There is perhaps no creature on this earth that is more respected and feared than the shark. Whether it’s a terrifying Great White or the curious and harmless Long Nose Shark, these prehistoric swimmers have always fascinated people. Although sharks rarely attack people it’s still safer to view them from behind the walls of a glass aquarium than anywhere else. Luckily there are a number of incredible aquariums that give you more than a glimpse at these great beasts of the sea.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan also claims to be the second largest aquarium in the world and features about 21,000 animals representing 740 species. The aquarium is part of the Ocean Expo Commemorative National Government Park and its main attraction is the Kuroshio Sea which is the major tank holding almost 2 million gallons of water and the highlights of the show, the Whale Sharks. There are currently three Whale Sharks being held at the Churaumi Aquarium and they’re actively trying to breed them but have been unsuccessful so far. In addition to the Whale Sharks there are numerous other sharks in the aquarium as well as two different dolphin shoes, a manatee exhibit and you are right next to Emerald Beach so you can relax Oceanside and take a dip in the ocean to see what critters you can find in person.
The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia is the largest aquarium in the world with more than 8 million gallons of fresh and marine water and more aquatic life than any other aquarium. But the most exciting feature of the Georgia Aquarium to shark fans is the Whale Shark. Whale Sharks are actually not whales but have adopted that name because of their size. No one knows exactly how large Whale Sharks can grow to be but the largest accurately measured one was over 40 feet long. Whale Sharks have mouths in front of their heads unlike most sharks, and when their mouths are open they can reach up to four feet across which is perfect for grabbing a whole school of sharks at once. The only place Whale Sharks are housed in captivity are the Georgia Aquarium and in Asia. The Whale Sharks in Georgia are housed in the Ocean Voyager, which was designed specifically to house these giants. As you walk through the acrylic tunnel you’ll also get to see the only manta ray in captivity in the United States, trevally jacks, stingrays, goliath grouper, Hammerhead Sharks and more. If you’re up for it, and I mean literally, spend the night at the Georgia Aquarium and learn even more about the species housed inside this great facility.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is the second largest aquarium in the world and holds 35,000 plants and animals. There are two exhibits that attract the most attention at Monterey Bay, the Ocean’s Edge and Outer Bay. Monterey Bay Aquarium has gained notoriety as being the only aquarium in the world to exhibit the ocean’s top predator, a Great White Shark, for more than 16 days. Monterey Bay Aquarium housed one Great White Shark for six and a half months, one for four and a half and one for five months. All of these magnificent creatures were returned to the wile after their stay. Last year they received another young White Shark that seemed to be doing well in their million gallon Outer Bay exhibit but she only fed once during her short stay so the staff decided it was best to return her to the wild. In addition to the sharks on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are a huge variety of beautiful, strange, and fascinating sea dwelling creatures.
uShaka Sea World
uShaka Sea World is one of the five largest aquariums in the world and has the largest collection of sharks in the southern hemisphere. The aquarium is set up almost like a theme park with a life-sized 1920’s era cargo steamer between rocks and lagoons, as you wind through the steamer you get to view different areas of the aquarium. Once below deck you become an explorer of shipwrecks in the shark-infested waters of South Africa’s east coast upon a 1600’s Spanish Galleon. Take your excursion a bit further and try the Oceanwalker Experience, swim in the Snorkel Lagoon or take a dive in the shark tank and come face to face with Zambezi Sharks and Ragged Tooth Sharks. Be sure to bring your swimsuit if you’d like to take advantage of these two aspects of the aquarium. Although the shark encounters are the best part, be sure to catch one or both of the dolphin shows as the uShaka Sea World aquarium features the larges dolphinarium in Africa. The interactive activities with a variety of marine life are also a must for any visitor to this magnificent aquarium.
Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef in the Mandalay Bay Hotel Las Vegas is North America’s only predator based aquarium and exhibit. The aquarium features more than 2000 different types of sea creatures including a large variety of sharks. In addition to your shark viewing adventure you can get a little more in depth information with one of their education courses, which are open to students of any age. There are two sessions each weekday and they include a one hour guided tour of the aquarium and a one hour classroom session. If that’s not enough then you can up the ante and dive with the sharks, that is if you’re dive certified. Dive certified guests of Mandalay Bay are invited to SCUBA dive in the 22 foot deep Shipwreck Exhibit which houses more than 30 sharks including Sandtigers, Sandbars, and White Tip Reef Sharks. The dive will also get you up close and personal with rays, sawfish, green sea turtles and schools of fish. Dive reservations are limited and last somewhere between three and four hours. Dives are rather expensive but it’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Looking for more aquariums with great shark viewing experiences check out the list below:
- Arizona: Wildlife World Aquarium
- California: Monterey Bay Aquarium and Aquaruim of the Pacific
- Florida: Florida Aquarium and Seaworld Orlando
- Georgia: Georgia Aquarium
- Illinois: Shedd Aquaruim Chicago
- Kentucky: Newport Aquarium
- Maryland: The National Aquaruim of Baltimore
- Massachusetts: New England Aquaruim
- Nevada: Mandalay Bay Aquarium
- New York: Coney Island Aquarium and Atlantis Aquaruim
- North Carolina: North Carolina Aquaruim
- Oregon: Oregon Coast Aquarium
- South Carolina: South Carolina Aquaruim
- Virginia: Virginia Aquaruim