Every year SeaWorld® recycles millions of paper and plastic products, metals, greenery, pallets, cooking oil, construction demolition debris and batteries, in addition to more traditional recyclable materials. Since 1996 the park has received San Diego’s Recycler of the Year or Director’s award 15 times and is a 12-time recipient of the prestigious State of California Waste Reduction Awards program.

Since 2007 SeaWorld played host to nine electronic recycling events for California residents. These free collection events offer an opportunity for the public to dispose of unwanted electronic items — such as TVs, VCRs and computers — while making a positive difference in the environment at the same time. More than 325,000 pounds of materials have been collected to date. These events also have raised more than $35,000 for conservation efforts, both local and globally, including habitat preservation, conservation education and aid for ill, orphaned, injured or stranded animals.

To help encourage greater recycling on the part of guests and employees, SeaWorld has more than 300 recycling bins in the park and nearly 50 bins in the staff administration areas.

H20: Reusing a Natural Resource

Innovative moisture sensing technology conserves water by factoring in plant material type, sun exposure, rainfall, and seasonal adjustments when watering. In a variety of areas throughout the park, Xeriscaping is employed, a technique using drought-resistant plants that require little or no irrigation, such as cactus, agave and junipers.

SeaWorld® San Diego voluntarily implements programs recognised by the Environmental Protection Agency as the most acceptable management techniques for handling storm-water runoff and other environmental issues.

SeaWorld San Diego is located on Mission Bay and uses water from the bay for the park’s many pools and habitats. Demonstrating its commitment to environmental stewardship, SeaWorld treats the water before it is returned to Mission Bay. The seawater is filtered and put back in the bay cleaner than it was before. Even the rainwater and water that is used to clean the pathways is collected and cleaned before it is put in to the bay.

SeaWorld San Diego continues to explore other ways of reducing water consumption.

Green Education

SeaWorld’s Environmental Team is made up of employees from various departments throughout the park, including zoological operations, landscape, merchandise, park operations and culinary operations. The team coordinates events in the park that help educate employees on environmental issues and provides them with information on how to conduct themselves, both in the park and at home, in an environmentally friendly manner. The park also provides opportunities for employees to volunteer for activities like beach clean-ups, habitat restoration and e-recycling events.

Culinary Operations: Shamu and Friends Enjoy ‘Green’ Food Choices All of the seafood served to SeaWorld guests — and even the salmon fed to Shamu® — is purchased from sustainably managed fisheries that promote environmentally responsible stewardship.

SeaWorld® works with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Certification Council in sourcing sustainable seafood. Both are international, non-profit organisations that promote environmentally responsible fishing, fish farms, processing and food safety.

SeaWorld San Diego also maintains nutritious diets of the park’s animals, while being mindful of effective re-use practices at the same time. For example, we feed beef-baron bones to the polar bears at Wild Arctic, and bread, fruits and lettuces to the domestic animals at Pets Rule!® All these materials are recycled from our culinary operations.

Bye, Bye Plastic Bags!

Back in June 2011 SeaWorld® San Diego became the first SeaWorld park to phase out plastic bags at gift shops. The effort coincided with the grand opening of Turtle Reef. Plastic bags are a huge problem for certain species of sea turtles, especially leatherbacks, which sometimes mistake the bags for jellyfish. Turtle Reef, where guests have the opportunity to get an up-close look at up to 60 sea turtles and learn about the threats the species face, demonstrates this devastating impact.

“We’re proud of SeaWorld San Diego as they continue to demonstrate their leadership role in environmental stewardship by eliminating plastic bags in their park,” said John Valencia, executive director of the San Diego Oceans Foundation. “Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine animals die every year from ocean pollution by ingestion or entanglement of marine debris.”

“SeaWorld is proud to be a responsible steward of the environment, not just here in our park, but in the oceans and the world we share,” says SeaWorld San Diego Park President John Reilly. “We hope our actions will inspire others to take similar steps that, combined, can make a huge difference.”

Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program

Since 1965, SeaWorld® San Diego has rescued more than 6,500 animals and has treated as many as 475 marine mammals in one year. Of these animals, seals and sea lions form the largest share. Birds, such as pelicans, also are frequently rescued. Last year, SeaWorld rescued 131 marine mammals: 98 California sea lions, 18 northern elephant seals, eight harbour seals, four common dolphins, a fur seal, a Guadalupe fur seal and a southern sea otter. In addition, SeaWorld took in 451 birds (276 of which were brown pelicans) and four sea turtles for rehabilitation.

SeaWorld is part of the Southwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is organised by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Members of the public, lifeguards and other individuals report strandings to SeaWorld’s rescue hotline (800-541-SEAL) and SeaWorld team members respond, using guidelines governed by NMFS. Once rescued, animals are nursed back to health and, whenever possible, returned to the wild. If an animal is deemed not releasable, NMFS determines whether the animal is to remain at SeaWorld or to be cared for at another facility.

Marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and seabirds may strand for a variety of reasons: illness, injury, exhaustion or separation from their mother. Two of the most common conditions are malnutrition and dehydration. In addition, animals may also become entangled in nets, ropes or fishing line; accidentally ingest plastic or other foreign objects; or suffer habitat loss, which occurs as a result of human development, over harvesting of natural resources or oil spills.

To care for stranded animals, SeaWorld San Diego is equipped with a state-of-the-art medical facility, which houses a laboratory with the latest diagnostic equipment, antibiotics, intravenous fluids and other medications; a surgical suite, which contains a custom surgery table, X-ray, ultrasound, endoscopy and anesthesia equipment; a food preparation room, where special diets for rehabilitated animals are prepared; and recovery areas, including pools and enclosures, tailored to meet the specific needs of each rehabilitating animal.

Oiled Wildlife Care Centre

SeaWorld® San Diego’s Oiled Wildlife Care Center was built to care for animals that fall victim to oil spills.

The 8,000-square-foot center was established in 2000 by SeaWorld San Diego, the California Department of Fish and Game and the University of California, Davis. It includes examination, treatment and food preparation areas, an aviary and a 32,000-gallon rehabilitation pool that can hold 20 oiled sea otters or pinnipeds in the event of an oil spill in Southern California. The facility can treat as many as 200 oiled seabirds at a time. The centre is one of five regional oiled wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facilities participating in the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

The centre is staffed by team members from SeaWorld San Diego’s aviculture and animal care departments who have received state certification and training to work with oiled animals. When the centre is not being used for oil spill rescue, it houses rehabilitating marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds.

Happy Tails

SeaWorld® is continuing a program established in April 2011 to reach out to some furry, four-legged creatures at the Helen Woodward Animal Center to encourage adoptions of homeless dogs and cats. “SeaWorld’s Happy Tails” animal adoption program provides pet lovers two free single-day admissions to SeaWorld when they adopt a dog or cat from the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The program has been extended and will continue through Dec. 31, 2013. Tickets are valid for a single-day admission to the park any time within one year of the adoption.

SeaWorld has supported local animal shelters by providing homes, and a second chance at life, for hundreds of abandoned and neglected animals. Considered by many untrainable, these adopted animals now steal the stage — and fans’ hearts — as stars in the park’s popular show Pets Rule!® Promoting the importance of shelter adoptions, these furry ambassadors bring smiles to thousands of guests every day.

Education and Conservation

The education programs at SeaWorld® and Busch Gardens® have helped schools, teachers, children and adults explore the world and all its inhabitants by providing award-winning education programs that include structured teaching. There also are many informal teaching experiences inside the parks: educators, show and exhibit narrations, and interpretive and interactive graphics. SeaWorld’s Instructional Field Trip program offers students from pre-school through college an opportunity to use the parks as their own outdoor classroom.

In 2012 SeaWorld’s Education and Conservation Department educated millions of park guests through live narration and interpretive material at the park’s animal habitats and more than 40,000 people participated in behind-the-scenes guided tours. SeaWorld was brought to hundreds of students through SeaWorld Cares® school assemblies in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. The park also became an outdoor classroom to more than 92,000 school children visiting SeaWorld for Instructional Field Trips and In-depth tours.

Shamu TV

“Shamu TV”, the Emmy award-winning environmental education series from SeaWorld® and Busch Gardens®, brings viewers face to face with the wonders of wildlife. Online viewers have the opportunity to watch an entire 30-minute episode or shorter, five- to 10-minute segments featuring stories about amazing animals and the remarkable efforts of people working together to save some of the world’s most endangered and threatened species.

“Shamu TV” is accessible in school classrooms via computer, and on-the-go through tablet and hand-held devices via and YouTube. A “Teacher Toolbox” full of activities, reference materials and resources to enhance lesson planning will soon be made available for teachers. “Shamu TV’s” Saving a Species series is produced by the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Education Departments.

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