The Georgia Aquarium

I had been wanting to visit the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta ever since it opened five years ago.  Whale sharks!  Manta rays!  Japanese spider crabs!  When we were on our way to the aquarium Saturday morning I was wondering whether I might have built it up in my mind so much that it might not be able to live up to my expectations.  Not so!  In fact, the giant Ocean Voyager tank alone would have been worth the price of admission.

The Ocean Voyager tank is the largest aquarium tank in the world (6.3 million gallons!) and contains four whale sharks and four manta rays, the largest of which has a “wingspan” of 13 feet, plus hammerhead sharks, sand tiger sharks, sawfish, huge groupers, etc. etc. etc.  When you enter the Ocean Voyager exhibit area you first look into the tank through small windows, but then you pass through a glass tunnel at the bottom the tank where the fish are passing back and forth over your head, and finally come out at the world’s second-largest glass viewing window.  It is amazing.  It’s practically a religious experience.

Taking good photos was almost impossible due to the low light and the difficulty of shooting through glass, so I resorted to taking video clips instead.  They’re not great, but they’ll at least give you an idea of what the experience was like.

One of the coworkers I went with knew someone who worked at the aquarium, so we even got to go behind the scenes and see the huge tank from above.

If you ever pass through Atlanta, go.  Do it.  You don’t regret it.

10 replies on “The Georgia Aquarium”

My brother-in-law lives in Atlanta and we went there a couple of years ago. That aquarium is amazing- you’re right about the big tank. It was mesmerizing.

Unfortunately I lost my camera on the plane coming back and lost all records of our trip…

I used to volunteer as a docent at the Newport (KY) Aquarium. While I hope that my interactions with the guests were pleasurable and useful for them, I know that being there was amazing for me. I learned so much. Someday, I’d like to get to Atlanta, and also the Monterey (CA) aquarium.

I visited the Georgia Aquarium last June on a trip from Australia. I was super impressed. The guides are very knowledgable and unfazed by my pesty questions. The smaller exhibits (not small, really – just smaller than the really big tank) of all the different underwater habitats, like the Amazon with piranha, were fascinating.

I was disturbed to find out that the whale sharks there are fed by tube. It would be impossible to feed them naturally in such a place, as they normally cruise large areas of ocean slurping in lots of (mostly) plankton. It was wonderful to see them, however, and the manta rays, sharks and so on – breathtaking!

My Atlanta friends took me to Cumberland Island in soth Georgia, which I found really interesting, too. I wanted to see an armadillo, and was told they only come out at night – but I chanced upon a young, dead one on a track. It was in pristine condition, so I have no idea how it died. The ‘plates’ were soft and flexible, not at all like I imagined.

I saw the nostrils of a manatee, but that was all. We have dugongs in Australia, and they are just as shy and endangered.

I did some birdwatching and beachcombing there, and walked the track to Anna Ruby Falls in the Appalachians. I’d like to come back for an extended nature-watching trip one day.

I was surprised to read what you said about the whale sharks being tube-fed, and did some Googling – all the information I could find suggests that the only time they’ve force-fed them via tubes was when two of their original sharks fell ill and stopped eating on their own. I’m not sure how they feed them the rest of the time, if that’s true, but I’ll ask my coworker who used to work there.

I live and work on Jekyll Island, which is the one immediately to the north of Cumberland and Little Cumberland. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip here, it certainly is a beautiful area!

Thanks for setting me straight, Rebecca. Perhaps I misinterpreted what the guide told me. I’m certainly interested in how the whale sharks are fed, so do let me know when you find out – it seems a huge ask for such creatures. A friend of mine went snorkelling with them during their migration time up the Western Australian coast, and said it was an awesome experience.

Perhaps I can stop by your island next time I visit!

Joy: I asked her this morning, and said they use some sort of contraption consisting of a long poll with a net full of krill or something similar on the end. The keeper goes out onto the tank on a sort of raft, swishes the net around in the water to release the krill, and the shark swims past and scoops it up.

Also, it’s interesting to keep in mind that if these sharks weren’t being displayed at the aquarium, they would have been someone’s dinner. The Georgia Aquarium’s whale sharks come from Taiwan, where they are served up as seafood.

Thanks, Rebecca – most interesting. I really appreciate the efforts the aquarium staff go to. I’m not complaining about these animals being held captive. While there’s understandable tension in any zoo-type situation between keeping an animal captive and leaving it in the wild, it’s got to the stage that if people don’t see, get to care about, and therefore contribute to the conservation of many animals, those animals are going to die out when their habitats are destroyed, or their numbers drop below a certain level. Interesting that these came from Taiwan.

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