A whitish-colored blob with bulging eyes hovered stock-still in Lake Okeechobee’s shallow Moonshine Bay, illuminated by Captain Charles “Skeeter” Holland’s headlamp. “Okay,” …
Aquarium Gets Kids Interested in Oceans
Snorkeling in the St. Augustine Aquarium, I was fascinated by the three stingrays that circled the 80,000-gallon tank. The rays would often stop and attach themselves to the windows where young children and their parents watched from outside and pointed excitedly.
As a scuba diver and shallow-water angler, I’ve observed literally thousands of stingrays in the wild, but not until well into adulthood. I tried to imagine what it must be like for a five-year-old to see such a strange-looking creature up close for the very first time. Judging by the kids’ reactions, it was a wondrous marvel.
And that’s the coolest thing about the recently-opened aquarium: it’s a window to the marine world for children– bound to pique their interest in the oceans and the creatures that inhabit them.
The shallow, 78-degree tank holds more than 250 fish and marine animals of 25 species, including spiny lobsters, porkfish, lookdowns (also called moonfish), grunts, parrotfish, angelfish, and rock beauties, plus the stingrays. Visitors can book guided snorkeling tours daily, with all gear included.
For those who don’t feel like getting wet, there are touch tanks holding horseshoe crabs, starfish, and other invertebrates, a live seahorse exhibit, educational talks, and tanks where you can observe a juvenile Goliath grouper and a weird-looking Atlantic guitarfish, and pay extra to feed nurse sharks and rays. I think a lot of the kids were startled at the loud sucking noise emitted by the sharks as they gulped the baits on the surface using the powerful pumps in their jaws.
After touring the aquarium, visitors can stroll across the parking lot and fly through the sky on seven ziplines and other treetop conveyances at the Castaway Canopy Adventure. Swinging through the full range of lines, sky bridges and towers takes up to about two hours– all under the supervision of professional guides. Advanced bookings are recommended at OldCityZip.com.
For more information and reservations for the St. Augustine Aquarium, visit www.saaquarium.com or call 904-429-9777. To book a hotel room for your stay, check out Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort on St. Augustine Beach, soon to re-open as a Guy Harvey Outpost. Call 1-800-513-5257.