Ever since the iconic fish-story Jaws splashed onto movie screens in 1975, timid swimmers have feared to go back into the water while quipsters hum the two-note suspense music. Think you have what it takes to meet the denizens of the deep? Then get up-close with these magnificent predators in the Adventure Aquarium’s popular adventure, Swimming with the Sharks.
Participants in this program have the opportunity to come face-to-face with any of the 30 sharks living in the 550,000 gallon Shark Realm. The trained staff gives visitors an introduction to the Shark Realm and its inhabitants, presents an overview of what to expect, talks about the animals living in the realm, and conducts a snorkeling familiarization course. All gear except bathing suits, towels, water shoes and toiletries is provided.
The Swimming with the Sharks adventure is carefully designed to give even inexperienced swimmers the opportunity to come within inches of sand tiger and sandbar sharks, nurse sharks and barracudas. The largest animal is a 400 pound female sand tiger shark.
Each participant, wearing wet suit and snorkeling gear, ventures out onto a specially designed ledge within the Shark Realm. Curious sharks, which are used to visiting snorkelers, swim to within inches of the adventurers; so close that the pre-swim safety talk reminds swimmers not to reach out and touch the sharks. There is no barrier between the adventurers and the sharks.
Once you’ve gone around the perimeter of the Shark Realm, you’ll enter the Stingray Lagoon where you can swim with and feed dozens of stingrays. You can even have your picture taken to prove to everyone that you actually did it. In addition, you’ll receive admission to the Adventure Aquarium, an adventure t-shirt, souvenir snorkel and mask, and memories to last a lifetime.
If you prefer not to get wet, there are other adventures to enjoy. The Positively Penguins Adventure offers an up-close encounter with Black-footed African Penguins, which includes exclusive access to Penguin Island, home to over 20 African Penguins. Go behind-the-scenes with biologists to learn about the care for and feeding of penguins and discover the secrets of penguin biology and behavior. Then, roll up your sleeves to actually help biologists with enrichment and training techniques.
This story was first published in the News Journal in 2009 under the byline of Gail A. Sisolak. All rights reserved.