AQUARIUM DIVE #4 can only be summed up as…..
The Georgia Aquarium is located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and is the largest aquarium in the world (Our dive in another of the world’s large aquariums can be found here). These types of aquarium dives open up the opportunity for adventurous travelers to plumb the depths of an ocean environment without ever actually having to set foot in one.
The dive my Lil’ Road Dog and I did is known as…Journey with Gentle Giants. It is one of the rarest opportunities in the world where you’re guaranteed to dive with whale sharks, manta rays and thousands of other sea creatures.The cost of the dive is pricey. We are not members of the aquarium, so the fee at the time of our dive was $333.95 (members $279.95). In the end though, I felt it was worth the cost.
The dives occur daily at 3pm during the week, and includes an 11am one on Saturday and Sunday. We booked a 3pm weekday dive. The price included all the needed equipment (minus your swimsuit), a T-shirt and group photo. General Admission (ranging from $29.95-$35.95) for the aquarium is NOT included, and neither is on-site parking (ranging from $10-$12). So, keep all these added costs in mind.
You must be at least 12 years old to participate and have proof of Open Water SCUBA certification from a nationally recognized agency, along with a photo ID. Any participant under the age of 18 must be accompanied in the water by a participating adult. The dive lasts for 30 minutes and is limited to 8 divers, not including the in-water personnel.
If you have friends and family joining you, they can watch from the tunnel and big window located in the Ocean Voyager exhibit. They must have purchased general admission tickets in order to do so.
My Lil’ Road Dog and I arrived at the aquarium a couple of hours early in order to view the exhibits and catch the dolphin show. Which, by the way, was wonderful. No pictures were allowed of the show.
As our 3pm dive time approached, and my Lil’ Road Dog’s excitement level increased, we made our way to the check-in location. This was the Animal Interactions desk, located next to the Ocean Voyager exhibit, built by The Home Depot. You must check-in 30 minutes prior to your experience.
The entire animal encounter experience lasts for 2.5 hours and includes a 30-minute SCUBA dive in the Ocean Voyager exhibit. The exhibit holds 6.3 million gallons of water and ranges in depth from 20 to 33 feet deep. Perfect, for a newbie scuba diver honing their skills.
Once we arrived at the check-in desk, they asked for our C-Cards (SCUBA Certification) and my photo ID. They checked it against their registration list and made sure we had filled out and signed all the necessary waivers. Our names appeared on a video screen above the desk under our designated animal encounter experience.
Then, we waited for our Greeter Lauren, to escort us behind the scenes. She eventually arrived and led us to the topside portion of the Ocean Voyager exhibit. This is the area where we entered the water to start our dive.
We all introduced ourselves to each other and then were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the area and told more in-depth about the exhibit, the animals, and the dive. The Georgia Aquarium has four juvenile whale sharks, ranging in size from 15-25 feet. Their names are: Alice, Trixie, Yushan, and Taroko.
We were then led to the locker rooms (one for women and one for men), in order to change. This was a concierge dive, like the one we did at Epcot in DisneyWorld. There were lockers with our names on them containing all the needed dive gear. The locker room itself was spacious, clean, and well stocked. There were also towels in our lockers, along with a bottle of water, and the shower stalls contained shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. There were bins for the wetsuits and a swimsuit spinner all located inside the changing area.
After suiting up and exiting the locker rooms, we were given a safety dive briefing from the Lead Diver, James, and paired with a dive buddy (if possible). We only had seven in our group, due to a last minute drop out (cold/sick related). So, odd man out is always the trailing shark bait (joke-sorta). We were all instructed to stay with the group, behind Lead Diver James, and with our designated dive buddy (mine being my Lil’ Road Dog). We were also accompanied by Safety Diver Susan, and Videographer Liz. Our topside Tender was Amanda.
Whale sharks are gentle creatures and will not attack you (plankton eaters, NOT people eaters). But, it is possible to get injured due to their enormous size. So, the most important rule stated…..“Look, but don’t touch”.
Then, all the participants posed together on a small bridge over the water for a group photo, which we were given at the conclusion of the dive.
Next, we were told to go to the topside edge of the aquarium and sit beside the number corresponding to our dive equipment and start donning our fins. The dive staff then proceeded to come by and help everyone put on their already fully assembled BC, tank, and regulator. All that was left to do at that point was to put on our masks and wait for our entrance and descent turn. My Lil’ Road Dog did great with his descent and equalization.
Whale shark encounters rank near the top of any diving bucket list. With a head like the hood of a Hum V, dizzying dots and tiny eyes mismatched with its sheer mass, this gentle animal is the largest fish in the oceans, and we both got to have the experience of a lifetime.
It was one thing to get to view from from outside the tank, but to actually dive with them was beyond amazing. It was exhilarating! They were massive, but docile. Despite their enormous size, they display great grace. Whale sharks are considered to be one of the most ancient species on our planet, pre-dating the dinosaurs.
Our dive time went by extremely too fast. Yet, we were grateful and appreciative of the time we were given. We all headed back to the locker rooms to shower and change. Afterwards, we gathered in a small classroom to view the video footage shot by Liz and edited by Niki. Of course, it was available for purchase (which I did), along with other types of merchandise (besides the included T-shirt and photo).
We were both in awe of the experience. These mysterious and majestic animals are harmless and elegant, and this LunaSea Adventure is definitely one we will cherish forever.
Be sure to be on the lookout for next month’s Aquarium Dive…..Coming Soon !!!