Diving in the A-T-L (Atlanta)
We wanted to make a trip to Georgia to visit family. First thing that came to mind was what else would we do in Georgia. A trip to America is always fun especially since we live on an island now, but what else could we do besides spending the day shopping and eating. First thing that pops up on the internet about Georgia is the Georgia Aquarium which is located in Atlanta.
Their Journey with Gentle Giants program allows you to Scuba dive or swim in the Georgia Aquarium. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest if not the largest aquarium in the world. The total amount of water in the aquarium is over 10,000,000 gallons of water. The main tank contains about 6,300,000 gallons of water, with several thousand fish. Among these fish included the whale sharks. Diving with whale sharks in the largest aquarium in the world? Just take my money!
This diving program cost about $335 then plus taxes and the video of your adventure costs another $50. All the proceeds go towards their 4R program for research and conservation efforts. Unfortunately you are not permitted to bring your own camera. Majority of our photos are taken from the video we purchased so we apologise for some of the poor quality of our pictures. Though expensive this unique experience was well worth it. The aquarium also offers a tour for anyone travelling with you so they could photograph your experience from outside the tank.
Once we got to the aquarium we had time before the dive to walk around the many exhibits of this aquarium. The Ocean Voyager was the largest exhibit that contains the whale sharks, where we will be swimming in. Once you reach the main viewing section it literally takes your breath away. The viewing window is 61 ft by 23 ft, which glows the dark room to a calming blue hue. You actually feel as though you are underwater with the fishes. Then the large whale sharks swam by. It looks absolutely unreal. Now more than ever we were ready to take the plunge into the aquarium.
We met with the other 3 divers and the dive master for a briefing of the dive. We went over the rules of what to do and not to do. No touching the whale sharks or any other animals was allowed. The aquarium was very protective of their animals, if we were caught touching any of the animals we would be immediately escorted off the premises. We needed to also stay out of the whale sharks way which was near the top of the tank. This rule was for our protection as being hit by one of them was compared to being hit by a truck.
The staff encouraged us to ask questions as we watch them feed the whale sharks, pulling small rafts on the top of the exhibit along a string & slowly scattering the food. The reason why they need to move back and forth is because whale sharks have ram ventilators which require them to swim in order to continuously filter the water allowing to oxygenate. Other specifies of sharks have buccal muscles that can draw water into their mouth so they can breathe without having to swim.
We changed into their wet suits and went right in. Instantly you see all the fishes and rays. The waters visibility is amazing, you can see from one end to the other. The density of marine life was impressive, we have never seen so many marine animals together. It looked as though we were in a city of fishes. Everywhere we turned there was something new, schools of rays swimming over us, under us and right up to us. Massive groupers looking right at us, while reef sharks swam around and around. Once the whale sharks came around everything else seemed to pale in comparison, they were definitely the stars of the show. Since this was our first aquarium dive, touching the glass was an experience. It was 2 feet thick.
As we swam above the world's largest viewing tunnel we saw our family waving back to us on the other side. We were warned to swim slowly as we approached the glass to avoid a bird hitting the window moment, which would be quite embarrassing with the numerous bystanders watching. It was a different experience to be on the other side of the glass. At one perspective you can say we were observing a tank full of humans, kids laughing while slapping the glass, adults taking pictures and pointing. On the other hand you feel as though you are the exhibit while people point at you waving and other trying to take a selfie with you. Either way it was an awesome experience.
The density and diversity of animals were breathtaking. Our fins were especially stiff which restricted us from moving too quickly allowing us to enjoy the sights around us.The density of animals was mind blowing and we were careful not to disturb the sting rays and adjusted our buoyancy with our BCD to avoid touching the bottom. All the fish and rays swam so close to us. There was the impressive looking sawfish, large groupers, a 250lb sea turtle, manta rays and various specifies of sharks.
Unaware to us at the time, a diver behind us had his mask knocked off by a Humphead Wrasse. They're not sure why this fish does this but they believe that it is attracted to seeing it's reflection in masks and cameras .
After about 35 minutes we ascended back to the diving dock. We went to our locker rooms, showered and went back into the classroom to view our adventurer, receive our shirts and our dive sticker. The Georgia Aquarium really is an impressive aquarium, the size and the different amount of exhibits is truly a marvel. Whats also amazing is the amount of volunteers that volunteer their time to have the aquarium running smoothly.The aquarium has only 400 employees and 2000 volunteers that help keep the facility running smoothly.
The day at the aquarium was truly an amazing experience and the dive will definitely be one of our most memorable dives.
Costs: $355 Diving & Admission + $50 Video (Optional Purchase)
Bring: Googles, Swim Suit
Provided: Towel, Water, T-Shirt, Locker, Shampoo, Soap, Wet Suit, Goggles & Flippers
Options: Rebreather For Longer Dive, Whale Shark Specialty
*Cameras are not allowed in the exhibit, the majority of our photos were taken from the video we purchased