Sited at the shore of Lake Michigan, the John G. Shedd Aquarium is widely acknowledged to be among the world’s finest. Home to more than 650 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals, they have over 8,000 individual animals from around the world.
Since 1930, the collection has grown to include a 90,000 coral reef exhibit, whale and dolphin habitats, an Amazon display, penguins, and much more.
In the Marine Mammal show, Pacific White-Sided dolphins put on a show that will entertain kids and adults. Be sure to show up at least half an hour before showtime to get a good seat, though. The aquarium can be crowded and gates sometimes close 15-20 minutes before it begins.
In the Oceanarium exhibit, you’ll have a chance to see all the creatures that inhabit this 3,000,000 gallon tank of seawater, the largest indoor marine mammal habitat in the world. The tank is separated into different sections and each one has something interesting to offer.
In Secluded Bay you can check out the 3,000 pound Beluga Whales. There’s an underground viewing area where you can see these large, but graceful animals show their stuff.
Walk along a little farther and you can visit Penguin Shore, where there are two different species of these delightful flightless birds. Sometimes the staff members will share a feeling of real penguin feathers with visitors.
In the Wild Reef section, you can find an awesome variety of colorful coral reefs, featuring over 20 different habitats and hundreds of species. Over 500,000 gallons of water hold a stunning array of polyps, anemones, and other small creatures. But it also holds more than two dozen sharks that commonly occupy such reefs in the wild.
The Amazon Rising exhibit shows you what life is like in the rainforests of South America, with hundreds of different jungle creatures. The rainforests in the wild get over a hundred inches of rain per year, so you can tell the area is aptly named. Within the exhibit, there are dozens of snakes, poisonous frogs, and spiders. There are even venomous ants, along with 73 different kinds of catfish.
The area has two separate galleries in an 8,600 square foot walk-through area, simulating a flooded forest. The floodwaters can be as high as six feet! Be sure your camera can handle the low light conditions since no flash photography is allowed.
Covering almost half the upper level is the Waters of the World exhibit. It displays everything from the frozen seas of northern Alaska to the tropical waters of northern Australia and contains over 75 distinct habitats. You’ll find four sections: Rivers, Islands and Lakes, Oceans and Local waters.
In the exhibit are over 300 different species, including everything from iguanas to River Otters, turtles to an Australian Lungfish. There are touch screens that display tons of information about the animals, too.
Come see the circular tank in the Caribbean Reef, built-in 1971, and watch the divers feed the animals while they tell you all about them.
No matter what kind of sea creature is of interest you’ll find many examples at the Shedd Aquarium, located at 1200 South Lake Shore Drive. See the website at http://www.sheddnet.org for details.