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SHARK REEF AT MANDALAY BAY

By • Oct 23rd, 2000 •

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Remember the movie “Jaws”?

One of man’s most primal fears is being savagely attacked by man-eating sharks. Usually these encounters take place in murky coastal waters. Mere thoughts about such highly unlikely events have kept many toes out of the water. In fact, some people reported they were scared in their bathtubs after “Jaws” first came out.

Now there is a chance to observe sharks in their natural habitat with no risk to life and limb. Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino has just opened a new Shark Reef exhibit that allows you a close encounter from all directions. The 1,3000,000 gallon sea water aquarium contains a transparent tunnel through its center. This means you see sharks on all sides as well as above and below you. There are nearly 75 different species of sharks and the largest of the animals is over twelve feet long.

Would you believe a petting fish zoo? Shark Reef has a shallow tank designed so that you can reach in and actually touch small fish as they slowly swim by. Actually touching live fish will be a first for many of the thousands of visitors that will pass through Shark Reef.

There are other interesting underwater exhibits as well. In the 90,560 square foot area there are three other large tanks containing another 200,000 gallons of sea water. These include tropical reefs, sunken temples, and ruins, all tastefully done. The displays are far more extensive than just sharks. As you enter the aquarium you first come face to face with a number of crocodiles and sea turtles. In all there are 14 separate exhibits to feast upon.

The displays are visually and viscerally breathtaking. But, they may well serve a more important purpose. The innate fear man has of sharks has led to massive fishing campaigns that have brought many varieties of sharks dangerously close to extinction. Friends of Sharks clubs are few and far between. Shark’s fin soup is considered a delicacy and they are often hunted only for that small portion of their anatomy. The remaining 98 percent of the body is usually discarded. Shark Reef will allow many people to learn more about sharks and their importance to the environment. Having evolved slowly over millions of years, they play an important role in cleansing the oceans of the world. Contrary to the movie versions, very few varieties will ever attack humans. In fact, many of the attacks reported are initiated after the person has tried to ride the shark or otherwise disturb them. Yes, education is an important role for Shark Reef.

Mandalay Bay recently offered members of the media a unique opportunity to see Shark Reef first hand, talk with the staff, and enjoy an exquisite reception. As we entered the anteroom to the exhibit we were enthralled with the lush tropical landscape complete with carved statues reminiscent of a finding a lost civilization. The variegated floral offerings coupled with autochthonous jungle sounds prepare you for the total sensory experience to come.

There is no hurry. You can take your own time and admire the consummate beauty of the exhibit. Knowledgeable attendants answer questions and you are free to move about the large area and even backtrack. There are shipwrecks and pirate treasure to also stimulate your imagination.

Culture is coming to Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay has taken a huge leap forward by bringing us Shark Reef. When visiting, don’t miss it. Shark Reef is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Tickets are $12.95 for adults and $9.95 for children 12 and under.

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