The Aquariums of Atlantis
I don't know if the pluralization of the word Aquariums is necessary because the whole resort feels like one giant, never-ending Aquarium. Atlantis has twelve exhibits, to be exact, with which visitors can view marine life. Each is absolutely mesmerizing.
(Note: Not all are represented in the video. I don't think. It was hard to keep track of which one we were at. Therefore, I'm just going to briefly describe each one and provide a link to more information on each exhibit from the Atlantis website.)
By far the coolest of the aquariums, the Dig has a wide variety of marine life to view. They have weird lobster look-alikes, seahorses, clownfish, pink fish, blue fish, red fish, fish, fish, fish...and on and on. In actuality, you will find many cool fish here including eels and piranhas. They also have a touch tank where kids can interact with some of the animals. Plus, the atmosphere designed to house this aquarium rivals that of something found at Disney World. You access the Dig through the main lobby, between the casino and the Royal Towers. If you are outside, look for the giant Marlins on top of the building and head that way. If you are inside, ask where the Hospitality Center is. From there you can't miss it. The entrance to the Dig is inside, but it lets out outside the building.
When you are at Atlantis, you will see all of the exhibits on the map, but like I said, it all blurs together and you won't know if you are at the right location or not. Saying this, Ruins Lagoon is part of the Dig, so to access it, see my advice above. It is called Ruins Lagoon because the decor inside has artificial relics resembling ruins. For a price, you can snorkel in this lagoon, but children must be at least eight years old to participate.
Predator Lagoon is not to be missed. It will be your son's (and probably your husband's) favorite. This is where they house all the sharks including...the hammerheads. This one is a bit tricky to access. If you are outside, look around for a circular gazebo. It's in front of the casino, right by Paradise Lagoon. It's a restaurant, but Predator Lagoon is accessed by a spiraled staircase located inside the restaurant. (Seems kind of obtrusive to those that just want to eat, but whatever.) To view the lagoon from above, find the rope bridge and peer out. The water is deep and dark, so it's hard to see, but still cool, and the rope bridge is worth the trip even if all you can see is swimming shadows below you. They also feedings for these sharks which you can view. It's worth checking out, but I recommend the morning feedings as they are less crowded.
Mayan Temple Lagoon
Mayan Temple Lagoon is located inside the Mayan Temple, where a lot of the water slides are. You have three ways of viewing this. You can either watch from the outside, on the left side of the Mayan Temple. You can look down into it from the bridge in front of the Mayan Temple, or you can ride serpent slide and come out inside a large clear tube inside the aquarium, which is really cool. This lagoon has sharks too, so it feels like you are swimming right alongside them.
I didn't find the elusive cenote tanks until the last day of our trip. Here's the deal. You can only access the cenotes, or so I thought, if you ride the Abyss at the Power Tower. The Abyss is a crazy scary, pitch black ride. Think, Leap of Faith, but you can't see and with several drop-offs. Therefore, children will not want to ride this ride. Heck, most adults won't want to ride this ride. I couldn't see inside, so just jumped in and nearly wet myself before I came out the other end. However, I did come out, and at the bottom, you come out into the cenote tank. Here's the trick to this though, my parents accidentally stumbled into the exit for the Abyss and just happened upon the aquarium that way. I'm not sure if that is allowed or not, but whatever, give it a try.
Estuary Lagoon was my daughter's favorite because it is where they kept all the baby animals: the sharks, stingrays, and starfish. This one is in the area outside the Conference Center, kind of by the River Pool. This area is where we spent most of our time, so we saw the babies quite often. If you do the Sea Squirts program, they will bring the kids to this lagoon and let them hold, feed, pet the babies.
Reef Lagoon is home to the nurse sharks on the property. This lagoon is unique because it is so shallow, so you can see the sharks really well. Like I said before, the other sharks are in very deep water, so they just look like moving shadows. The nurse sharks are huge too! It is located right next to the Estuary Lagoon.
They should call this turtle lagoon. This is where all the sea turtles are and boy, it is hard to find. Somebody there told us that this lagoon is off the beaten path because the turtles like it quiet, so they try to keep them away from the crowds. I don't know anything about turtles, so I don't know how true that is, but there you go. It is right outside the Conference Center and Beach Tower, right before you walk back in the doors. There's also a lagoon in the area that is not on the map, but has all the adolescent turtles.
Seagrapes Lagoon is right near the Beach Tower. It's pretty hard to miss and you definitely don't want to. After seeing the Dig and Predator Lagoon, you might think you are done with the whole fish-viewing thing, but don't miss out on Seagrapes Lagoon. This is where all the exotic, meaning colorful fish are hanging out. These fish are gorgeous.
Here's the deal. There are stingrays all over the resort. They have the Royal Ray Lagoon, the Stingray Lagoon, the baby ones, the normal ones next to the Royal ones... You will feel like you are seeing them everywhere, and that's because you are. I guess these are just the normal-sized, non-exquisite adult rays. These are outside the beach tower, right next to the turtles.
11. Royal Ray Lagoon: These are outside the Royal Towers. It is not at all tricky to find. You will pass it a thousand times during your stay. If you go to the feedings, these are the ones you will watch them feed. I like the royal rays the best. They look like the stingray from Finding Nemo.
12. Water's Edge: And last but not least, just repetitive, is Water's Edge. It is just outside Coral Towers, and it houses yet more rays.
So that's it. That is a brief breakdown of the Aquariums and Lagoons at Atlantis. The efforts the staff go to to preserve wildlife at Atlantis is actually applaudable. For more info, click the links.
I know your kids will only want to the rides over and over and swim, but take the time to show them these wonders. Expand their, and your, marine knowledge. Just because you are on vacation, doesn't mean you can't learn something. Grab your kids, get off the slides, and explore LIFE!