Have you ever wondered why a jelly fish changes colour? What a shark eats (besides surfers)? What happens to a star fish if it looses a limb? I have always had a fascination for the wonders of the sea. Growing up my favourite movie was Disney’s Little Mermaid, my dream was to swim with a dolphin and see a whale jump high into the air. Although, I’m deathly afraid of swimming in a lake, get swimmer’s ear when I put my head under water and hate the smell of fish, the beauty and wonder that occurs in a world so different then my own has always tugged at my curiosity.
For the last few years, my family had heard rumours of an aquarium coming to Toronto. We waited patiently listening for the news of the ground breaking, watching the building slow go up when we visited Toronto and dreaming about what it would be like. When we were given the opportunity to visit Toronto’s own Ripley’s Aquarium, we were ecstatic.
Ripley’s Aquarium first opened its doors in late summer 2013. Nestled between the CN Tower and the Rogers center, the 135 000 square foot Aquarium will hold over 450 different species and 13,500 inhabitants (including fan favourites such as sharks, jelly fish and sting rays). Not only is the Aquarium estimated to be a huge tourist attraction, it will also be an ongoing research lab. The Aquarium will contact both breading and conservation programs for endangered species (i.e. Sand Tiger sharks) in conjunction with universities and government agents.
Our first impression of the aquarium was awe. The building was beautiful! From the smiling staff to the large skeleton of a whale hanging from the ceiling to the first glimpse of the large tank and its abundant fish, we were bursting with excitement. The kids didn’t know where to look first! They saw the kids play area with the Horseshoe Crab petting station, a huge aquarium filled with fish that would take you hours to count and great photo ops EVERYWHERE!
The Aquarium has an unique layout that propels you through the entire aquarium from start to finish in one fluid motion, while still allowing you the freedom to wander and explore. There were signs everywhere to direct you where to go next or explain what you are looking at. I love how at every section there is a hands on station that allows the children to touch, feel or get zapped (electric eel station) so they can learn while feeling as well.
You will be amazed at the diversity of the different exhibits you will experience:
Canadian Waters ~ Learn about the critters and plant life that lives in the great lakes and the oceans that surround Canada. Some of our favourites were the octopus, the eel and the kelp garden.
Rainbow Reef ~ Be swept away to the beautiful rainbow reef where you will be greeted by the unicorn sturgeon, angelfish and a kaleidoscope of exotic fish that will take your breath away. While you are there, wave to the real diver and watch him interact with the fish!
Dangerous Lagoon ~ This was our favourite exhibit. Once you step on the moving sidewalk, you travel along an unbelievable journey in the underwater tunnel. From Sea turtles racing by to hammer head sharks floating over your head to brightly coloured coral lining the sea floor, you truly feel like you are part of their world. It was so breath taking that my children requested we do it again!
Discovery Centre ~ This is an amazing area for the kids to explore the wonders of beneath the sea. This area has great hands on activities for children to explore. With pop-up bubbles that place you in the middle of the sea, touching live hermit crabs and exploring the wonders of how locks function, the learning opportunities are endless.
Touch Tanks ~ Have you ever wondered what a Stingray feels like? Wanted to experience the rush of petting a shark? In the exhibit, you can do both and much more!
The Gallery ~ After the excitement and thrills, the gallery is a great place to sit back and marvel at the beauty of the sea. Here you can watch the Eels, Lion fish and Seahorse float around their habitats.
RayBay ~ This is exhibit filled with a wide array of stingrays floating and gliding by. DD2 and I stopped to rest beside the glass and marvelled as the stingrays, repetitively, glided up to the glass in front of DD2’s face as if to kiss her as they swam by.
Planet Jellies ~ Did you know that jelly fish change colour? With a grandstand against one wall and floor to ceiling jellyfish on the other, you could spend all day watching them swim!
Life Support System ~ This unique exhibit shows you what goes on behind the scenes of the aquarium and the amount of people and systems required to keep the habits thriving.
My family and I had an amazing time at Ripely’s Aquarium of Canada and we can’t wait to return. It has created memories that my children and I will cherish for ever. It was a great place to teach my children about the wonders of the sea and the importance to keep it clean and healthy.
Thank you Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada for our amazing visit! We will see you again soon!