Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2016

Georgia Aquarium offers unique opportunities

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A short drive up Interstate 185 from Fort Benning, the Georgia Aquarium holds a myriad of treasures; the only whale sharks in North America, the world's largest aquarium and beluga whales, to name a few. My husband and I recently decided to scratch the Georgia Aquarium off of our Georgia bucket list, and needless to say, it did not disappoint.

Upon arriving, it was obvious that we weren't the only ones looking to explore this acclaimed aquarium. The line for tickets spiraled through the courtyard, packed with people looking to enjoy the aquarium on a Saturday. Since we didn't purchase tickets in advance (rookie mistake), we humbly took our place in the ticket line where we waited for a solid hour to purchase tickets. After purchasing tickets, we were given our admission time, which was 45 minutes away. We took the time to explore Centennial Park across the street, originally built for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Once inside the aquarium we made our way through each exhibit, seeing everything from penguins, beluga whales, jellyfish to dolphins.

While each exhibit was captivating, nothing could compare to the final exhibit we visited: Ocean Voyager. The Ocean Voyager exhibit is an astounding experience as it is home to the largest aquarium in the world, holding 6.3 million gallons of salt water. The aquarium includes a tunnel for visitors to view the aquarium from beneath the surface, allowing the manta rays, sharks and whale sharks to swim over visitors. This oversized aquarium holds the only four whale sharks in captivity in North America, making them the main attraction in the tank. The peaceful whale sharks are actually not a shark, but instead are the largest fish and are completely harmless to people and other animals in the tank. We were enamored by the size of the whale sharks and the way these gentle giants peacefully swam amongst schools of fish, turtles, and other sharks. The aquarium guide at the tank provided some interesting insight, telling us that even though the whale shark's mouth is abnormally wide, their throat is the size of a quarter so it can only eat small fish.

Other highlights of the aquarium include the dolphin show, albino alligators and opening March 31, a sea lion pier. There is also a children's section of the aquarium called Aquanaut Adventure: A Discovery Zone. According to the aquarium's website, this exhibit allows visitors to learn about aquatic life through different immersive environments. Aquanaut Adventure offers seven different routes with seven different adventures, and five of the seven engage visitors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities.

If you are planning a trip to the Georgia Aquarium, you can purchase your ticket in advance from Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation for a discounted military rate of $31.75 for adults and $26.75 for kids ages 3-12. Additionally, if you purchase parking in advance from the Georgia Aquarium's website you will save 10 percent on parking.

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