It’s perfectly safe, but it feels dangerous. It’s confining, it rocks and jerks with every movement, and the line behind means there’s no turning back. Shark Bridge sways inches above a 385,000-gallon tank brimming with sharkrays, stingrays and sharks. For 75 feet, the openings in the netting of the V-shaped bridge reveal fins and ominous dark shapes cutting through the water below.
Just weeks ago, Newport Aquarium opened Shark Bridge, the only one in North America. Crossing it is a thrill, and the Aquarium recently added still more thrills. Rare, scalloped hammerhead sharks now swim in the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit, and an Otter Exhibit in Canyon Falls now features a tank of playful Asian small-clawed otters, along with an exciting, educational show, Otter Talk.
Otter Talk is one of several shows at Newport Aquarium. The Penguin Parade opens the aquarium every morning, and Penguin Palooza adds animated friends to facts and fun about the entertaining birds. Ask questions about the animals and learn about their environment at Dive Shows in the Shark Ray Bay Theater, and take advantage of opportunities to watch training and feeding at the Aquarium at timed events throughout the day.
Guests can also get some hands-on experiences of their own. On our visit, we timidly touched a horseshoe crab and mollusk at the Tide Pool while the guide told us about the sea creatures. Later, we touched a turtle shell, and at the Shark Central exhibit, the guide explained the two finger petting technique and we dipped in our fingers and felt the soft, leathery skin of several species of sharks.
Kids can hop into their own adventures at Frog Bog. Youngsters up to the age of 12 can search the tunnels and tubes of the jungle gym for secret frog tanks. Everyone is welcome to climb on three-foot statues of frogs that sing, or to play a game of Frogger, all while surrounded by exotic frogs from around the world.
And, of course, the exotic aquatic animals are the main attraction of Newport Aquarium. Whether graceful and beautiful, or awkward and creepy, the creatures in every tank inspire awe: the fluttering gills, the marching crabs, the stealthy moves of eels slithering into hollow logs. The exhibits glow amid low lighting, soothing music, and the natural sounds of the ecosystem — birds chirping, insects humming, and waves lapping. Each tank also provides a new, living game of “I Spy.” Where’s that? What’s that? A glance at signage gives answers and clues, but the fish — upside down, glowing, glittering, still or swimming fill us with wonder and a sense of fun.
We watched one tot scamper through the exhibits with his grandmother. The little boy pointed to fish, told all about them, and paused and posed for frequent photos. In the acrylic tunnel of the Coral Reef, he smiled and begged, “Get Dory in it!” as he pointed to the blue tank.
Snowball and Snowflake, rare white alligators, pose for many pictures, too. But in Gator Alley, we heard another sound along with camera shutters. Again and again. “Oh! Ack!” Mighty Mike startles visitors. Mighty Mike is “the biggest, baddest gator in the country outside of Florida,” but knowing that doesn’t prepare you for just how big and bad he is: 800 pounds and 14 feet long. Fourteen feet — taller perhaps than a mom standing on dad’s shoulders, with a toddler on top!