Under the Sea in the Middle of the Desert
Dive Into OdySea Aquarium's Underwater SeaTREK Exhibit
Most people wouldn’t expect to go scuba diving in Scottsdale, AZ, but the OdySea Aquarium defies that logic with its SeaTREK exhibit.
The largest aquarium in the Southwest, OdySea Aquarium offers plenty of unique exhibits, from the globe-shaped aquariums fourteen feet in the air in the Aqua Lobby to the Penguin Interaction Program, where guests can get up close their adorable, African black-footed penguins. But SeaTREK stands out because it allows visitors to get close to the animals by literally diving under the water.
“It’s an amazing experience,” says Greg Charbeneau, the General Manager at OdySea Aquarium. “What’s great about SeaTREK is you don’t have to be scuba certified.”
SeaTREK isn’t exclusive to OdySea Aquarium - it can be found in twenty-seven countries across five continents - but like everything else OdySea does, it’s incredibly unique. “We’re the first in the United States at an indoor aquarium, and we’re the first to showcase animals from the Australian Great Barrier Reef,” Charbeneau explains.
Guests get to spend thirty minutes walking around underwater, getting close to the various fish species housed there. In addition to all the tropical fish and coral, visitors can even get up close and personal with different ray species in Stingray Bay, from the cownose to the brown-spotted ray. “Inside the habitat, there’s artificial coral and rocks to simulate the Great Barrier Reef to keep the animals happy and healthy.”
Keeping the animals happy and healthy is incredibly important to the staff at OdySea - Charbeneau explains how staff constantly monitor temperature, eating habits, and behavior. But the staff is also dedicated to guest comfort. He remembers one little old woman who was afraid to even get in the water, but the instructor held her hand and worked with her, being very patient and encouraging. “By the end of her experience, she was dancing around, jumping up and down and moving like she’d been in the water her whole life.”
You won’t even get your face wet, as the helmets will keep your entire head dry, even when completely submerged. That means you won’t have to worry about your hair while you take a selfie with a stingray. “We actually give them an underwater camera so they can take as many photos as they like,” he says. You can take as many pictures as you like, and later the photos are uploaded to a thumb drive so you can take them home.
If you’re looking for the chance to go scuba diving in the middle of a desert, the OdySea Aquarium’s SeaTREK exhibit is definitely worth checking out. “A lot of people don’t realize that this even exists and get pretty jazzed that they don’t have to be scuba certified,” says Charbeneau. “It’s also great because they get to explore the Great Barrier Reef, a place that they’d probably never get to visit.”
-By Ettractions Digital Content Editor ALLISON BENNETT
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