Sydney Aquarium

Located on the eastern side of Darling Harbor, the Sydney Aquarium displays more than 650 species in a unique setting. Even discounting the extraordinary views outside, the more than 6,000 individuals aquatic creatures are housed in unusual style. Many are visible through the walls of large glass tunnels and some of the tunnels even have glass floors.

Few aquariums make it possible for visitors to actually go inside the tank. But at Sydney Aquarium you can stroll along and watch sharks actually swim under your feet. If that isn’t scary enough, wait until 2008 when the crocodile exhibit is finished. Some Saltwater Crocodiles, which grow up to 7m/23ft are already part of the collection.

Opened in 1988, the facility is one of the largest in the world. Most seaside aquariums offer displays of local species, but Sydney is unique because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the many river systems it feeds.

Visitors can see some of the 180 shark species native to the local waters, about 10 of which are dangerous. Great Whites, for example, are common in those waters. They do poorly in captivity, though, and visitors will see one there only by chance. You are likely, though, to see a Tiger Shark or a Lemon Shark. Some housed here are over 3m(10ft) long and weigh up to 300kg(660lbs).

Moray eels, with long, razor-sharp teeth, are on display. Normally placid, they can be fierce when provoked. Even the playful Platypus can be deadly to small animals. The male has a spur on the inside of each rear leg that contains a toxin that can kill.

One of the most elegant swimmers, the Stingray Dasyatis Brevicandata is the largest in the world. Reaching a length over 4.3m (14ft), the stingray has a 30cm (12in) barbed tail that contains venom. Even the fish can be deadly here. The Butterfly Cod have spines that can injure or kill a fully grown human.

Whether visiting the Southern Rivers section (housing the Platypus), or the Norther Rivers (where the Saltwater Crocodiles live), or the Northern Ocean/Great Barrier Reef, visitors will find something awe inspiring.

For a less threatening view of the underwater animal kingdom wander to the Southern Ocean section. Remember, Australia, though the size of a continent, is an island and surrounded on all sides by water. Here the creatures are more cuddly and cute, including the penguins and seals.

The Sydney Harbor area is part of the Southern Ocean section so visitors can get a view of the creatures that swim freely under the great Harbor Bridge and around the Sydney Opera House. The seals run the gamut of Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals to the sub-Antarctic variety. The penguin exhibit features, among others, a type called Fairy Penguins, so-named because of their small size.

It’s even possible to sign up for VIP tours that offer feeding the animals at opportune times. Near the end of the tour is a room in which the tank is darkened behind and lighted ahead. Classical music plays as you watch the creatures dance to their own mysterious music.

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