3 April 2016

Feeding the Rays at Shark Reef Aquarium, Las Vegas

When it comes to holidays, I'm an over-researcher. Not an over-planner necessarily, you have to be organised for that, but I sure do a lot of reading. If there's a nice tea room nearby, or a cool museum, or, y'know, a place to hand feed marine life, then I want to know about it.

Despite the amount of 'must do in Vegas' lists I'm sure I read in the months before our trip, I don't think I ever spotted the animal encounters at the Shark Reef Aquarium (at the Mandalay Bay hotel) on any of them. I am glad I stumbled across the information on their webpage though, as this was one of my favourite things we did while we were away!

The aquarium runs a couple of animal encounter programs, including offering the opportunity to feed the sharks, sea turtles, and stingrays! We picked the rays for a couple of reasons - I'm quite fond of their weird little flat faces, and figured they wouldn't get as much attention as the 'flashier' sharks. Also it was the cheapest!

Really though, one of the coolest things about the experience is that it largely takes place before the aquarium opens to the public - so you can see all the exhibits without having to try catch glimpses of things through a sea of heads

It also included a private tour through the aquarium, and our guide was super - friendly, fun and full of information. He really made the experience and I wanted him to be my new best buddy!

It wasn't too long until our feeding session, and we were led to the feeding pool and provided with a protective apron and a plate of raw squid. We were instructed on how to hold the between our fingers at the bottom of the pool, so the rays could glide on over and gobble it up.
I can't begin to describe what an odd sensation it was. The rays feel very much like giant raw chicken breasts, with mouths.

The Mr clearly wasn't overkeen on the actual feeding experience (as he had one go at it, and then spent the rest of the session trying to distract the aquarist from his lack of participation by asking lots of ray-related questions), but I loved getting close and friendly with the little critters. There was one big one in particular that was very eager!

I wasn't all that brave though really! There were also horseshoe crabs in the pool that we were taught how to feed but I didn't get on so well with them - all those wiggly legs!

The aquarium isn't huge - our full experience was just a little over an hour - but is really nice: well designed, clean and cared for, with some great things to see. Obviously the rays were my favourite but the giant turtles were lovely and she sharks are always nicely terrifying!

The 'feed the rays' package costs $50 per person - but general entry to the aquarium is $25 anyway, so it's only an extra $25 dollars for the early entry, private tour, feeding session AND a couple of souvenir photographs. Since most places on the Strip seemed to be photos alone for around that price, this was a heck of a deal and a really unique and awesome experience!
You can read about the aquarium and the extras they offer on the Mandalay Bay website here, and if you have any fishy tales or recommendations for me I'd love to hear them!

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