08 Dec Snorkeling at the Mall of America
Snorkeling at a mall, you say? Yes, you read that right. We went snorkeling at the Mall of America in the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, and it was quite the adventure. It had been years since we were last at the aquarium, but we were excited to have an entirely new experience this time around.
While exploring adventure at the mall, we had the chance to take a dip and make friends with the tropical fish in the Rainbow Reef aquarium. The morning started out with a 9:15 a.m. call time—we descended the escalators into the depths of the mall, and curiously waited for the tour to start. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were definitely excited.
Soon enough, the other members in our group arrived and we were off to start our adventure. After a short walk behind the scenes, we made it to the room with the aquariums. I really enjoyed getting a different perspective on the tanks. Typically, you only see the tanks from the tunnels below, but from above, they almost looked like giant swimming pools filled with fish!
First order of business was to get a rundown of the fish we were about to see and what to expect from our time snorkeling. We learned what to do if one was bothering us and what areas of the fish to watch out for—think poison, spikes and the like. But, we also learned that we were not in any danger by hopping into the tanks. All of the fish were safe to swim with—phew.
Once all of the necessary info was divulged, we changed into our provided wetsuits, and got sized up for masks, snorkels and fins. After a quick photo op in all of our gear, it was time to do what we came for: snorkel with the fish!
The Rainbow Reef is the aquarium that snorkelers swim in, but if you want to go scuba diving, you get to take a trip over to the Atlantis tank and swim with some larger sharks, turtles, sawfish and more.
At first the chilly water took my breath away, but after a few flicks of my fins, I warmed right up and forgot all about the initial cold shock. We were swimming with fish such as puffer fish, tangs, bamboo sharks, to name just a few of the 75 plus fish in the tank. The other creatures we saw? Humans! The Ocean Tunnel provides views into the tank for aquarium visitors, so we were able to wave at the passerby’s and be a part of the exhibit for a bit!
The in-water portion of the snorkel session runs for 30 minutes. The tank was quite a bit smaller than I thought it would be (although it’s definitely not small!), so I was wondering if 30 minutes would be too long. But, there were so many varieties of fish to study that it was actually the perfect amount of time, and we had a lot of fun.
After your snorkeling is done, there are showers in the locker room where you can wash all the salt off, and once you are squeaky clean, you will get your souvenir photo. The entire experience took around an hour, but don’t worry, once you are out of the water your adventure isn’t over. With the snorkeling package, you also get tickets for the rest of the aquarium attractions, as well!
The main attraction is a 300 ft. long ocean tunnel, which is made up of four different tanks—each tank holds a different variety of fish from different climates. The Atlantis exhibit is home to several varieties of sharks, sawfish, some smaller fish and sea turtles, and the Amazon River exhibit is home to Arapaima, Black Pacu, and a catfish to name a few. A few of the critters in the Sturgeon Lake exhibit are sturgeon, bass, muskellunge and more. And, last but not least, there is the Rainbow Reef exhibit, which is the tank we went snorkeling in.
Other exhibits in the aquarium are the jellyfish room, the multiple sea horse tanks, the stingray adventure where you can pet and feed stingrays, a coral display with clown fish, and the Pacific Northwest Rockpool where you can touch anemones, starfish and more.
Besides snorkeling and diving, there are a variety of other special programs. A few of the programs are behind the scenes tours, overnight adventures, and sharks after dark. Basically, SEA LIFE has plenty to offer almost anyone!
At the time of our tour, the snorkeling cost $89.99 per person (check current pricing here), which includes the 1 hour snorkeling program, snorkel gear, souvenir photo and aquarium admission. If you would rather just visit the aquarium, admission is $24.25 at the box office and $17.99 in advance online.