To be the World's Most Engaging Aquarium Experience.
To be an entertaining, educational, and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging guest experiences, and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world.
This was one of the most depressing activities I have ever participated in. I came away feeling like a piece of my soul was missing. Seriously - I'm all for kid-friendly educational entertainment. I have a 7-month-old, and I encouraged his babysitter to take him to the aquarium while I was working at a conference this week. Then, I attended a private reception at the aquarium that night. Let's leave aside the whole debate on whether or not facilities like this promote environmentalism or "educate the next generation." Here's what I saw: 1) Two whale sharks (the ocean's largest(!) non-mammal), several manta rays and one large sea turtle crammed into a tank so shallow there was barely enough room for the animals to pass each other. They were clearly under stress in a tank designed to force them "up close" to the passing crowd. 2) Belugas. Wow, this one was enraging. What business does a small aquarium facility have housing multiple whales in an inadequate tank? I did some research and found that this organization has made a big show of its new "no wild caught" policy . . . AFTER contracting with Russian researchers to trap and ship 18 wild belugas. 18. WILD. Belugas. The plan? to force them to "interact" with visitors in a "discovery" activity. Come on. These are wild, intelligent animals that need miles and miles of open ocean to survive. Indeed, it turns out that the aquarium has a long history of Beluga deaths, including several adults and at least two infants since its program started. And in case you want to give them the benefit of the doubt (as I did), all you need to see is this quote (from a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) to understand how little the emphasis is on anything but maximum exploitation of their animals to make money . . . “Everything lined up,” said Eric Gaglione, the aquarium’s vice president of zoological operations. He worked out an arrangement with Russia to trap the whales. “This could have been a good acquisition for us.” Beyond all of this, the practice of holding private events at this facility is depressing beyond belief. I walked in to attend my event and immediately encountered music that was so loud I could barely hear the people I was standing next too. The reverberations of the beat could be felt throughout the facility. Considering that they house several animals (whales/ dolphins) that have (a documented) and incredible sensitivity to sonic waves and reverberations, this is unforgivable. What are we teaching our kids exactly? That these lives are less real, less important . . . that they are disposable? That trapping another creature in a living hell of an existence is acceptable or justifiable for any reason? I'm no activist, but yesterday I think I became one. Leaving that place, I felt deeply sad, ashamed and hollow.
Beautiful selection of animals that you may otherwise never get to see. The whale shark tank is impressive, and the activities for children are very neat and engaging. The only negative thing would be the crowd, they should consider limiting the amount of guests in the building as it is difficult to stay with your group let alone navigate through the crowds of people. You have to wait sometimes 10-15 minutes to get up close to certain tanks/activities. And even then you feel limited yourself as you feel the need to get out of the way for others. There is also not enough seating, you have to wait for tables to eat or simply to take a break. Other than that it is a fun place, and a good amount of animals. I was impressed with the shark eggs, very neat to see up close.
The exhibits themselves are awesome. The only thing keeping them from five stars in my book is the employees and the overall flow of the aquarium(makes it difficult to navigate because crowds of people are just standing in walkways). I've visited the aquarium twice and neither time was I met with a single happy (or at the very least smiling) employee. They all gave the impression that questions/friendliness were not worth their time.
I loved everything about this place, however I was least impressed by the food court that they have for the customers though. They could do something to holster up a bit in terms of quality in the food that they serve. And in addition, the staff at the food court were not friendly at all. However, on a lighter note, I did enjoy the dolphin shows and every other sites there. It was not only fun but informative and educational as well. I highly recommend anyone who has never been there, to experience the beauty for themselves!
If you've got the time, this might be the best presented, most ambitious Aquarium out there (and was the largest until 2012). It's in an area with a lot of other things to do (near Centennial Olympic Park), and it might be towards the higher end of price for a museum, but it's every bit worth it. You can sink a day into this, and not be disappointed by anything you see. I might have spent an hour watching the myriad fish and the whale sharks in their incredible viewing theater alone.