Even though many find creatures of the underwater world fascinating, few have the opportunities or courage to dive deep or even snorkel in shallow waters to meet them face to face. With the proliferation of aquariums throughout the world, you can view almost all the known species in motion with little more than a piece of acrylic separating you from them. Most of the aquariums have exhibits for all ages and interests, so they’re perfect family destinations.
Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre
Located in the world famous Dubai Mall, this aquarium opened in 2008 and in 2010 took the Guinness World Record for having the world’s largest acrylic panel, 36 yards wide and over 9 yards high. You can view the aquarium free of charge while you roam the mall, which contains around 33,000 fish and 85 different species of aquatic creatures.
The 2.64 million gallon aquarium also offers glass bottom boat rides that let you watch over 400 sharks and rays nip at your toes from below. The excitement level at the mall soared in 2010 when the aquarium sprung a leak and forced an evacuation. The leak was quickly repaired but the movie Sharknado was made nonetheless.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Although this New Orleans aquarium situated on the banks of the Mississippi River has a relatively small tank with a 400,000 gallon capacity, it’s chockfull of almost 600 species and 15,000 creatures including stingrays, sea turtles, and huge sharks up to 17 feet long from both North and South American waters. Caribbean Sea creatures previously only viewable by deep sea divers can be seen in the Caribbean Reef tunnel and kids marvel at the seahorses elegantly swimming in their own private gallery. Don’t miss the creepy white alligators found only in Louisiana swamps (not albinos) or reach out and touch a baby shark.
The Deep Aquarium
Located in Hull, England, this Aquarium it opened in 2002 and is the only submarium on earth, meaning it has salt water sea creatures in its tanks. Besides seven species of sharks, it has around 3500 types of fish. Don’t miss a visit to the colony of Gentoo penguins who live in an exhibit called The Penguins of Grytviken in the Kingdom of Ice where the delightful birds roam three floors as well as show off their swimming skills.
The marine research laboratory at the site is one of the most respected in existence and provides extensive information on climate change, food chains, and animal biology.
Ripley’s Aquarium, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
If you’re yearning for an unforgettable aquarium experience when you’re vacationing in the South, check out Ripley’s Aquarium in bosom of the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The venue has over 10,000 species including giant sea turtles, snappers, stingrays, sharks, all viewable as you walk through magnificent underwater tunnels. From there, the road leads to a tropical rainforest, coral reefs, and a shark lagoon. Kids can pet horseshoe crabs and stingrays and watch penguins frolic on their own private beach.
Located in the revolutionary City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia, Spain, L’Oceanogràfic is the largest aquarium in Europe. Each of its nine buildings is dedicated to the world’s main marine ecosystems including the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands, and the Red Sea, as well as the Dolphinarium with 1.85 million gallons of water.
L’Oceanogràfic features 45,000 creatures representing 500 diverse species of dolphins, belugas, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, sharks, rays, sawfish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, and crustaceans, as well as wetland bird species.
Baltimore National Aquarium
One of older aquariums in the category, the National Aquarium in Baltimore opened in 1981 but it still has an impressive 16,500 specimens representing 660 species. Among the most impressive exhibits is the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit which was added during the addition of the 65,500 square feet Crystal Pavilion in 2005.
Kids are particularly fond of the dolphin show and the 4-D Immersion Theater that takes them on an exhilarating 20 minute roller coaster ride with realistic special effects that mimic crumbling ice, flurrying snow and chilly mists.
Unveiled in 2002 at the Ocean Expo Park on the island of Okinawa, Japan, the Churaumi Aquarium’s acrylic glass panel is second in size to the one in the Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre. The Kuroshio Sea, the aquarium’s main tank, holds almost 2 million gallons of water where whale sharks and manta rays dominate the seascape they share with hundreds of other species. Since 2010, four manta rays have been born at the Churaumi Aquarium, miracles witnessed by visitors lucky enough to be there when the births occurred.
uShaka Marine World
With 32 awesome tanks built to look like an ancient shipwreck, this aquarium/theme park in Durban, South Africa features everything from wee, enticing sea horses you could fit in fish bowl to giant dolphins and sharks with scowls and teeth that may haunt your dreams.
Braver visitors can sit down for lunch or dinner in The Cargo Hold restaurant that features a wall-sized aquarium full of several species of sharks that eye your plate as you dine, as they linger and lurk just behind a thin acrylic wall. Probably shouldn’t order shark for your entrée.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Situated in one of the Pacific Coast’s most rugged and picturesque areas, Monterey Bay Aquarium was built in 1984 in a most fitting site, an abandoned sardine cannery in Monterey, California. It has more than 600 species on display and fresh Pacific Ocean water is constantly circulating through the massive tanks. In addition to the stingray, sea otter and jellyfish attractions, you can view California coastal marine life, including California Giant Kelp I the Ocean’s Edge Wing.
Visit the Coral Reef Kingdom to see proof that corals are actually animals, not plants, and marvel at unique tanks of bluefin and yellowfin tuna as well as jellyfish swirling in a Kriesel tank that supports their suspension.
John G. Shedd Aquarium
Chi-town is most famous for their bitter winters, meaty steaks and chops, and deep dish pizza but Chicago also has one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums with over 5 million gallons of water with over 25,000 fish swimming there. The John G. Shedd Aquarium is also one of the nation’s oldest aquariums, opening in 1930, when it was also the world’s largest aquariums.
It was the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. Shedd Aquarium is adjacent to the renowned Field Museum of Natural History, where you can mix your aquatic viewing with exhibits of marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects.