Sea World at Night

by Karl Buiter, staff writer

Sea World San Diego is widely known for its daytime shows featuring dolphins and killer whales. At night, an entirely different Sea World emerges from its home in Mission Bay. Filled with light and color, dazzling acrobatics, and wild music, the shows of “Mystique de la Mer” provide a whole new world of experiences.

A view of the lighthouse at Dolphin Stadium and the Sky Tower behind. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Mystique de la Mer is a Cirque du Soleil-style collection of acrobatics and dance. The back story describes the performers as sea creatures from the world of Atlantis. While the performances often lack the polish of a well-rehearsed Cirque du Soleil show, the outdoor dimension and contemporary feel of these productions is quite entertaining.


Performed on a small stage in a grassy area, ExotiSea is a twilight show featuring athletic dances, small tumbling runs, and aerials by eight performers.

This high-flying pair are featured performers for this twilight show. Photo by Karl Buiter.

An opening cast of three women and three men handle most of the gymnastics and a brief aerial exercise on ropes.

The ExotiSea cast performs various athletic dances, tumbling runs, and rope aerials. Photo by Karl Buiter.

A duo then performs an aerial routine using sheets of fabric. Sometimes death-defying, sometimes romantic, and bathed in red light, this is the highlight of the show.

Sea Lions Tonite

Sea Lions Tonite is the comedy show for Sea World San Diego. Performed nightly during the summer, Sea Lions Tonite spoofs Sea World daytime shows including Dolphin Stadium, Shamu, and Cirque de la Mer.

In this scene, Clyde, Seamore, and their trainers pay homage to the popular daytime Cirque de la Mer show. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Satire of pop music and culture is a tradition for the opening act of the Sea Lions Tonite show. In this year's version, a “tour guide” provides the central narrative for the show.

Our “tour guide” goes crazy with the props. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Attractions and dining at night

Bright lights illuminate the splash down waves at Journey to Atlantis. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Cafeteria-style dining is available at several restaurants across the park. These pictures are from inside Shipwreck Reef Café. Food options throughout the park include barbeque, Italian, fajitas, salads, and deli sandwiches.

A quiet sky ride across Mission Bay provides welcome counterpoint to the excitement in the park. Rides like these that make the day special for guests. Photo by Karl Buiter.

A Mystique Dinner Show is available at 7:30 each evening at the Garden Plaza West location.

Entrée and dessert offerings at Shipwreck Reef Café. Photo by Karl Buiter.


Multiple fireworks shells fill the sky at night. Photo by Karl Buiter.

The show is launched from a barge anchored northeast of the park. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Bright Red Starburst is spectacular on the San Diego sky. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Shamu's House of Douse

Shamu's House of Douse is the nighttime version of the popular daytime Shamu show. Dance music and a party DJ anchor the show that makes heavy use of the video screens and popular Shamu acrobatics. This year's show is a celebration of the past 20 years of nighttime Shamu shows, featuring videos and audience participation dance numbers from past performances.

Four of the performing Killer Whales from Shamu's House of Douse show. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Center Stage

Center Stage is the central plaza at the front of the park. As the evening comes to a close, guests gather here to watch the BrillianSea fireworks show and Ocean FantaSea stage show.

Local bands entertain the crowd at Center Stage. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Ocean FantaSea

A wrap-up show at the front of the park closes the night's festivities. Photo by Karl Buiter.

The performers from ExotiSea and the daytime acrobatic shows are united for a spectacular finale. Gymnasts perform using hoops, ribbons, and sheets. Tumblers make acrobatic runs across the back of the stage. Strong rhythms and exotic dance put a great finish to the evening.

This performer twirls a large metal cube. Photo by Karl Buiter.

Stilt walkers join the party ensemble. Photo by Karl Buiter.

The nighttime Mystique de la Mer runs nightly at Sea World San Diego through September 6.

This article was reviewed by Matt Mendenhall of the Sea World Information Guide.

Send your thoughts, comments or questions to Karl here.