When we told them that we were going to an aquarium (a first for them), and that we would be taking the bus and subway to get there (another first), they could hardly contain their excitement. The questions were endless; would there be turtles, sharks, fish, Nemo? None of us knew what we were in for.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Exceeded all Our Expecations – And Some!
The Aquarium is a 12,500 square-metre awe-inspiring attraction with more than 5.7 million litres of water highlighting marine and freshwater habitats from around the world. With 9 galleries and 16,000 fish, there is plenty to see and do.
We were impressed from the very beginning with the “Canadian Water” Gallery. Here we explored 17 habitats that highlighted the diversity of our waters. I knew that Canada has many types of water bodies as well as sizes but there were examples of aquatic life that I had never heard of before. Next up was the Pacific Kelp Viewing. The tank was two stories high and showed what life must be like right down to the kelp swaying with the current.
After viewing the Rainbow Reef, we came across the Dangerous Lagoon. The exhibit itself wasn’t dangerous but the large marine creatures sure were. If you’re afraid or claustrophobic, just take the detour available.
Feel like You’re Swimming with the Sharks in the Underwater Tunnel
As you enter the underwater tunnel, you feel like you’re walking “into the water”. Thankfully, I never once felt closed in or threatened because I am deathly afraid of sharks*. I appreciated the placards along the route because if you didn’t get a chance to see all the aquatic creatures in real life, you could read about it.
A great design feature was that of a dual path; moving and non-moving sidewalk. I appreciated the moving sidewalk because it allowed people to stop and take pictures (and there’s lots to take pictures of) without holding others up. I’m not sure how long it took to view the entire route because I was so caught up in the moment and there was so much to see. Maybe 20 minutes. Next time, I think that I’ll do that exhibit twice because I was so star struck the first time.
An Interactive Aquarium Experience.
I’d been to tons of aquariums before and only once was there any interaction between the residents and the public. However, this time around, things were different and the Life Support Systems Gallery turned out to be Artemis’ favourite part of the day. She pet sting rays, horseshoe crabs and sharks. A unique educational experience was when several of the females had laid eggs and they were lying in the exhibit. The Kids got to learn about their reproduction process and ask questions about what would happen to the eggs** Max’s favourite was the crawl through tunnel (intended for kids) and the Great Lakes Dam exhibit.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see their “Live Dive Shows where a diver communicates with the audience, however, we got a close second. It’s obvious from the size of the facility that there is a lot of upkeep. So, we got wondering as to how they keep the aquariums clean and then we saw this. You can’t tell from the picture but he had (what appeared to be) a hard bristled brush and he was scrubbing the walls. Note that the Exit sign was not inside the tank but a reflection from my side.
While I realize that the Aquarium is new and that it’s the Summer, I was still surprised to see how crazy busy it was. At 11am, the line up was out the door, around the corner and beyond. When we exited at 3pm, it appeared that the line hadn’t moved at all. If you want to avoid the crowds, try buying your tickets tickets online and skip the line or come after 4pm. The doors open from 9am to 11pm so you’d still have more than enough time to see everything. Even with all the people, I found that the tanks and galleries were well laid out and kept the crowds moving and they didn’t detract from our experience in the least.
My only complaint was the disorganization of the Discovery Centre and inadequate size of the Ripley’s Café. Perhaps it’s because the washrooms are near by and there’s a jungle-gym like feature but people were standing around and it was difficult to keep track of The Kids. As for the café, there were very few seats and they were limited to those purchasing food. I suggest that you arrive with a full stomach and bring your own water as we couldn’t find a kiosk that sold them (although there were water fountains everywhere).
There are aquariums and then there is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. It really stands out on its own for so many reasons. There is something about entering the 2.5 million litre Dangerous Lagoon tank that can’t be conveyed into words. If you have time this Summer, stop by and be amazed. If you don’t have time, I highly recommend that you make time. It’s well worth it.
Explore the Wonder of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada!
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Note that this is the third of five attractions in our “What To Do with your Family This Summer in Toronto”.
*Sharks are my #1 fear and I was not to afraid to go on this exhibit. Now, if I’d had to get in a cage in the water with them, that would be another story.
** The staff at the exhibit was very knowledgeable. She informed us that over the next few days, they would remove the eggs and see if there was an embryo inside. If so, they would be taken and cared for.
A big thanks to Nanna and Uncle Andrew for coming along with us!
Disclosure: Journeys of The Zoo received compensation that enabled us to complete this review.