Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay

The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay (Resort & Casino in Las Vegas), claims to be North America’s only predator-based aquarium and exhibit. The facility is 95,000 square feet (8,800 square meters), and displays over 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of seawater.

Hours of Operation: Open daily from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Last admission at 10 p.m.
Admission: Adults $15.95, Children 12 years old and younger $10.95, Children 4 and younger admitted free. In past years both U. and I were curious to visit this aquarium and exhibit, but we passed at the $16 per person admission cost, especially since there's a free aquarium at Cesar's Palace, (and we could think of many other things to spend $32 on in Vegas). This time around however with Astrid, the Shark Reef was a must see, since there isn't a whole lot to do in Vegas with a 2 year old, and since I only had to purchase 1 ticket (kids 4 and under are free), it was a no brainer to go. Astrid standing in front of a rare Golden Crocodile, that is native to Thailand.
Here's another Golden Crocodile on display. We only saw 2, but the aquarium boasts having 5 in total.

Visitors are provided with audio wands detailing each exhibit, which was a nice feature.

"There are only about a dozen Golden Crocodiles left in existence, and those found at the Shark Reef are the only ones in the Western Hemisphere."Astrid imitating the male Water Monitor, (a cousin to the Komodo Dragon), by flicking her tongue in and out. Water Monitors are carnivorous and can reach sizes of up to 8 feet.
Everyone taking a photo of the big fish.Astrid standing in front of the Piranha tank.
There was an elementary school class visiting the aquarium today as well, so we were able to tag along and listened as the guides described each exhibit, (A Piranha's teeth are sharper than a shark’s) and watched as they "tried" to demonstrate how aggressive Piranhas can be, by feeding them. Unfortunately, the Piranhas didn't appear to be hungry and weren't interested in eating the fish.

I chatted with one staff member and he admitted that these guys are pretty shy. He said when he goes in to clean the tank, they all swim away and hide from him. Getting our first peek at the shark tank.It was fun to watch as the sharks swam up close to the glass.Here at another section of the aquarium, they had a container filled with food, suspended in the water for the fish to feed on.Next we walked through an aquarium tunnel filled with marine life. It was really dark in this tunnel and it was difficult to take a decent photo (with or without flash).
The coolest part about walking through the tunnel was looking up and watching the sharks swimming overhead.Astrid standing in front of a fish aquarium.

I believe this is called a Lion Fish.

They were quite friendly and would swim right up to the glass looking at us, looking at them. Astrid wanted to "go in dare" (go in there) to swim with them and touch them.A mesmerizing jellyfish display.

Astrid was fascinated by them.

They glowed neon colors in the dark.

There's also a "touch pool" with Stingrays.

They let you stick your hand in the tank to touch a Stingray.

There was one large Stingray (that I touched) and four smaller ones.

Astrid shouted out, "Playground!” when she saw these stacked boxes.

It's one part of the exhibit where kids have room to run around and play.

I don't know exactly what they were doing (trying to catch some marine life possibly), but it was neat to see the staff down in the water with their wetsuits and scuba gear. Astrid pointed and asked, "Man?" It was pretty funny after seeing all the fish and sharks, now only to see a man swimming around.

Looking through the Plexiglas on the floor, at the sunken treasure chest down below.

After that you pass through one more tunnel, and then end up - surprise - at the gift shop.

Some advice - don't dress too warmly - the first part of the exhibit is extremely humid, so be prepared. Also, don’t wear anything green. They take a photo of you in front of a “green screen” for you to purchase (if you like) at the end, and if you're wearing green (like I was), the photo comes out crummy. I was wearing a long sleeved, green shirt and after they photoshopped the background, it affected my shirt as well, and you could see fish swimming through my chest.

It's a nice aquarium and exhibit, and I'm glad Astrid was able to see it. Another tidbit of information: The Shark Reef is the only Nevada institution accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

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