I took one half of the kids up to Marathon a few weeks ago to the new Aquarium Encounters and I confess that I probably was more excited than they were, as I had been wanting to try out this ever since I heard about it. Being a concierge I am always looking for things for kids to do, even big kids like me. And for someone that spent a lot of her childhood playing with all of the fun creatures I caught and released in our backyard or in the waters surrounding the island this sounded perfect.
Getting to interact with the Stingrays was honestly one of the coolest things I have ever done. After showering and getting into our wet suits (a first for all of us, lots of laughing going on) we headed into the tank. Petting and feeding them was amazing! They are such graceful and beautiful animals, and they were so friendly! Hint, their favorite treat is squid...
The spotted ray named Daisy was my favorite, followed closely by the huge one named Big Mama.
The park has several areas, including touch tanks and lots of opportunities to feed tarpon, sharks, rays and other tropical fish. We spent a good part of time at the touch tanks learning about the different animals.
In addition to the smaller tanks they have their own mini reef where you can swim with larger fish, and feed sharks through underwater feeding ports. They also have a lagoon encounter where you can swim and interact with hundreds of fish. The great thing about the snorkeling encounters is that the whole area is protected, so on windy days when the ocean is rough it is calm and protected there and the visibility is good. The groups are small and you have an instructor with you to point out the things you may otherwise miss. Our guide Neneke explained how the park was a long time dream of a boy born and raised in Marathon who is finally able to share the beauty and wonder of the inhabitants of the ocean in his hometown, which will help raise awareness to protect them.
My Grands loved the sandbox where they could dig for sharks teeth, which they got to keep, and the food at the cafe was really good, not your usual snack type place. The fish sandwich was really good, although I have to confess by that point I felt a little guilty eating it after hanging out with their relatives all day.....=/
All in all it was a fantastic day. I cannot say enough about the staff. They were so welcoming, upbeat and really invested in their jobs, we felt like treasured guests. It's so wonderful to see that enthusiasm and I know they will pass it on to my guests. You can also do a guided aquarium tour, which I highly recommend. Special Thanks to Nineke, your love and dedication for the property really shines through. To find out more, just go to their website - http://www.floridakeysaquariumencounters.com. We can't wait to go back...next time - shark feeding!