By SARA SASILA
It’s the only place in Ontario where the only thing coming between you and a giant octopus is a thick glass wall.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, located in Toronto, is home to more than 13,000 aquatic animals and 450 different species.
Now, you’re probably wondering why a 20-year-old would want to spend her Saturday at an aquarium when she could be doing something more “cool” but the answer is simple, what could be better than watching a shark swim right above you?
The aquarium, billed as Canada’s largest, is filled with a variety of mysterious and extraordinary sea animals, some of which are located right in our own backyard.
The first exhibit you see once you enter the aquarium is called Canadian Waters. The title says it all; it features 17 habitats that focus on a variety of Canadian sea animals that lurk underneath the surface of the Great Lakes.
Once you walk past the lumpfish, you see an array of colourful lobsters. The best part about that? The lobsters are asteroid-sized lobsters with tails as thick as a brick.
After walking past the life-sized crabs, you come across one of the oceans’ greatest sea creatures … a Giant Pacific octopus. It was terrifying yet mesmerizing to see.
Kareem Abdullah, a nine-year-old who visited the aquarium for the first time, said the octopus was the best part.
“I could stare at it forever,” he said. “My favourite part about it is its legs (tentacles).”
The Dangerous Lagoon, an underwater tunnel filled with sharks, sea turtles, weird-looking fish and a variety of sea plants and algae, was the best part about the entire experience.
Everywhere you walked, you had sharks and other exotic sea life swimming next and above you.
Six-year-old Sarah Jovic said finding Dory was the best part.
“Dory is everywhere! She’s swimming with the sharks,” she said. “The sharks are so scary! Their teeth are so sharp.”
If you don’t know who Dory is, she is the blue and yellow fish in Finding Nemo. The number of kids I heard yelling ‘I found Dory’ made me wish I was a kid again.
The next stop was Planet Jellies. There were dozens of tanks filled with strange-looking jellyfish, some of which looked like they came straight out of a cartoon. The Moon Jelly, a clear jellyfish that looked like it was glowing underwater, was unusual yet amazing to see.
The last stop is the touch tanks, and it seems to be the most popular exhibit. The touch tanks feature small sharks and stingrays that anybody can “pet.”
Connor Dixon, 27, said he was too scared to touch the sea creatures.
“My kids are braver than I am,” he said. “They want me to touch the sharks but I’m terrified. I’ll enjoy it from afar.”
There are two live shows that the aquarium offers: the Ray Bay Dive, where professional divers feed the stingrays, and the Rainbow Reef Dive, where divers feed a swarm of creatures in the coral reef.
“Coming to the aquarium is always so fun,” said Dixon. “Although I don’t like fish, it’s still great to see all the different types of sea creatures – and it’s great for the kids as well.”