SCUBA with Whale Sharks
The Georgia Aquarium opened a few years back and became not only the biggest aquarium in the world, it's also one of only a few in the world to have whale sharks. Until this summer, people were only able to see them from behind a huge observation window. Recently, they started giving tours of the inside of the tank! You can sign up for snorkeling or SCUBA diving with the whale sharks and spend the afternoon as few people in the world get to do. . . and I just did it yesterday!!
My friend from work, Glenda, signed us up a few months ago and we got the next available spot. This program is so popular there's an even longer wait now. We took a little time to see the sights at the aquarium before we jumped in the water, it was Glenda's first time there. Here we are starting our afternoon off at the entrance:
We poked around and saw the cool stuff that they have in their permanent exhibits. They did a good job with the exhibits, and there are lots of cool tanks and fish to see. There is really limited documentation on most of the exhibits though, so you don't learn as much as you do at other aquariums or zoos. We were luck to see the octopus moving around. Usually she is pretty shy (or tired) and doesn't show off. Yesterday though, she was active and climbing all over the glass of her tank. They have added aligators since I was last there too. They were pretty small, and not as scary as they could be. It was a good addition to the "River Exhibit." The other highlight was the otters. The little Asian otters were hyperactive and chasing each other around the whole exhibit. They reminded me of my cats. The larger otters were also active, and getting a feeding. Sadly, we didn't make it into the tropical fish area, which is one of my favorites. That's ok though, we had to get to the whale shark tank and get our gear for the dive!
We got a brief orientation talk and video, and then we were off to the giant tank. It was really impressive to see the tank from above. It's 2/3 the size of a football field, and 6.3 million gallons of salt-water are filtered through it constantly. There's plenty of room for the 4 juvenile whale sharks that currently make Atlanta their home.
I'm having some trouble loading the rest of the pictures, so they will have to come later. We circled the tank for a pretty long time. The dive was supposed to be only a half hour, but I think we may have snuck in some extra time underwater somehow. There were sting rays, a manta ray, sharks, groupers, and all sorts of smaller fish to see. Of course the highlight was being passed on all sides by the whale sharks. At one point, one of them went right over me and I swam along upside down just looking at this giant's belly right above me. It was amazing to see.
The dive masters and crew were all very cool and professional, and the whole experience was awesome. I am really glad that Glenda found out about this program and invited me along! Of course, the wifey has another opinion and thinks that we're stressing out the fishies.