Discovery Cove: Step into new Freshwater Oasis

Discovery Cove

The amenities of Freshwater Oasis, the newest attraction at Discovery Cove, include Asian small-clawed otters, marmosets ... and a sunken living room.

The Oasis is now open to guests of the daylong resort, and it increases the number of up-close-and-personal animal encounters. Although you can spot the marmoset habitat -- also known as Primate Island -- as soon as you leave the attraction's registration area, wading into the Freshwater Oasis gives unprecedented access to the little monkeys, which weigh only 1 pound when fully grown.

"This is the first place anywhere in the world where you can do this -- swim right up to the side, see the marmosets running around on the trees, see them in the bushes,” says Stewart Clark, vice president of Discovery Cove.

A moat around the marmosets' island and a grassy barrier separate man and mini-beast.

"That’s really not just to keep the marmosets there but also to keep guests from going in there and trying to become a marmoset for a day," Clark says.

It helps that the marmosets aren't interested in getting into the water.

“Most primates are not swimmers, and these guys fall into that category," says assistant curator Dave Eden. "Their bone density and musculature do not really lend to them being good swimmers.”

Human interaction does not alarm the marmosets.

“They are very curious animals, and they seem to really enjoy checking everyone out,” Eden says.

It works both ways. Clark says he has seen guests spend a half-hour watching the new marmosets. There are nine marmosets on exhibit at Discovery Cove.

“They’re just fascinating to watch," Clark says.

Their new neighbors are five otters, who have their own environment with waterfall, fallen trees and other natural wonders for their entertainment. They are separated from wading guests by a Plexiglass wall that goes below the surface of the water.

"The water levels line up perfectly and so the otters are literally nose-to-nose with you, right in the water,” Clark says.

Guests "can bring a mask and watch them swim underwater but also watch them romp around on land," Eden says.

“They’re so fun to watch, they can’t decide if they want to swim or play on land, so they’re back and forth every two minutes it seems like,” he says.

There's a dry-land spot to see the otters through a window at the end of a pathway.

“The little secret about that window is that the rockwork below it is actually heated. So when the otters when they tend to take a nap in the afternoon, they look for that nice warm rock ... and they take a nap,” Clark says.

The Discovery Cove marmosets and otters interact, but from afar.

“They call back and forth every now and then. Occasionally they’ll squeak at each other, but we don’t know what they’re saying, unfortunately,” he says.

Another new addition with the Freshwater Oasis is for humans only: the Sunken Terrace.  In water 18 inches deep, there are modern-looking (and lime green) seats. When folks sit down, they're in about waist- or chest-deep. The area looks very South Beach ultra lounge and very feng shui with several random but organized groupings.  The vibe matches the all-inclusive resort atmosphere of Discovery Cove.

You can even bring a beverage in ... even adult beverages. There's a bar nearby.

The design team "really wanted to create an area where you could relax and just enjoy the afternoon, whether you’re enjoying a beverage or just hanging out and talking,” Clark says.

Freshwater Oasis is included in the regular admission to Discovery Cove, which has a capacity of about 1,000 folks. The price varies seasonally, but there are Florida-resident discounts in play. For reservations or more information, go to www.discoverycove.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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