Georgia Aquarium’s Georgia Explorer exhibit is a wonderful place to immerse oneself in one or all of their three different touch tanks as well as learn about the various marine life that can be found in Georgia’s rivers and off its coast.
The first touch pool is my favourite as it has the social and playful cownose ray as well as the elusive bonnethead shark, the smallest of the hammerhead species and my favourite shark. Where else would you have the opportunity to safely touch a stingray or even a shark? Again, I can’t press this enough, exhibits like this where you can learn about a particular species from the zoo or aquarium’s staff that give open talks at the touch pool as well as the amazing opportunity to actually interact with these species brings not only awareness but a higher appreciation.
Beside a large whale slide where children can climb into the mouth of a whale, is the second touch tank where visitors have the opportunity to touch the helmet of the horseshoe crab and the swift and dainty brown shrimp.
The Georgia Explorer exhibit also showcases fish from Gray’s Reef, the only National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. Here you’ll also meet the goliath grouper that at 8′ long and 1000lbs is critically endangered due to overfishing and the flamboyant and venomous red lionfish that is native to the Indo-Pacific region but are now alien invaders here off the coast of Georgia and changing the ecosystem, also here you’ll encounter the loggerhead sea turtles. Through Georgia Aquarium’s 4R Program; Rescue, Rehabilitation, Research and Responsibility, they are able to rehabilitate and rerelease these endangered loggerhead sea turtles back into their natural habitats.
A surprisingly entertaining creature, the hermit crab, with its beady eyes and large shell/home strapped to its back, is also sound here. We watched on as one, facing us, went scurrying sideways and up and over everything in its path including other hermit crabs.
One fish that really stood out to me and certainly not for its otherwise bland appearance was the robust redhorse sucker. Found in a few rivers in the South Eastern United States the robust redhorse sucker was once thought to be extinct but amazingly was rediscovered over 100 years after it was first described. But thankfully this endangered fish is now back on the map and being studied and with the help of conservation projects and Georgia Aquarium it is being protected.
The last touch tank is full of wonderfully interesting creatures like small stingrays, sea urchins and Forbes’ sea stars. Sea stars are another amazing creature with an amazing ability to re-grow an arm if it loses one and even overcompensate by re-growing two.
From the alien beauty of the lionfish to the intrigue of the starfish, Georgia Explorer is a great place to learn about what’s local, what shouldn’t be and the need and passion for conservation.