Our family is always searching out the perfect attractions to experience something new that will make lasting memories. While we were in Marathon, Florida we were so excited to see that there was an aquarium. Not any aquarium but an aquarium with encounters, opportunities to touch and feed the fish. The Keys has many opportunities for water sports this was a nice way to be in the shade while experiencing the keys wildlife.
Thank you, to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters for hosting our family for a fun day, all opinions are our own.
When we arrived at Aquarium Encounters in Marathon, we were greeted by the friendliest staff and welcomed to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. The boys were super excited for today and once the staff laid out all of our options they were ready to go! Throughout the location there is so much attention to details in the signs, cleanliness, friendliness, and offerings. It is clear that each day they ask “How can we make this an extra special memory for the families?”
First, we walked on a floating boardwalk over the lagoon. We felt as though we were deep in the mangrove wetlands and not right off the highway. The lagoon was full of fish and even a shark (that’s what Cooper said, you will have to check it out for yourself.)
Sting Ray Cove
The sting ray pool was our first stop. Immediately at the end of the entrance path the sting ray pool called to the boys. A staff member told us some unique and unknown information about sting rays, the boys were just mesmerized by his voice. Watching the sting ray glide through the shallow pool is just so mesmerizing and We always seem to forget that sharks and most sea life have are slimy to the touch. I’m not sure how Marty pulled us all away after about 20 minutes but he did. Don’t worry we found our way back later.
Big Shark Bay
Next we were on to Big Shark Bay and our timing was perfect! The nurse sharks were being fed and the staff member was sharing a ton of fun facts and information about the sharks. We watched as she was able to have the sharks almost perform while feeding them and explaining the training process. Sharks in the Florida Keys are fun!
In the same tank is the Goliath Grouper and Cubera Snapper. We are from Wisconsin and live right on Lake Michigan so we are used to big fish, but this these fish are beyond Great Lakes big! The boys were in awe of the size and pushiness of these HUGE fish. I know I keep saying this but it’s so true, the marine biologists that work here are so engaging and full of information we never wanted them to stop talking. The pictures and videos really tell the story.
The Tidepool Touch Tank was next. This pool, filled with all the the sealife from a tidepool, was the best. Rule number one, keep the creatures under the water. Even if you want to pick up the conch and look at it, you must keep it under the water. This is where your little kids are going to swoon! Starfish, conch, sea cucumbers, horseshoe crab and more are the perfect size for little fingers.
Goliath Grouper Feeding
When you arrive the staff will give you a schedule for events throughout the day, we wanted to watch the Goliath Grouper feeding which was in one of the natural basins at the aquarium. It was fun to watch and the size of the fish amazed us all.
We stopped at the Eagle Ray Cafe to grab a few snacks. After eating we went out on the floating dock to watch the action in Florida Bay and Vaca cut. As we were enjoying the boats and fish we saw a movement about 30 feet away from us. We all kept watching and then a little manatee head popped out of the water. We had been waiting our entire trip to see a manatee! It was so exciting. She popped her head up a few more times and then she was gone. Thanks manatee for letting us enjoy you for a few minutes.
Turtles, turtles, turtles was next on our list. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters does not let us down with the amount of turtles to see. There are tortoises, Native Florida Box Turtles, and Freshwater Turtles to see. The environments ranged from dry, to moist, to wet and wild! Don’t miss Alligator Alley while you are watching the turtles.
The Predator Reef Tank was super fun to see. In addition to the shark species, which include nurse, blacktip, sandbar, blacknose and bonnethead sharks, the Predator Reef Tank is home to some of the most popular Florida Keys reef fish including Goliath Grouper, snapper and jacks. The predator tank is safely separated from the other side of the Coral Reef Tank. Our boys loved the predator tank!
We recommend this Encounter if you have preteens and teenagers. How cool is it to go back to school to say you did a snorkel or dive in a coral reef tank. In the Coral Reef Encounters, visitors spend time in the 200,000 gallon salt water tank, a diverse coral reef environment with a wide variety of unique species of Coral Reef inhabitants native to the Florida Keys.
There are many choices based on your comfort level.
I think our favorite part of the Coral Reef Tank is the amount of diversity. We could look for hours and continue to find new fish and new species of fish. There was one fish that had a chunk missing from his back, how interesting to think of how and why that happened. Mason was enthralled with the fish with the flat face and would watch for it to swim by. Make sure you put enough time aside for The Coral Reef Tank, your family will love it.
We ended our day in the gift shop. There was some expected gifts, but there was also many unexpected items that helped us to bring some of Florida Aquarium Encounters home with us. The boys loved looking at everything and deciding how to spend their money. They both made great choices in the end and months later, are still enjoying their purchases.