Toronto is a city on a body of water. In fact, it's on a lake, a rather huge lake, a lake that some people would call Great.
This lake is filled with animals, bass and perch and trout and eels and lots of other things ...
Recently, however, new species of animals have been spotted by the lake: sharks and sting rays and jellyfish .. oh my
What is this the cause of all this: Pollution? Red tides? A sea life Diaspora?
Um, no ... all this sea life is by the lake, not in the lake, it's in the recently opened Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
Collette and I have been excited about this place even before it opened. We've been to Seaworld and Bush Gardens in Orlando; we stayed at a hotel across the road from Seaworld and in five days we visited three times. We've also snorkelled on barrier reefs in Costa Rica and Belize so yeh, we is kind of into fishies
The aquarium is laid out as a kind of journey, as you walk through the building you pass through different marine environments. You start off in Canada, with a 665,000 litre tank filled with various Great Lakes fish; it's like Bass Pro Shop on steroids
From the Great Lakes you go through Canadian oceans; on the video you'll see a shot of the Pacific kelp bed tank, they have a simulated tide in which the fish hold themselves still as the motion bobs them up and down ... like couch potato fish. From the Atlantic, they had a display of lobsters, they came in more colours than I had anticipated
From the Canadian gallery we entered Rainbow Reef, representing tropical environments one would find in the Indo-Pacific regions. As I said, we've swam on some tropical reefs we recognized some of the fish, such as tangs and clownfish, lion fish and trigger fish
We did not, however, recognize the exotic creature below ...
Turns out this a sea mammal called Trudy .. well I don't know if that was here name, but she is one of the keepers at the Aquarium. Many of the exhibits feature regularly scheduled feeding "shows" where a diver is in the tank feeding the animals with another keeper outside to give you the highlights of the exhibit and answer questions.
The next exhibit was called Dangerous Lagoon; I was looking forward to this one as it seemed similar to something we had seen at Seaworld in Orlando. A moving sidewalk, they claim the largest in North America, takes you through a tank that hold 2.5 million litres of water and hundreds of animals, including 14 species of shark.
It's an immersive experience, you move through the tank, it's like a tunnel with the tank actually arching over you, where animals swim across, over your head, kind of makes you feel prey and yeh, couple of times I may have prayed just a bit
This "shark" tunnel compares very well to the one in Orlando, it may even be longer and it was exciting as the sharks swam by you, only inches away
Mind you, not all the residents of Dangerous Lagoon were so dangerous, and the survival of these other animals spoke to the dedication of the aquarium staff to keeping everyone well fed
One of my favorite exhibits was Plane Jelly. It was all things jelly, all the time. It featured an enormous glass wall, stretching far above my head, where Pacific Nettle jelly fish floated by you in enormous numbers; it was almost hypnotic and I was pleased to see that the aquarium had built benches where one could lose themselves in this jellyfish limbo
On our way to the next exhibit, Collette and I encountered an amazing animal that neither of us had before seen, even on TV, nor even heard of. The Leafy Sea Dragon. It's related to the Sea Horse but it was like something out of a fantasy movie or fairy tale; people stood there, transfixed, watching this delicate lacy looking creature float around
We ended our visit by going upstairs, where you could look down into the huge tank that is Ray Bay. There are ray in there, which you are encouraged to touch as they swim by and sharks, which you are discouraged from touching. All the rays in the aquarium have had their barbs shaved up ... huh ... are they Jewish?
Think about it
There is a lot more to this place than I've covered here. We spent about three hours there. You can whisk right through, but it's like a zoo, you can spend a lot of time just watching the animals interact.
If you're planning to visit I have a few thoughts:
TICKETS: Buy your tickets online. When we visited on the weekend, the line ups to purchase tickets were out the door. You can buy tickets for a specific day or, for a few dollars more, buy tickets that can be used on any day up to a year from the day of purchase
FOOD: This is the one area where the aquarium is rather weak. There is a single cafeteria with way too little sitting. The food is pizza and hot dogs and wrapped sandwiches, more snack than meal.
WATER: They don't sell bottled water but there are fountains in the bathrooms and in the cafeteria so just a bring a bottle you can fill up
CROWDS: As I said, the place was busy and I expect it will be on most weekends for some time to come. Generally the crowds weren't too bad but they did bottleneck in a few places, give yourself some time to let the crowds ebb so you can concentrate on the exhibits that most interest you
In general we were very pleased with our visit, this aquarium stands up very well to Orlando and Bush Gardens, falling down mostly in the food dept. Unlike Orlando Seaworld and the one in Niagra Falls it does not have whales or dolphins but that also means it does not have the shows featuring those animals and for that, I am glad
Well, you may get the chance to see a whale, a huge white crack snorting whale .. but that would just be our mayor
Here's the video