Two weeks ago, SeaWorld Orlando quietly unveiled a partial rehab of its Shark Encounter, an attraction that allows guests to walk through aquariums full of fish and sharks. The room guests pass through before entering the shark aquarium tunnel previously housed all manner of frogs and drew in young guests with bright green theming and piped in “ribbits.” In the past, this seemed to be a strange location for such an exhibit; sharks, lion fish and poisonous frogs seemed to be an unusual mix.
Now that area immerses guests into the world of sharks through the use of interactive activities, informational resources, unique exhibits and oceanic lighting. The exhibit is intended to be both entertaining and educational, and provides a number of interesting (and often surprising) facts and resources for guests to consider as they travel through the shark aquarium in the following portion of the exhibit.
Upon first entering the exhibit, guest’s eyes are drawn to a massive set of real Great White shark jaws. Children and adults alike can climb through a crawlspace and pose for a photo through the multiple sets of razor sharp teeth. This portion of the exhibit, referred to as a “pop-up,” is scary, but also fun! Be sure to practice your best shark impression before your next visit!
One of the exhibit’s most unique aspects is a small tank referred to as the “egg candle aquarium.” Shark eggs are nestled in the nooks and crannies of synthetic rocks, and guests can light up the tank by pressing a button beside the tank. When the lights turn on, guests can view the progress of the unborn sharks growing in the eggs. If you look in the picture below — click the image to view it full-screen — you can see a shark that is nearly fully developed in the bottom of the rock. Sources tell us that this egg recently hatched, and the shark “pup” (as they are called in infancy) has been moved to another aquarium in the exhibit. SeaWorld may intend to add additional aquariums as the exhibit progresses in order to display adolescent sharks sorted by advancing stages of development.
Although fun is certainly a consideration for the exhibit, education is SeaWorld’s primary goal. As they progress through the exhibit, guests are invited to view the underwater world through the eyes of the ocean’s most feared predators. Flickering and shifting blue lights give the impression that visitors are walking through water, and silhouettes hung from the ceiling seem to be creatures on the ocean surface. This illusion, featuring silhouettes of a sea lion, surfer and sea turtle, is intended to demonstrate one of the most common reasons sharks attack – mistaken identification. SeaWorld encourages guests to think past the fearful imagery of savage sharks and perpetuated stereotypes (Jaws, anyone?) in order to encourage conservation of the aquatic creatures.
There are a number of other interactive elements to the exhibit, including an opportunity for guests the see how they measure up to various sharks and a virtual presentation that features videos and information about how sharks are vital members of the oceanic ecosystem.
SeaWorld’s Shark Encounter has always been one of the most breathtaking exhibits in the park, and this new renovation creates a better atmosphere and provides more educational opportunities for guests of all ages. Be sure to stop by the exhibit during your next trip to the park and learn more about these not-so-scary predators before seeing them up-close in the shark aquarium!
Official site: http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando/Attractions/Exhibits/Shark-Encounter
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