Georgia Aquarium Set to Launch New Shark Experiences
With the mantra “turn your fear into fascination,” Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta plans to kick off 2021 by allowing guests to immerse themselves inside a new 1.2-million-gallon exhibit—full of sharks.
The new $100 million expansion features floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular viewing, programs allowing adventurous visitors to enter the water, and a redesigned entrance to the aquarium. Named “Sharks! Predators of the Deep,” the exhibit will be home to shark species like hammerheads and sand tiger sharks.
“We are extremely excited about our most recent expansion,” says Brian Davis, president and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium. “The exhibit will give our guests an opportunity to get close with some of the most impressive and misunderstood animals in the world. We know these are unprecedented times, and we look forward to providing guests with an opportunity for a bit of a reprieve with their family and friends while visiting the aquarium.”
“Sharks! Predators of the Deep” features several engaging experiences, each opening over the next few months.
The “Shark and Ray Interaction” encounter takes place in a pool adjacent to the new exhibit where guests will interact with zebra sharks and stingrays. Starting this month, guests will be outfitted with a wetsuit and then wade into the habitat for an up-close encounter. Several aquarium staff members will be present to guide the interaction and lead a discussion about sharks, their environment, and conservation efforts to preserve them.
The signature experience of the aquarium’s expansion will be the “Shark Cage Dive,” beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. Guides will treat guests 12 and older to a two-hour adventure, culminating with getting into a steel cage to view the sharks. The fee-added experience will include an orientation on the biology, care, study, and conservation of various shark species; a look behind the scenes at the shark habitat; an equipment/safety briefing; the cage dive experience; and a digital photograph.
Participants will wear a wetsuit and booties to keep them warm while in the water. Guests are not required to be dive certified to participate, with participation limited to eight visitors to allow for proper social distancing.
The aquarium says participants will always be accompanied by a member of its Dive Immersion team, and there will be additional Georgia Aquarium staff members on the surface to provide support. All dive team members are certified in CPR, first aid, and providing emergency oxygen.
The dive cage will be submerged and gently move through the habitat. For safety and security, the top 2 feet of the cage will remain out of the water. The aquarium says guests will not physically touch the sharks and stresses that contrary to popular belief, sharks typically leave humans alone.
“We knew this exhibit was going to be unique and impressive, but we also wanted to add elements where guests could not only see the sharks up close, but get fully immersed in their environment,” Davis says. “Most of our guests may never go cage diving in South Africa or other areas of the world. Through careful planning and visionary engineering, we were able to bring a cage dive experience to Georgia Aquarium.”
He adds that the aquarium’s new shark exhibit is designed with the purpose of invoking a new sense of respect and understanding for sharks and the role they play in our oceans.
“We hope all guests leave with a newfound appreciation for them and a willingness to protect them for generations to come,” Davis says.
The cost for the “Shark and Ray Interaction” will be $139.95 for aquarium members and $154.95 for nonmembers. The “Shark Cage Dive” will have a fee of $189.95 for aquarium members and $233.95 for nonmembers.