Camden Adventure Aquarium is known for taking people to new lengths when interacting with the many aquatic animals their state-of-the-art facility holds. Whether it’s playing with penguins, hanging with sea turtles or watching one of the many feedings (hippos, penguins, and stingrays—oh my!) there is so much to do that truly gets you an up-close and personal look at some of the magnificent animals that call the CAA home. But one of the most exclusive and unique encounters definitely has to be the Shark and Ray In-Water Encounter that brings guests inches away from sharks, fish and stingrays like never before.
The Encounter is a full experience. Guests who sign up (visit AdventureAquarium.com or call 844-474-3474) will get a walk-through of the Shark Realm where you get your first look at your future swimming-buddies. The Aquarium offers different and one-of-a-kind views of the sharks through their shark tunnel underneath the 21-foot exhibit or across their shark bridge—which happens to be the largest of its kind in the country.
After checking out the different viewpoints of the sharks and learning more about them, guests then can prepare to enter the water.
The Aquarium provides guests with wetsuits and snorkel masks (masks can be kept after the encounter is over), all you have to bring before bravely diving in is bathing suits, towels, water shoes and toiletries to shower with after your swim.
Once you’re all set with equipment, the fun really begins. Swimmers are led by guides into the shark exhibit with no glass, no net—but only a 5 to 6-foot wall as a barrier between them and the many species of sharks that live in the exhibit. The sharks are not shy either, but there is nothing to worry about. There are trained Aquarium staff present throughout the whole Encounter to guide the sharks along the wall and away from guests every time they swim up while still having them close enough to provide an incredible view. It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience.
“Initially it’s a little mix of excitement and nerves, but as soon as guests get in the water and they see that the sharks are really just swimming about and minding their own business—the reaction just turns to wow, I’m in the water with these incredible creatures,” says Samantha Ehinger, a Biologist at the Adventure Aquarium and one of the employees who works the encounters.
After hanging with the sharks for about 15 minutes, guests then have the opportunity to hang out with stingrays in an adjacent exhibit to the sharks—- and if you think that encounter will be less exciting you are in for a treat. Ehinger even remarked that most guests come for the sharks, but stay for the stingrays.
The stingrays are a lot more up-close and personal, and they will touch you. But there is nothing to fear— they are more like puppies meeting a new friend (or just really excited for the food they know they are about to get) and really just want to play. Guests can feed the stingrays and snorkel with them as well, but most likely you’ll want to just move in and become best friends with the adorable rays.
After you spend some quality time with the stingrays you can either head back to hang with the sharks or stay with the rays a little longer— you choose your own adventure based on what you want to do, which helps make the experience unique and enjoyable. Also, everything is by choice—you don’t have to participate in both parts of the encounter, it’s all what you’re comfortable with. But both are extremely worth it and pretty unforgettable.
“People are usually a bit nervous to get in the water with these animals because they have this bad reputation, but we do this to show that these are amazing creatures and they can really be appreciated. It’s just an amazing experience to be in the water with these animals who you may never normally get the opportunity to interact with in other situations,” says Alex Middlebrook, a biologist at the Adventure Aquarium who also frequently works the encounters.
The Shark and Ray In-Water Encounter at the Camden Adventure Aquarium also gets guests free Aquarium admission, a T-Shirt and free parking for one car per paid participant. To learn more about the Aquarium, the Encounter and to book your adventure visit adventureaquarium.com