Visit the Tennessee Aquarium’s Ocean Journey

Guests Pet Sharks and Rays at Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium

Visitors reach out and touch at least six of the 12,000 species at Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium.

Once visitors have made their way through River Journey, the first of the Tennessee Aquarium’s four-story buildings, they stroll across the plaza to Ocean Journey. This second building houses the majority of the Aquarium’s salt-water species.

Tennessee Aquarium’s Tropical Cove

Visitors ascend a four-story escalator to begin their tour through Ocean Journey. They first find themselves in an island paradise complete with lush vegetation, exotic blooms, hyacinth macaws, and a glass roof flooding the exhibit with sunlight. A rocky pool alongside the visitor’s path displays white-spotted freshwater tiger rays.

Guests next proceed to a part of the Tropical Cove called Shark Island, a touch tank with over one hundred feet of shoreline. They reach into the warm water for a chance to touch the leathery hinds of harmless bamboo and epaulet sharks as well as the silky skin of Atlantic and blue-spotted Sting Rays. The lesser-known guitarfish, strange sting ray-shark hybrids, also swim up to guests for a pat.

Tennessee Aquarium’s Butterfly Garden

Visitors reluctantly tear themselves from the tropical cove only to enter an even more tranquil setting. Soothing music and gentle mists fill the air of the aquarium’s gorgeous butterfly garden.

Sunlight streams through the glass roof onto a pathway lined with every color of tropical flowers. Numerous brilliant butterflies from Asia, Africa, Central and South America light delicately on the blossoms and occasionally hitch a ride on a passing visitor. A butterfly nursery allows patient guests to watch as blue and white longwings, giant swallowtails, lacewings, tiger longwings, and orange monarchs struggle from their cocoons to be released into the garden.

Tennessee Aquarium’s Penguins’ Rock

Visitors continue along their descending journey through the aquarium to Penguins’ Rock where they encounter two species of this aquatic bird. Large gentoo penguins stand almost three feet tall and the smaller macaroni penguins are easily identified by their bright yellow crests.

Penguins’ Rock is a favorite exhibit thanks to the comical birds’ antics. Visitors can’t help smiling as the penguins zip through the water and burst back onto the rocky shore.

Tennessee Aquarium’s Boneless Beauties

Some of the world’s most curious creatures are the boneless invertebrates found beneath the sea. In the Boneless Beauties exhibit, guests marvel at pulsating jellyfish, color-shifting cuttlefish, giant Pacific octopus, and lanky spider crabs.

Secret Reef and Undersea Cavern

Beneath the waves, just south of Texas, multi-colored coral combines to form the exotic Flower Garden Banks. The Tennessee Aquarium has replicated this beautiful coral reef in a 618,000-gallon tank so everyone can enjoy the country’s national marine sanctuary.

While ten-foot sand tiger and sandbar sharks prowl the open waters above the reef, over three thousand bright fish dart amidst the coral and past the viewing windows. A large sea turtle and silvery crevalle jacks share the open waters with the sleek predators.

Two divers join the man-eaters at 11:00 and 2:00. One diver is miked and takes questions from the visitors, while the other watches with a bump-stick to steer away from danger.

At the bottom of the Secret Reef, guests find themselves in an undersea cavern. Enormous sharks glide over their heads as bright schools of fish surround them on all sides. The experience could hardly feel more real with a snorkel and wetsuit.

Visitors who started at Ocean Journey will proceed to River Journey, the Tennessee Aquarium’s second building showcasing mainly freshwater exhibits. Guests to Chattanooga may also like to check out several other popular tourist destinations including Rock City, Children’s Discovery Museum, the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Tennessee River Cruises, and the Chickamauga Battlefield.

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