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March 18, 2013

So I have been wanting to visit the Georgia Aquarium since it opened in 2005. I finally made it, and it did not disappoint. I mean really, FOUR whale sharks in captivity. The only other aquarium in the world with a whale shark is in Tokyo!

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The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world, with tanks holding 8 million gallons of water. 6.3 million gallons of water are reserved for the whales sharks that also share their space with FOUR manta rays, guitar sharks, enormous groupers, rays, and lots of other fish. The whale shark exhibit is the size of a football field and thirty feet deep.

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The whale sharks, that grow to forty feet in length feed on krill. The largest at the aquarium was 26 feet, but the tank is large enough to handle all four when they are fully grown. Each shark has an individual handler and is fed from a boat. The krill cannot be dumped into the water because the filtering system circulates 1 million gallons of water an hour!

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The sharks were actually saved from a Taiwan fishing kill and delivered to the USA by UPS! Now fishing for whale sharks, the largest FISH in the sea, is banned. The exhibit was so fantastic. There were multiple viewing areas, a presentation, and even a moving walkway that transported visitors through a tunnel. I could have stayed at this one exhibit, Ocean Voyager, for hours.  I think I was there for at least one hour anyway.

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What was special about the Georgia Aquarium was the amount of species of fish on display I had never seen before despite being a SCUBA diver. I went through the River Scout exhibit twice! This exhibit included albino alligators, piranhas, elephantnose fish, and an electric eel. I’ve never heard of an elephantnose fish that has electric organs in its tail to help it sense things in the dark. And while I have heard of an electric eel, I haven’t seen one and certainly didn’t know it could emit an electric shock of 500 volts!! It was so creepy looking.

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The Tropical Diver exhibit included a large coral reef with numerous tropical fish populating it. Since I dive reefs like this regularly, I probably took it for granted, but I loved the jellyfish display and the sea horse display. They were both fantastic, and I stood mesmerized by them. Sea horses are so hard to spot in the wild and the lighting in case made the jellyfish look beautiful instead of frightening.

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The Cold Water Quest Area was home to otters, Penguins (a type that a didn’t see in Antarctica), and FOUR beluga whales. The beluga whales were so curious and active as they whipped around the tank. They were so fun to watch. I also loved the sea dragons. I have only read about them and never seen one, so they were super cool to see float around.

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I never got my hands on one of the baby hammerhead sharks in the touch pool, just the rays, but really, a baby hammerhead!! Totally awesome. The only time I ever saw a hammerhead I was snorkeling around sea lions, and the hammerhead was hunting. I got out of the water…I didn’t want to be accidentally mistaken!

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The frog exhibit was hopping…pun intended because I’m running out of descriptive adjectives to use about this place! The most poisonous animal is not a snake or a spider, it is the Dart Poison Frog from Central and South America. It is beautiful too…multicolored…bright yellow and purple with a black, striped pattern. There were other neat amphibians too!

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I didn’t see the dolphin show because I had to head to the airport, but suspect it was as good everything else. I was pleasantly surprised by the aquarium. I knew it was the best around, but being spoiled by diving in the ocean and wanting to go see it for so long, I was afraid it might not meet my expectations. I must say, the Georgia Aquarium exceeded them…a must see!

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