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Sea World FAQs

How do I become a whale trainer? Is there really a Shamu airplane? How do I drive from Disneyland to SeaWorld?

There are certain questions about Sea World that make readers particularly curious. This "SeaWorld FAQs" page will attempt to answer those questions about various aspects of SeaWorld and Shamu the whale that are asked time and again.

Sea World FAQs:

Question--How do I become a Shamu Whale trainer?

Baby whale learning a simple trick; photo taken from Dining with Shamu poolside Hello, future whale trainers! There must be plenty of you out there, because this website gets a number of questions from young people looking for information on becoming Shamu trainers, dolphin trainers, etc. The best advice we can give you is to visit, the SeaWorld website devoted to all sorts of animal facts & about whales and different marine animals, info about educational "Adventure Camps" at SeaWorld, and lots of information about preparing for various jobs at SeaWorld. Here's a direct link to

When you get to the website, take some time to browse around. Be sure to click on the "Career Resources" tab. That link will take you to a whole wealth of information. A new page will open up with still more links. Be sure to follow the link that says, "Info Books." That link doesn't really lead to books...for some strange reason. (So, why don't they change the name of the link?) The "Info Books" link is a gateway to all sorts of career information. You'll find out how to prepare for careers not only in whale, dolphin and sea lion training, but also as aquarium keepers, sea bird caretakers and specialists, veterinarians and vet assistants, animal researchers...and many others!

If you'd like just a short summary about "how to become a Shamu whale trainer," then here it is in a nutshell: plan to go to college! Do well in school now, then head for your favorite community college or university and start work towards a degree. Many of the Shamu trainers have degrees in biology...but some have degrees in other fields. Sea World's requirement is that you need at least an associate's (2 year) degree to get a job as a whale trainer there.

But, there are other things you can be doing right now to help your chances of landing this sought-after job. Learn to swim; all whale trainers must be strong swimmers! Getting a SCUBA certification isn't a requirement, but it's a good "plus" to have in your list of credentials.

Also, get some experience working with animals. Working in a vet's clinic or animal shelter might be one way of doing this. SeaWorld doesn't care that the experience you have is with whales; any animals will do.

Picture: Shamu dances to music; Shamu Rocks nighttime show You may apply for a job at SeaWorld before you finish college; in fact, you SHOULD. There are many positions available as animal care helpers (you know...the people who feed the animals & clean up after them), tour guides, Adventure Camp hosts and hostesses, employees who stand around the exhibits answering visitors' questions, etc.

SeaWorld would like you to spend some time in these less-visible positions first...before you can apply as a whale trainer. (But don't forget...these positions are REALLY IMPORTANT to both the animals and the park visitors. They're not really "less important" jobs at all!)

Working with the public in these other important positions will also give you another skill that you need---the ability to speak in front of the public! SeaWorld's whale trainers don't JUST train whales; they also run the whale shows! Since not many people feel comfortable speaking before a crowd of thousands of visitors, "breaking yourself in" by answering guest's questions one-at-a-time...or leading a tour group of 3-4 dozen a good way to build up that confidence and public speaking ability.

Sea World FAQs:

Question--Does Southwest Airlines really have a Shamu airplane?

Photo: Southwest Airlines' Shamu the Whale plane Southwest Airlines actually has 3 Shamu planes! Sometimes the Shamu planes head to San Diego from Phoenix or other western USA airports. However, at times, the Shamu planes are used for other routes instead.

The Shamu plane's exterior is painted just like an orca whale! Inside the Shamu planes, however, there are no "whale" features; the interior looks just like any other jet airplane.

The Shamu plane is certainly fun to look at. With luck, you'll be able to see it in person some day...or even to fly aboard. Unfortunately, however, Southwest Airlines won't guarantee that you'll get the Shamu plane for your flight...even if you pick a route along which it usually runs. A Southwest Airlines representative informed me that the planes switch routes and times regularly, making it impossible for them to give out any advance information about where the planes will be at any particular time.

History of the Shamu airplanes: The first Shamu plane wasn't created for Sea World San Diego at all! Back in 1988, Sea World of Texas joined forces with Southwest Airlines for a "visit Texas" advertising campaign. The first Shamu plane was created...and has been with us ever since!

The Texas campaign was a success...and the following year, Sea World San Diego got in on the fun, as well. "Shamu Two" was created, and started flying out of the Oakland, California airport. When that campaign, too, turned out to be a success, then "Shamu Three" was created (in 1990.)

Did you know that the 3 Shamu planes aren't the only specially-painted planes in Southwest's fleet? Southwest Airlines also has planes painted like the flags of several southwestern states---California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas! To see photos of Southwest's "planes of the states" and Shamu airplanes, here's a link to Southwest's Specialty Planes page on the company's official website.

Drive from SeaWorld to Disneyland

Sea World FAQs: Can you tell me how to drive from Sea World San Diego to Disneyland?

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Driving from SeaWorld San Diego to Disneyland Park is simple! In the Google custom map to your left, you can see both the SeaWorld and Disneyland theme parks. You'll notice that both of them are conveniently located near Interstate 5, the main north-south interstate through California.

From SeaWorld, get onto I-5 heading north. There are two ways to leave SeaWorld San Diego; one way leads directly to I-5. If you take this route, then you're all set.

But sometimes it's crowded, and you may end up exiting the park towards I-8. If so, that's not a problem. From Interstate 8, it's easy to take theexit for I-5 northbound to Anaheim, California.

Anaheim is about 90 minutes north of SeaWorld (depending on traffic.) Weekday rush hours are fierce both in San Diego and near it's possible that you could be slowed down in a traffic snarl. If you'll be making the drive on a weekday, you'll find the smoothest sailing if you travel during the mid-day hours or after 7 pm in the evenings.

From Interstate 5 in Anaheim, take either the Katella Ave exit or the Harbor Blvd/Ball Rd exit, and then follow the signs to Disneyland Park.

You may wish to view a street map of the Disneyland area in Anaheim...or other maps of the Disneyland Resort. If so, just use the following link, then, and you'll be able to view our "Disneyland Maps" page.

Sea World FAQs: Orca Whale Anatomy

Photo: Close up of Shamu's blowhole on the top of his head We've been asked for photos of various parts of Shamu the whale's anatomy! So, here are pictures we took especially for those of you very curious about Shamu's body parts!

In the photo to your left, you can see Shamu's "blowhole." An orca whale breathes in and out from his blowhole. It is like the nostrils on a human being.

While under water, Shamu must hold his breath. Shamu and other whales cannot get the oxygen they need from the water like a fish can. That's because Shamu is a mammal...just like you and I. He can only breathe air.

While Shamu is under the water, a muscular flap closes tightly over his blow that water won't get inside his trachea (breathing tube.) As Shamu comes to the water's surface, he snorts blow any water away from the edge of his blowhole. Then, when he breathes in, he'll get only air...and no drops of water mixed in.

Whale skull close-up photo Compare the picture of Shamu's head with the photo of a whale skull on your right. They look the similar, don't they? You can see the blowhole in the whale's skull in this picture.

Did you know that whales make noises from their blow holes...not from their mouths? Orca whales make 2 different types of sounds---whistles and clicks. Human ears can hear only some of the sounds that whales make; other sounds are so high or so low that only their other whale friends can hear them speaking.

Some of the whale sounds---the clicks---have to do with the whale's "echolocation" system. That's just a fancy word meaning that whales can find their food in the dark because they can send out sounds. When the sound bounces back from the an echo...then the whale knows which direction to swim so he can find the food (even if there's very little light.)

Humans don't have the ability to perform echolocation, but here's a simple experiment you can try...just so you can feel what it might be like to be a whale! Fill a squirt gun or spray bottle, and head for a room in your house where it won't matter if you get things wet. (The kitchen or bathroom, maybe?)

Hold the squirt gun or spray bottle in front of you and close your eyes. Start walking towards the wall slowly while spraying water on the wall ahead of you. Keep your eyes closed! But don't worry that you'll run into the wall---because once you get close enough, you'll hear the sound of the water echoing off the wall. You will know to stop walking without using your eyes; and THAT'S feeling just like you're Shamu, getting your directions from your sense of SOUND rather than sight.

To discover more fun facts about orca whale anatomy, don't forget to view the very informative "Orca Whale Physical Characteristics" page of the educational website!



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