Three formidable tiger sharks cruised toward me…eyeing me in a manner suggesting I might make a fine lunch, or at least a suitable appetizer. Two split off but the larger of the trio swam directly above me, only a few feet away and close enough to get a detailed view of a mouthful of razor sharp teeth.
Two months previously I had been playing tag for real with sharks on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This time though I had the security of Toronto’s Ripley Aquarium’s thick Plexiglas between me and these aquatic predators. The moving sidewalk in the facility’s Dangerous Lagoon provides a more accessible option for those looking for a face to face experience with some of the ocean’s most interesting creatures. Other denizens of Dangerous Lagoon include roughtail stingrays, green sawfish, green sea turtles and sandbar sharks.
One doesn’t normally expect to have an awe-inspiring oceanic experience on Bremner Boulevard at the foot of Toronto’s soaring CN Tower and many miles from the nearest salt water, but that is what Ripley’s provides. Of course there are also Canadian Water exhibits featuring some of the freshwater inhabitants including many in nearby Lake Ontario. Visitors should also experience the Pacific kelp forest, complete with waves, and be dazzled by the Rainbow Reef with its colorful array of coral and reef dwellers including picasso triggerfish, emperor angelfish and pajama cardinalfish.
All told there are 9 distinct habitats, six salt water and three fresh water in the aquarium giving a varied and amazing window on the world of marine life. Even the meticulously maintained life support systems are on display for visitors to inspect.
The aquarium, completed in 2013 at a cost of 130 million dollars is a must-see for any visitor to Toronto. It provides a perspective on the world that many of us will never have the opportunity to see in real life. Myriads of youngsters cavorted around like shoals of minnows as I toured the facility. I could only wonder how many might be spurred by the exhibit to pursue a career in the biological sciences…or at least be inspired to a greater curiosity and awareness of the natural world around them.
Photos George Burden – All Rights Reserved
Shark video taken at aquarium by Bob Dale