on January 28, 2007
Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay is a walkthrough aquarium where you get the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of fish and sea creatures including, of course, sharks.You walk through various themed areas— Jungle, Temple, and Shipwreck—guided by both your “passport”, which includes some handy photographs for identifying various species, and an extremely informative audio guide. Along the way you will see what must be some of the most beautiful and bizarre creatures on the planet. Spots, stripes, bright reds, vivacious blues, and poster paint yellow catch your eye, as does the range of shapes and sizes from dainty angelfish to huge tarpons and gracefully sleek stingrays. Try and look out for the lookdown, whose flat face makes it seem as if it has just run into a wall, and the magnificent lionfish, a blend of stripes, fans, and tendrils that looks like it should be fantasy rather than reality.Rays swim in a small pool where you are encouraged—under supervision—to touch them. It’s a strange sensation. I thought they would be soft and squashy but instead they felt rather hard and leathery. A nearby display of jellyfish again look like creations of an imagination run wild.The culmination of the tour is the shipwreck where, in a huge tank, sharks and fish swim round, under and above you. The sharks are amazing creatures, inspiring an almost primeval sense of both fear and respect. Wait for one to swim over our head so you can see its rows of teeth and feel that slight tremor go up your spine.Education and conservation are two of the aims of the aquarium—it has links to various organisations that promote research and conservation—and I liked the last page of the passport guide that gives some small tips about how people can try and help conserve the environment.
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