Inside the AquariumA ragged-tooth shark passes in front of the viewing area of the Predator Exhibit at Two Ocean Aquaruim.
Outside Looking InVisitors looking in at the Predator Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town South Africa.
Up Close and PersonalThe aquarium guarantees perfect conditions and sharks! This photographer gets up close and personal with the "raggies" or ragged-tooth sharks.
Inside the TankA photographer takes a shot of the large ragged-tooth shark in the Predator Exhibit.
Guaranteed sharks – Aquarium Diving
The sign advertised, “Guaranteed sharks.” What scuba diver could possibly walk past that without wanting to find out a little more information? Not me, I was sold.
It was a chilly day in Cape Town, South Africa, with winds gusting 77mph, and my dive buddy and I were being briefed on the perfect conditions of the Predator Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium. I’d always heard about diving experiences in Aquariums, but never tried it before. Better yet, the stars of the Cape Town’s Predator Exhibit are the ragged-tooth sharks, and I’d never seen them before. The tank also had several species of rays, cape salmon, black mussel crackers, mackerel fish, and one very friendly loggerhead turtle.
Our aquarium staff dive master helped us get our gear ready and gave us the low-down on what to expect. We were to descend down one of the walls in the tank, staying close to the wall, which would help prevent disturbing the sharks. Once at the bottom of the tank, we had to stay at the bottom. We would make a few circles around the tank, but never swimming up into the water column- and no peeing in the tank. She also told us we might find shark teeth scattered around the bottom, and we could keep them as a souvenir if we found them. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to search the bottom of the tank when so much marine life would be swimming above me!
We moved our gear to the edge of the tank, and slowly and quietly made our way into the water. With okay signals all around, we descended into the perfectly clear water to the floor of the tank. Our presence didn’t seem to bother the sharks and rays at all, as they continued their business in the tank.
First, a small ray headed towards us on the rocks and almost continued straight over me before slightly diverting its course, swimming right next to my leg. Then came the big show, the largest “raggie” (as the ragged-tooth sharks are lovingly called) swam just feet above us and past the huge glass display that looked out over the large exhibit viewing area. I was watching the large shark and, out of the corner of my eye, noticed the people outside the tank watching the shark as well. We followed the dive master around the tank, seeing the salmon, mackerel, several other raggies, and other fish. She then summoned us over to a corner of the tank and showed us where the loggerhead turtle was sleeping.
The dive lasted for 30 minutes and we had a blast getting so close to the sharks and rays, and being able to get some great photos in the perfect visibility. The coolest part was looking out through the glass at some of the hundreds of visitors who visited the aquarium each day. We waved back to those waving to us outside the tank. I guess divers are part of the marine environment too!
An Aquarium Near You
There are lots of aquariums around the world that offer diving, many offering unique experiences with different marine animals and environments. Some of the coolest experiences include diving in the whale shark tank at the Georgia Aquarium in the United States, and in Singapore, where divers can dive with a dugong. Sharks are always popular and many aquariums include the Florida Aquarium; Melbourne, Australia; Bangkok, Thailand; and London, England offer shark experiences. Disney World’s Epcot Center has a diving experience, as does Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay.
Some aquariums offer volunteer positions that are a way to get involved, for a longer term, at your local aquarium and keep diving. Dive volunteers usually participate in cleaning tanks, feeding the animals, and educating visitors to the aquariums.
Aquariums can also be a place to try scuba diving, as many offer PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving course in the tanks. For those looking to get their full PADI Open Water Diver certification; course work, confined water dives, and open water dives 1 and 2, can do that in an aquarium setting. There are also aquarium specialty courses.
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