LAS VEGAS -- Aquatic predators are drawing curious crowds to the
Shark Reef exhibit at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
A 90,560-square-foot aquarium houses 100 different species of
shark, exotic fish, reptile and turtle in an undersea temple that
can be experienced from many viewing levels. The largest of the 14
exhibits is the 1.3 million-gallon shark tank.
Here an acrylic tunnel allows visitors to get a 360-degree view
of more than 2,000 sea creatures, including 11 species of
Naturalists are stationed throughout the area to answer
questions about sharks, which are not nearly as deadly as humans
According to the International Shark Attack File, sharks attack
50 to 70 people a year worldwide, involving about eight
Of 350 species, only 30 are dangerous to humans, and 30 more are
considered potentially dangerous.
Shark Reef visitors are invited to get their hands wet in a
touch tank teeming with sharks, rays and invertebrates.
Sea stars, sea urchins, juvenile zebra sharks, southern
stingrays and horseshoe crabs skim along the surface of the tidal
In the Treasure Bay area, sand tiger, sandbar, lemon and nurse
sharks swim past a sunken ship, while schools of snappers and jacks
dart among the ruin.
Another tank is home to three juveniles among only a dozen
golden crocodiles known to exist.
The young crocodiles, which are a hybrid between the saltwater
and Siamese, are easy targets for predators in the wild.
Creatures that are best left undisturbed are the sea jellies
that float gracefully in a cylindrical column tank.
Their fragile transparency belies a stinger that protects them
In planning this ocean in the desert, the Vancouver Aquarium
Marine Science Center imported Red Sea salt from Israel, which
creates the elements found in natural seawater when combined with
local dechlorinated water.
The Lizard Lounge offers an opportunity to relax out of sight of
the same-named reptiles on exhibit, some of which grow as long as
nine feet and some of which are carnivorous, the guides said.
More than 250,000 people have visited Shark Reef during its
first three months of operation.
Shark Reef is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Adult tickets
cost $12.95. Tickets for children ages 5 to 12 are $9.95, and
children under the age of 5 are admitted free.
For advance tickets, call (702) 632-7580.