When we were asked if we’d like to come swim with sharks and rays, I’ve got to say, it wasn’t high on my priority list. I’m not scared, per say, more just not that interested. And we’d taken Poss to the aquarium a few times now, only to have her want to leave within the first half hour.
Why go to all that bother, when I know it’s likely she’ll want to be out of there almost as soon as we’ve arrived? But she was keen (and persistent), so last Wednesday we finally made it out there.
The Australian Shark and Ray centre is located in Dandenong. It sounds like a long way away, but honestly, it’s just off the freeway and super easy to find. They also have a centre somewhere in New South Wales, but that’s significantly further away 😉
When we arrived, Poss donned a wetsuit, while I popped on some very fetching waders. We grabbed some food, then were shown to a smaller pool filled with little rays for us to get used to the experience.
While we walked, the manager Sharona, gave us a bit of a safety talk; explaining that their first priority is their animals, the second is to the visitors. She told us how all their animals have either been rescued and rehabilitated (if injured), or they are bred there; these animals are getting a second chance.
It started well. We stepped in gingerly and surprisingly, the rays were like little puppies; keen to explore who had just entered their yard. Pushing up against our legs, we were encouraged to pat them. This is about when the composure that Poss had shown up until then lost her, and the tears arrived.
I’m guessing we didn’t prepare her enough for the feel of the rays, as they don’t really feel like you’d expect them too. More jelly-like, than fish-like. I was all for it, they seemed to like being stroked, but Poss was having none of it and the tears continued.
Luckily the staff at the centre are super calm, and probably used to people of all ages freaking out, so they encouraged Poss out of the pool and to feed the rays from the side. While they patiently answered all Poss’ questions about every aspect of marine life, she directed me around the pool and I tried not to step on the frisky little buggers.
Over the next three hours (you can be there as long as you like once you’ve paid your entry fee) we moved from tank to tank, working our way up to going in with the giant grey nurse sharks. From the amazing eagle rays, to the gummy sharks, each animal had their own personality and were intensely curious about these giant wader wearing intruders.
We finished in with the black rays. These babies are huge. Meters across. By then Poss was permitting me to carry her into the water, ironically clinging like a barnacle, and together (with assistance from the staff) we had a hug from Diablo, the biggest of the rays, for which she was rewarded with a mouthful of fish head. Not a sentence I really expected to be writing, but I’m so glad I’m able to.
The whole experience really exceeded my expectations; I came home gushing about it. And I don’t really gush. Scrap that; I don’t gush. I wish I had more photos, but I was having so much fun in the water, I just didn’t think of it. That probably says it all really.
And even though Poss started out rocky, the staff were so good with her in building up her confidence, she’s already planning our next trip back, telling us all how she’ll be first in line to feed Gigantor, the largest of the sharks!
With school holidays upon us, I’m really excited to be able to offer a giveaway of two family passes*, valued at $95 each so you can visit the Australian Shark and Ray Centre.
Just tell me of a time when you tried something new, and enjoyed it more than you thought you would in the comments below and you’ll go in the draw to win!
This is not a sponsored post, however our entry was paid for, along with our food and wader/wetsuit hire. You can find out all the pricing details, over on their website, and the lovely Kate at Mee Too has done a review too, which has some handy information in it.
The giveaway is open to Australian residents who can get themselves along to the centre in Victoria. It’s open for entries from 20th December to 27th December 2014. Winners will be chosen by About a Bugg and no correspondence will be entered into.
*The family passes don’t include food or the wetsuits/waders, but it’s a great start to covering the costs of the day. Again, check the website for all the details.