With over 70 per cent of the world’s surface covered in water, it’s no wonder we get curious about the inhabitants of the briny deep. Some of the most bizarre, beautiful and baffling creatures on earth have made it their home. While snorkelling, scuba diving and glass-bottomed boats are fun, there are other, more practical ways to explore the sea in an urban setting. Some incredible aquariums have brought this underwater world to the surface so we can get closer to its inhabitants, and share our excitement, all while keeping our toes dry.
Aquarium of the Bay San Francisco
This educational aquarium is all about the local aquatic animals, with conservation close to its heart. As well as being home to more than 50 species of shark, bat rays and skates, the Aquarium of the Bay San Francisco boasts a number of additional activities to keep guests enchanted. There are special touch pools so visitors can get tactile with cute baby bat rays and dappled swell sharks. The same exhibit also has land animals; braver visitors can handle Pink toed tarantulas and blue-tongued skinks! The aquarium also has its own theater, in which visitors can watch 3D films and take in a magic and comedy show.
Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta
Encasing more than 10 million gallons of water and spanning 60 exhibits, Atlanta’s capital city houses the largest aquarium in the world, and the only outside Asia to house whale sharks, the largest species of fish. Huge underwater tunnels stretch beneath sedate manta rays, and adventurous visitors can even snorkel inside the tank. You can also get up close to sea otters, dolphins and penguins if you book an animal encounter tour in advance.
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan
Another colossal aquarium, Okinawa Aquarium houses 300 species in its giant Kuroshio Sea tank, housed in the Ocean expo park in Japan. Visitors can gape through a giant, reinforced viewing panel which measures 24 by 47 feet to watch Manta Rays and whale sharks swerve and dance just inches away. There are also 800 coral colonies on display, and a reproduction of the deepest ocean beds, with rare species like the Ruby Snapper and luminous shrimp.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey
With more than 600 species on display, this aquarium is home to sea otters, blue fin tuna and stingrays. Visitors can gape at jellyfish suspended in a specially controlled tank, and view the California giant kelp which can grow up to two feet per day. The antics of the aquarium’s comedic little sea otters are heart-melting, and a program of daily events includes talks on endangered species and penguin feedings.
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