The Grand Reef at Discovery Cove

I went along to check out the construction progress at Discovery Cove’s “The Grand Reef” earlier today and things look to be going very well. The reef is well under construction and everything looks set for an opening sometime in June. It’s going to be another great visitor experience from what I can see and the all new SeaVenture is going to be something completely different for guests to enjoy.

The Grand Reef will feature multiple levels of exploration, from shallow waters to deeper swimming adventures and white sandy beaches with hammocks swaying in the breeze. You’ll also be able to enjoy snorkeling among canyons inspired by reefs from around the world.

The Grand Reef footprint is approximately 2.5 acres and will have close to a million gallons of water in it. The water temperature will be a comfortable 77 degrees and approximately 10,000 animals, representing 125 different species of fish, rays and sharks will be housed at the site.


Thousands of tropical fish will dart through crystal-clear waters, creating a whirlpool of color inside the reef’s grottos and crevices as Discovery Cove’s experts chose only the most colorful of species whose natural populations are healthy and sustained. The fish will include angelfish, butterflyfish, wrasses and tangs as well as larger, unusual-looking hogfish and filefish. A showcase moment will happen when snorkelers get up-close to the venomous lionfish but safely behind panoramic windows! Thousands and thousands of schooling sardines, shining in the sun, will also swim freely throughout the main reef making it a spectrum of color.


Dozens of rays, gliding through the water, are always a beautiful sight and four species of rays will fly among swimmers, including the spotted eagle, cownose, southern, and bluntnose rays. Spotted eagle rays are typically found in Caribbean and Pacific waters and these unique animals with white spots and greater than 5-foot wingspans are a protected species. Discovery Cove is one of the few, and most successful, eagle ray breeding programs in the world.


A variety of long and slinky exotic eels will also swim among The Grand Reef’s canyons but the good news is that they will also be behind glass and other interesting species including grouper and triggerfish will also make their home with the eels. In essence, eels are really just elongated fish, ranging in length from two inches up to 12 feet for the giant moray and there are approximately 800 species of them that us humans love to hate!


Sharks are always a big attraction providing we know we’re safe and The Grand Reef aims to provide a view like no other…from the water. Exciting new views of sharks will allow non-swimmers to gaze down from above while snorkelers and SeaVenture participants can gaze through 10-foot-tall panoramic windows into a habitat filled with zebra, nurse and blacktip and whitetip reef sharks. New to Discovery Cove will be the species known as zebra sharks and they are found in Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and Western and Northern Australia. Typically they are cream-colored with spots even though they’re born with stripes – somewhat suggesting a sharky zebra. They’re also known as Australian leopard sharks.

SeaVenture Dive Helmets

And here's me trying one on...


The Grand Reef’s innovative experience, SeaVenture, will be an underwater walking tour where guests, wearing some futuristic looking dive helmets, will feel right at home under the sea. After climbing down a ladder and setting foot on the reef floor, guests will immediately come eye-to-eye with the sharks although they will be behind a full, 8-foot-tall, 21-foot long panoramic window. During their journey, guests will encounter velvety rays, exotic-looking lionfish hiding under a dock and even touch a star fish or sea urchin found along the way. The adventure ends with schools of fish feeding around the divers with the massive open reef as the backdrop.

The ladders to descend to start your SeaVenture tour...

Some say it’s similar to walking on the moon … only you are surrounded by fish. SCUBA certification is not required and the program is about an hour long for groups of up to six people per excursion while the cost will initially be $59 per participant. Other Reef Facts

Removable Coral

Discovery Cove is using a unique technology to ensure The Grand Reef’s man-made coral maintains its vibrant colors. Each piece of coral, most weighing around a ton, is actually inflatable. When filled with air, the coral sections float to the surface for easy maintenance and cleaning. Overall, The Reef will have 90 pieces of the colorful coral in four different sizes.

The trick to making the coral float...and sink.... valves!

Salt Water

It takes about 140 tons of salt to make The Grand Reef’s crystal clear water but the recipe is a closely guarded secret and Discovery Cove’s staff aren’t giving it away!

Beach Sand

Discovery Cove has found the perfect beach sand for The Grand Reef and it’s used throughout the park. It is actually mined in nearby Davenport, Florida, and is actually from Florida’s ancient beach dunes. More than 5 million pounds will be used around The Grand Reef, and every pound is sifted and grated in order to make the sand feel just right – not too coarse and not too fine.


Finally, eight new cabanas will be found at The Grand Reef and these private, shaded areas are available for rental at an additional fee and are located right at the water’s edge. Complete with table and chairs, chaise lounges and rolled towels, the cabanas provide a special place for guests to relax when they’re not in the water, swimming among thousands of tropical fish.

Discovery Cove is a really cool day out and it is very exclusive. When the reef is finished the park will still only allow 1,000 guests per day to visit. The all-inclusive adventure includes one-of-a-kind opportunities to swim with dolphins, rays, and tropical fish as well as hand-feed exotic birds.

Discovery Cove is a tropical oasis in Orlando and you’ll be sure to relax and enjoy the paradise of rocky lagoons surrounded by lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers, a resort-style pool complete with waterfalls, and pristine white-sand beaches.

Here’s some video from today’s visit:

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