Visit the top of the live coral reef exhibit where you will discover the secrets of the tropical waters and mangrove forest, located above Tropical Diver, presented by AirTran Airways.
Hear the sounds of the "sea canaries" as you look over the top of the beluga whale exhibit, in Cold Water Quest, presented by Georgia-Pacific.
Observe where the Aquarium team cares for the animals and prepares their food as you visit the Commissary and Veterinary Clinic.
Enjoy the view at the top of the largest ocean exhibit in North America (Ocean Voyager, built by The Home Depot), and observe the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, as it swims below you.
Visit the African penguins in the Correll Center Animal Care Suite.
Includes complimentary souvenir photo at top of an exhibit.
Before I went on this tour, I wondered if it would be worth the hefty price tag. After the tour, I realize that in order to maximize your experience, it is essential to go behind the scenes. It is both educational and fun. I won't spoil it and give you all the details, but I think that it is well worth the price. We learned so much, even stopping by the UPS shipping crates that housed the Whale Sharks during transports. We learned about filtration, set up, care for the animals and aquarium. We saw the aquarium's nursery and so many other things that would have been missed. For those that cannot do a lot of walking, the pace was easy to keep and you can rest and catch your breath at each of the tour stops. My six year old loved it. He was so excited he could not stop talking. I guess I need to work on that! Ashley was gracious and gave us the time of our lives! While some of the interesting facts may be over a younger child's head, it is a rewarding and educational experience for the entire family. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a dive with the Whale Sharks! Afterwards, we made our way to the last aquarium exhibit. We saved the Tropical Diver for last. The sounds of people faded with the light. We entered the darkened realm, which was home to several tanks. Our first encounter was with the curious garden eels. Ohhh! They were a little snake-like and I am so afraid of snakes. But you can't help bending down and watching the eels popping up out of the sand striking out at other eels. Passing seahorses, fairy basslets, yellow-head jawfish and other jewels of the sea, we made our way to one of the most mesmerizing sights. Three impressive exhibits of jellies (“jellyfish”) stopped us in our tracks. Watching the pulsing of the jellies, I felt all my worries slip away. I knew I wanted to take one home. I did by the way, but more on that later! At the center of the gallery is one of the largest living reef exhibits of any aquarium in the world. A tropical Pacific coral reef reproduction played center stage for thousands of colorful fish and living corals. A carefully choreographed overhead crashing wave broke with the sound of music, playing gently in the background.
When it was time to make our way to the Titanic Aquatic exhibit, I could feel the anticipation building. This was a moment I would not forget. Entering the exhibit, we were handed "tickets" featuring the names of passengers that once walked the decks of that legendary ship. Passing through actual replicas of first and third class rooms, I was educated on life aboard the great Titanic. From the cost of tickets to the quality of rooms, it was not what I expected. For example, third class rooms featured bunk beds with real mattresses. The beds were mahogany and beautiful in their simplicity, although the rooms were tiny. Sharing the room with three strangers, most speaking a different language, would have been uncomfortable for me. Further along, we hovered over recovered china and clothing, shoes and perfume. The perfume display featured tiny holes in each side and sniffing alongside the display you could actually smell the perfumes, which were buried at the bottom of the ocean until their discovery. Wine and Champagne, some left inside a corked bottle, made up another display. I was stunned to see how well preserved these items were. Looking over a display of coins and bills from around the world, I was instantly chilled and it made me think of the many lost souls that may be among the living. In the exhibit, one wall holds the names of all passengers, grouped according to class. It was now my job to look up my passenger ticket names and see if mine were among the lost. Thankfully, I carried survivors, and with a lighter heart, I continued on. Many of the artifacts belonged to those who died tragically. You could feel the heaviness and often, I wanted to stop and cry for those that were needlessly lost. After leaving the exhibit, we made our way back to the "petting tank" so we could end our experience on a lighter note. We laughed and played, and Logan almost fell in the shallow water. Notice his wet hair in the video above! We were both soaked when we decided to head for the exit. We left through the Beyond The Reef gift shop, stopping to pick up a few souvenirs. We picked up a red shark tee for Sam and I bought Logan a glow in the dark jellyfish to set on his desk. I wanted one for myself, but there is always next time! I am thinking about spending a night at the Aquarium! Now that would be fun! If I do, I'll be sure to give you a full report!