The Seas Pavilion Beyond Nemo: The Reason for the Seas(on)

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My guess is that a number of visitors to The Seas With Nemo & Friends Pavilion in Epcot bypass its primary reason for existence. They board the clamshells, sing along with the characters from “Finding Nemo” and catch a viewing of Turtle Talk With Crush. Maybe they let the kids romp around in Bruce’s Sub House. Then, they zip through the gift shop and back outside into Future World.

Copyright 2010 Claire Nat
Exterior of The Seas with Nemo & Friends

But those who rush through the pavilion are missing, to borrow a phrase from the song, “the big, blue world.”

When The Living Seas Pavilion first opened at Epcot in 1986, it boasted the world’s largest aquarium. At 5.7 million gallons and a diameter of more than 200 feet, it’s wider than Spaceship Earth. More than 6,000 creatures, representing 200 species swim their way around the pavilion tanks.

Before the re-imagination of the pavilion in 2006 to include the “Finding Nemo” characters, the aquarium was the focus of the pavilion’s story. Visitors to The Living Seas Pavilion would view a movie, then board a “Hydrolator.” That experience would simulate a journey down to the depths, where guest would board Sea Cabs. This Omnimover ride, while less themed than the current version, kept the focus on views of the coral reef in Sea Base Alpha. Today’s Nemo ride only features the aquarium in the final scenes of the attraction. When you’re riding through the “EAC,” you’re actually within the main aquarium but you can’t see it.

So this post is an attempt to bring you back to the original story of The Living Seas to find a new appreciation for the pavilion and the creatures that reside there. Our son is just nuts about marine life, so we tend to spend quite a bit of time wandering through the pavilion. On a hot summer day, it’s a cool, relaxing escape that’s typically not too crowded.

The Big Blue View

The Living Seas was surpassed as the world’s largest saltwater tank by the Georgia Aquarium in 2005. On a side note, if you’re ever in Atlanta, it’s worth visiting the Georgia Aquarium just to see the amazing whale sharks. But even in its current incarnation, The Seas With Nemo & Friends is still a world-class aquarium.

The massive main tank contains a variety of tropical fish and a random hidden Mickey.
The massive main tank contains a variety of tropical fish and a random hidden Mickey.
The graceful spotted eagle ray is mesmerizing to watch as it glides along.
The graceful spotted eagle ray is mesmerizing to watch as it glides along.

To get the best views of the main tank, you’ll want to head up the stairs or escalator to the second floor. Here, you’ll get panoramic views of the variety of species, including sharks, dolphins, rays and sea turtles. You’ll also find a 500-pound grouper and schools of colorful fish.
Back downstairs, another area has a series of smaller tanks showcasing some of the actual fish from “Finding Nemo,” including the clownfish and blue tang. Other tanks display everything from seahorses to horseshoe crabs. In the waiting area for Turtle Talk With Crush is Mr. Ray’s Lagoon, where you can view smaller rays up close.

Seahorses are among the smaller creatures showcased in fish tanks on the first floor.
Seahorses are among the smaller creatures showcased in fish tanks on the first floor.

Research and Rehabilitation

Another big appeal of the pavilion is the ability to interact with cast members, many of them scientists who can inform you about the exhibits, conservation and protecting our oceans. Twice a day, usually around 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., feedings take place where you can watch the divers in action.

Cast members provide a variety of learning opportunities for young visitors.
Cast members provide a variety of learning opportunities for young visitors.

My son’s favorite exhibit in the pavilion is the manatees. They’re huge, fascinating and they’re not found many other aquariums in other parts of the country. You can view the manatees on the first floor, where you get a good view of them swimming around their tank. Upstairs, you can view the surface of the tank where feedings take place (the manatees love lettuce). Cast members there will also make presentations and answer questions.

Spend some time here and you’ll learn about how the manatees were rescued and how they’re being rehabilitated. You’ll notice a portion of one of the manatee’s tail missing, a victim of a boat strike. Unfortunately, collisions with watercraft are responsible for many deaths around Florida involving the endangered manatee.

The salad bar is open for business in the manatee tank.
The salad bar is open for business in the manatee tank.

Tours and Experiences

For an additional cost, three different Epcot Sea Adventures are available to book. The Aqua Tour offers a unique snorkeling experience for a close-up view of all the creatures in the main aquarium. Experienced divers can participate in DiveQuest, a scuba experience in the main tank that will put you, along with all the fishes, on display for visitors. Dolphins in Depth will give you a chance to interact with dolphins in waist-deep water. That means you don’t even need to be a swimmer to take part.

And while these experiences will run between $145 and $199, it’s important to keep in mind what the pavilion offers at no additional cost. The bottom line is that the exhibits inside The Seas With Nemo & Friends are experiences that might cost a family $100 or more at an aquarium in another city. So it’s worth an hour or two of your time to fully enjoy everything that this underrated pavilion has to offer.

Robert Blaszkiewicz is on Twitter @RobertBlaszk and Facebook.

4 thoughts on “The Seas Pavilion Beyond Nemo: The Reason for the Seas(on)

  • December 14, 2016 at 12:42 pm
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    We made a trip to the aquarium during a very crowded Saturday of Food & Wine. It was the highlight of the day for my family!

  • December 14, 2016 at 3:16 pm
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    This is one of my favorite parts of Epcot. I surprised my husband (who loves to snorkel) with the AquaTour for Christmas last year and it was amazing! We got up close and personal with all of the creatures and even got to swim right past one of the sea turtles. Not to mention it provides a nice cool break spot in the middle of a hot day.

  • December 15, 2016 at 11:55 pm
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    The Nemo ride is one of the biggest misses at Epcot. They had a great opportunity to use the old ride system to tell an educational story about the oceans with the characters from Finding Nemo, but instead it just recaps the plot of the movie. A “Join Nemo’s school and learn about the seas with Mr. Ray” ride would have been far more of an Epcot attraction than what they installed.

  • December 17, 2016 at 11:13 pm
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    It makes me sad that Disney closed off so much of the aquarium (nearly all of it) from the old Sea Cabs ride. While it wasn’t thrilling, it still offered amazing views of the aquarium. It was a unique pavilion that mixed the best of EPCOT Center and a real sense of wonder about marine life. I don’t get that at all now, even with the observation deck still in place upstairs. It’s a real shame.

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