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Travel Ideas: The Atlantis Aquarium

By: Tracy Grinnell

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As you move along the bottom of the sea floor, you are surrounded by millions of gallons of seawater. You go nose to nose with a huge, multi-colored clownfish, then a stealthy stingray. Out of the corner of your eye you see the form of a jellyfish, glowing like a phantom in the ocean depths. But, they can't touch you and you're completely dry. Are you a famous oceanographer manning a million-dollar underwater submersible? Or, are you a researcher living at the bottom of the sea? No, nothing that difficult. You're a guest at the luxuriously aquatic Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas.

The $850 million Atlantis has more than 1,201 guest rooms to choose from. Aside from its center of attention - the marine habitat - and swimming areas at The Dig, the resort boasts a total of 38 restaurants, bars and lounges that will satisfy you even if you're the most finicky of guests. After you've eaten your fill you can work it off at the Atlantis Sports Center, where you can enjoy a full-service spa and play tennis, basketball or volleyball. You can also practice your golf hand on an 18-hole putting course. Afterward, cool off with a few laps in the four-lane lap pool. After you've freshened up, catch a show or play the tables at the casino, or shop 'til you drop at any one of the resort's luxury boutiques.

An Incredible Creation

The resort features an expansive marine habitat that compares to nothing in the world - except our own oceans. It consists of 11 million gallons of salt and fresh water - which are circulated every two hours - and is a spectacular complex of exhibit lagoons and interactive attractions. It's home to more than 50,000 living creatures.

Like a pearl within an oyster, this habitat is the centerpiece of the Atlantis resort. Twenty staff members - including four marine biologists, 13 aquarists and two curators - keep this marine habitat of lagoons, pools, coral formations and underwater ruins, functioning. Nearly $50,000 a month is spent to keep the habitat's 200 species of marine life fed.

The Atlantis aquarium has been recognized internationally as one of the most successful aquariums in the world because it's the only one to successfully breed a number of ray and shark species. It's also home to a plethora of marine animals including sea turtles, sawfish, tropical fish and includes: 500 venomous Indo-Pacific lionfish; 1,000 piranhas; iridescent jellyfish; 6-foot Moray eels; six species of giant grouper (one is already 400 pounds and just might become a 1,000-pounder some day!) and 500 lobsters in specially-created environments. Many the marine habitat's creatures come from many different parts of the world but most are caught offshore in the Bahamas with the resort's own 45-foot-long collecting vessel.

The Dig

The Dig is a magical place that depicts an ongoing excavation of ancient artifacts from Atlantis. The Dig's partially submerged architectural ruins are also home to the animals of the marine habitat. Visitors are provided with an incredible journey into the depths of the marine habitat through a labyrinth of enclosed rooms, chambers, passageways, twisting streets and corridors. The Dig also has 11 swimming areas, and nestled within its 6-story Mayan Temple are spectacular waterslides.

If you're interested in the ecological aspects of the marine habitat, you can become an honorary marine biologist as their Aquarist of the Day.

Aquarist of the Day

Selected through a daily random drawing of willing Atlantis guests, participants are given a chance to become a member of the resort's "Seakeepers" marine expert team for a day.

"The Aquarist of the Day program is our way of giving our guests an additional 'blow away' vacation experience," says Michelle Liu, assistant director of husbandry at Atlantis. "We hope that after participating in this fascinating program, the lucky winner will come away with not only a better understanding of the intricacies involved in running a highly complex aquarium operation but a lasting memory of a unique experience at Atlantis."

Starting at 7:30 a.m., the new Aquarist gets a behind-the-scenes tour of the marine habitat facilities - including quarantine (fish hospital), food preparation, life support systems and the laboratory. Then he prepares meals for and personally feeds the marine life.

For children who want to know all about the marine habitat at the resort, they can join the Discovery Channel Camp at Atlantis where they get to learn about the animal life and geology they see at the resort.

For more information about Atlantis, Paradise Island and other Sun International resorts, call: 954-713-2500 or visit the Web site, www.AtlantisResort.com. For reservations call 800-ATLANTIS.

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