One of Toronto’s newest big attractions is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, with underwater creatures and habitats from across the globe. It’s in a fabulous location, on the harborfront adjoining the CN Tower, Rogers Center and the Convention Center. The aquarium is said to be the largest in North America (with more tank capacity than even the Monterey Bay aquarium, making it one of the top five by size in the world). It has a great architectural design reminding me of a massive whale with it’s mouth open ready to gobble up the tourist throngs and their cash. The complex is massive and sprawling, at 12,500 sq m (135,000 sq ft) and with 5.7 million liters (1.5 million) gallons of tank capacity. Over 16,000 animals are on display, including jellyfish, tropical fish, seahorses, stingrays and many more. Of course, you can’t have an aquarium without a shark display, and Ripley’s has a magnificent predatory shark exhibit including long sand tiger sharks and largetooth sawfish sharks, some reaching up to 3 meters in length (about 10 feet).
There’s a well-defined path that takes you through the aquarium and this blog more or less follows the path the aquarium has designed to take you through its exhibits. There’s a lot of photos in the slideshow below, and I’ve inserted several YouTube clips to give you a good feel for what these exhibits are like.
CANADIAN WATERS Gallery
A highlight of the aquarium is its displays of Canadian aquatic life, including fresh and salt water exhibits. The first major tanks you encounter show the large freshwater fish of the Great Lakes, and another a Pacific Kelp Forest. There are many other smaller exhibits include octopus, eel, anenomes, lobster, and many more.
DANGEROUS LAGOON Gallery
This is by far the most fascinating exhibit in the aquarium and, to me, worth the hefty price of admission. A moving walkway winds through this massive tank. As you stand and watch the abundance of colorful fish and turtles and such, you’ll see your first shark, then another, and another and so on! You’re not walking but moved through a tunnel at the bottom of this, the museum’s largest exhibit, a 2.5 million liter tank; all you need to do is take it all in! It’s quite exhilarating to see monstrous sharks cruise over your head as you get to carefully study their movement and powerful swimming thrusts.
I enjoyed this exhibit so much I went through it twice! Takes maybe 10 minutes each trip through the tank.
RAINBOW REEF Gallery
Designed to give you the impression of aquatic life you might see while snorkeling or diving, the exhibit transports you to the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region. There’s a wonderful assortment of color awaiting you with over 100 species of tropical fish in this massive tank, including Triggerfish, Angelfish, Cardinalfish and Surgeonfish.
A place for kids to run, play and explore. It allows them to more closely interact with the aquatic environment and includes a horseshoe crab “touching pool”. I find horseshoe crabs quite fascinating — like something from the Jurassic era come to life.
Features specialized and often delicate species of fish, such as sea horses, leafy seadragons, lionfish and several other species.
RAY BAY Gallery:
Another terrific exhibit! In a backdrop of fish and a sandy bottom, you get to watch stingrays gracefully glide through the waters of Ray Bay. The exhibit has dozens of rays of three different species in a 300,000 liter tank. A popular feature is to watch the rays feed in the scheduled dive shows.
Several tanks of jellies surrounding you on all sides, you’re moved into a world of slow undulation and translucent creatures moving with the currents. I enjoy seeing jellyfish drift along and watching their bodies pulse as they try to propel themselves. Like watching creatures from another planet! There are five species of jellies featured, including the Pacific Sea Nettle, Moon Jelly, Spotted Lagoon Jelly, Upside-down Jelly.
The end of the road. A tank of sharks and stingrays the kids can touch and feel their rough rubbery skin.
The aquarium has educational programs for children, including day camps, field trips and sleepovers. As you would expect from an attraction of this size, it’s got its own gift shop and cafe.
The aquarium is very busy during the summer months, especially in daylight hours. I explored it after 7 pm, when it’s $5 cheaper and much less crowded. My favorite aquarium remains the Monterey Bay Aquarium because of its more diverse exhibits, but the Dangerous Reef gallery in Ripley’s Aquarium is definitely worth the price of admission.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge and begin slideshow)