It seems like it took forever since the new Ripley's Aquarium of Canada was first announced, but it's here and open to the public after the ceremonial ribbon-cutting this morning, so anyone with $30 can check out ocean life from around the world at the foot of the CN Tower.
As a guy who's watched The Blue Planet multiple times (thank you, Netflix) and has a shark tattoo, I like to think I'm a pretty big fan of aquatic life. I mean, it scares the shit out of me but I love it.
Now, I don't pretend to fully understand it all. Once we get into the explanation of plankton, I give up. But the stuff is interesting as hell and I always wondered why Toronto didn't have a world class aquarium to see great sharks, stingrays and whatnot.
Well, now it does.
So I headed down for the grand opening of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada today with no idea what the situation would be like. I made sure I got there early. This was the scene out front at 9:30am. As you can see, the hysteria was hard for police to contain.
Upon entering, it was clear I had overestimated the attendance. Here we see employees with little to do but act like it's not their first day.
Visitors of Ripley's Aquarium of Canada were greeted by koi fish.
Kids liked the koi fish, but I knew better. The good shit's inside after you pay, kids.
The media set up in preparation of the ribbon-cutting ceremony. I did not have proper credentials to be there but no one stopped me because they were, like, fish nerds.
Speeches were made by a bunch of people.
It was a media and shark frenzy!
My boy Fordsy in the house! You can see his big, red face.
These half-naked mermaids were absolutely appropriate.
So was she.
So after all the B.S., I just wanted to get in there and see what this aquarium was all about. Right away, it's pretty amazing. Look at that massive fish tank. You'd think you were outside, but oh no. This is an optical illusion or some shit. It's the surface of the Dangerous Lagoon, which is the main attraction here. Looking down, you can see guests travelling through the underwater tunnel swarming with sand tiger and reef sharks, sawfish, moray eels, barracudas, and other predatory fish. This also made me question the safety of the girl in the above photo before I noticed the harness.
Basically, once you get into this place it's an Ikea-like maze of fish. There are over 450 species and 16,000 marine animals living at Toronto's Ripley's Aquarium in a total of 5.7-million litres of water. That's a lot, eh.
The Touch Tank is where you can pet the stingrays, which isn't dangerous since they've had their stingers removed. I was wondering if it was humane or not, but they looked pretty happy swimming around and seemed to love being petted. So you're damn right I stepped up and pet the slimy bastards, but not before seeing a few kids do it first to make sure it really was safe.
The little hammerheads aren't as social, but you can pet them too. You can also pet the whitespotted bamboo sharks like the youngens below as well as the horseshoe crabs in their respective tanks.
This is the bottom of the Touch Tank where they have live feeding shows performed by a scuba diver. She is a brave lady who also seemed a little crazy when she mentioned her favourite stingray, “Gives me kisses.”
There's a lot of interactive stuff at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. There are a few shark tanks with their own crawl-through tunnels that aren't exactly adult-friendly, but if you get stuck I'm sure someone can radio to get you out.
One tunnel helped me make friends with this zebra shark.
He was happy and always smiling, but sometimes I thought it was in a sarcastic way.
Some things didn't work yet, like this electric eel zapper that was anything but shocking. It was especially disappointing when I had built up the nerve to touch it after it antagonized me to do so.
The thing I noticed about aquariums is they make you really thirsty after seeing all that water. And hungry for fish. I stopped by the Ripley's Cafe where they did not sell bottled water, but they did have tuna. They also had condiments set up but no hot food to put any of it on. The cash lady explained the kitchen wasn't open yet since it was the first day. She also said once it opens they'll serve chicken fingers, pizza, fries, soups, salad, and normal cafeteria food. For now all they have are pre-wrapped sandwiches, muffins, sliced fruit and drinks.
I got a tuna wrap and a Diet Coke which cost $10.86.
What I realized as I sat there eating my wrap with my bare hands is that the Ripley's Cafe is located directly next to the horseshoe crab Touch Tank, where I had just pet the horseshoe crabs. Whoops!
This one old guy was a boss. Picking up the horseshoe crabs and playing with the claws n' shit.
After eating, I saved the best for last and headed to the Dangerous Lagoon. The underwater tunnel leads guests through a 2.5-million litre tank filled with shit-eating-grin sharks, giant stingrays, schools of fish and elusive sea turtles.
Being opening day and all, there was a bit of a Jurassic Park element to the Dangerous Lagoon, with the possibility of everything going awry. Plus I've seen the Jaws 3-D tunnel scene. But nope, this glass proved so shark smash-proof it was like they've given up and accepted being stuck in a tank for the rest of their lives as the cold truth. Guests are brought through by a super-slow conveyor on the right side of the Lagoon but can step onto the walkway at any time, making everything stroller and wheelchair accessible.
The still floor seemed to be where it was at, with many people spending their time to stop and take in the sights. It also led to a bit of crowding at some points. As slow as the new aquarium was in the morning, it picked up well in the afternoon as people came to check out the new attraction.
It was clear that many small children became horrified by the Dangerous Lagoon, what with its spooky music and being completely surrounded by animals that could kill you. “Go away sharks!” Became the consensus of several children in the Lagoon. Still, some parents took joy in traumatizing their young.
This reporter from Global was in the Dangerous Lagoon. He was loving it too.
Oh, and this guy won the Party Pooper of the Day Award.
I had seen pretty much everything twice in about five hours, and I was ready to go home. This is the gift shop. All guests must exit through the gift shop.
In all, $29.98 admission for adults makes a day at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada a somewhat expensive visit that's both educational and just a cool place to go around looking at fish. At $19.98 for kids aged 6 – 13 and $9.98 for kids aged 3 - 5, it makes for a fun field trip I wish was around when I was a kid.
Ripley's Aquarium of Canada is open from 9am – 9pm every day from now 'til January 4. If you plan on going this weekend, I expect it'll be slammed.
Click here to view the full gallery from my vist and check out videos of the Dangerous Lagoon and official ribbon-cutting ceremony: