In the heart of downtown Bangkok lies Siam Paragon Mall, the nicest of 5 monstrocity shopping malls that makes Phipps Plaza look like a flea market. The outside billboards cycle between advertisements for Ferrari and Sunseeker. The shoppers are the trendiest and best dressed in Bangkok’s social elite.
In the basement of Paragon is Siam Ocean World, a giant aquarium experience with a focus on the restabilization of the world shark population. Its main exhibit inclues nearly 30 sharks in three tanks: a rehabilitation center, a hammerhead habitat, and the main aquarium. I scheduled a dive in the latter…with the sharks. My grandmother was PISSED!
The allure of this experience lies not in the proximity to sharks. Through my relationship with Lynnhaven Dive Center in Va. Beach, I’ve seen many a shark in the pond. I’ve participated in shark feedings and enjoyed several dives in their company. These species, to my knowledge, aren’t on record as maneaters unless said man was already outbound. The cool factor here is being on the inside. There are not many aquariums large enough to offer a diver a real mobile experience…the opportunity to swim around behind the glass, explore, and interact. This is what I wanted to experience. But, yeah, the shark component was pretty cool.
My mom and I enjoyed a dive in Epcot’s Living Seas aquarium several years ago, and my dive in Ocean World was as much fun. Living Seas only had two sharks at the time, so this was a little more interesting. In addition to scores of your standard issue marine life, the aquarium boasts several shovelnose, lemon, leopard, black tip, and sandtiger sharks. They also have three juvenile hammerheads, which are not entered into the general population and remain behind a difficult-to-see, top-to-bottom glass partition. I’ve always found sharks to be beautiful, and those three are simply stunning. Overall, this was the most touristy thing we’ll probably do all trip, but it was well worth it. A HUGE thanks to Hunter and Kavitha for braving the masses and shooting some awesome video of my experience!
I’m pretty sure I’m on the holiday cards of several dozen people next year. I made out with an older woman through the glass. I scared the heck out of several children, and made several more laugh. I think I even made a few friends. I hadn’t been the center of attention like that in several days and it warmed me…which was nice because the water was freezing and peeing in an expensive aquarium seems so gauche.
For full stats on the aquarium, visit http://www.sharkdive.org. The experience doesn’t fit into the standard Thai affordability, but it’s cheaper than Epcot and as much fun.
PS: all digits accounted for.