Swim with World’s Largest Fish in World’s Largest Aquarium
Certified divers join the tank’s 6,000 fish in the Ocean Voyager gallery, the largest aquarium exhibit in the world. Man and fish fin toward the thick acrylic wall where spectators watch the action. It’s worth it just to see a kid’s eyes fly open when divers wave at them.
Giant Whale Sharks Co-Exist with Aquarium’s Tiny Fishes
In just 30 feet of water, Journey with Gentle Giants is an intimate dive, surrounded by tiny sergeant majors and giant grouper. Southern stingrays glide by like magic carpets and the rescued whale sharks, 40 to 66 feet long, cast watery shadows as big as Greyhound buses.
One whale shark, Taroko, is famous for mouthing bubbles. “It’s his spa treatment,” jokes divemaster Jeremy Smedendorf.
After a seated entry, divers share the tank with three great hammerhead sharks, zebra sharks, and sand tiger sharks, plus thousands of other fish from the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.
Some fish are bought, some are caught and some are acquired through trades with other aquariums. Others are born at the aquarium.
Look for the bow mouth guitarfish, leopard whip ray, crimson snapper, large-tooth sawfish, leopard whiprays and humphead wrasses as schools of tarpon, pompano and cownose rays float by.
New Manta-Ray Joins Whale Sharks at Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium added its second manta ray this year, a 425-pound female more than eight feet across. Collected off the Florida coast, this manta joins the aquarium’s original manta, Nandi. The manta ray is listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Georgia Aquarium is the only one in the U.S. to ever house two manta rays, and one of only four aquariums in the world to display this species.
Swimmers Can Fin with Whale Sharks, too, at the Aquarium
Journey with Gentle Giants isn’t limited to divers in wet suits and masks. Swimmers, too, can suit up in a special buoyancy vest that allows them to go along with the fishy flow.
Three dive masters accompany each swim or dive, which are half-hour guided tours. Each group begins with a classroom session. Then it’s into the 6.3-gallon tank for the swim of life.
- By any measure, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world.
- The aquarium building is 550,000 square feet.
- Georgia Aquarium contains just more than eight million gallons of fresh and saltwater.
In addition, the Georgia Aquarium welcomed its 10 millionth guest on June 25, 2009, setting a new attendance record for U.S. aquariums.
How to Scuba Dive and Swim with Whale Sharks at Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium is at 225 Baker St. downtown, next to the World of Coca-Cola and Centennial Olympic Park. It’s open 365 days a year
The dive program is offered at 3 p.m. daily, and the swim program at 4:30 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, there is an additional dive at 11 a.m.
The dive program costs $325 for non-members and 10% off for members, including admission to the Aquarium, all equipment, the dive, certificate of participation, t-shirt, and souvenir photo. The aquarium supplies the mask, fins, tank, buoyancy device, regulator, weights, wetsuit, booties, and towels. Personal masks are permitted but will be disinfected.
The swim program is $225 for non-members and 10% off for members, including admission, all equipment, swim, certificate of participation, t-shirt, and souvenir photo.
Reservations Required to Swim and Dive with Whale Sharks
Reservations are required: online or by calling the Georgia Aquarium Call Center at 404-581-4000. Walk-up tickets can be purchased if available, but you must buy them at least two hours before the scheduled Journey with Gentle Giants program.
All participants must be 12 and older. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a participating adult. Proof of SCUBA certification from a nationally or internationally recognized organization is required for divers, along with a photo ID.
The Aquarium has designed its locker room and dive platform to accommodate people with disabilities. Just tell the call center you have special needs and someone from the dive program will call you before your visit.