The nearest beach is
a 215-mile drive away.
But if you want to learn
about the ocean and
amazing sea creatures
up close and personal,
you and your class
can do it right here
Wildlife World Zoo
Just west of
Zoo & Aquarium,
located at 16501 W.
Northern Ave. between
the Loop 303
and Sarival Rd. The
ginormous, but if you go to the east entrance, you’re
right where you can experience the ocean! In fact,
visitors have the option of taking in the aquarium and
zoo or just the aquarium itself, which will save adults
around $10.50 and kids over 3 about $5.
Currently, three large buildings house about 75
aquarium exhibits, which come in all sorts of
spectacular shapes and sizes. But in a few months,
another big building will open to give visitors even more
“We have three buildings—we have the Diversity of
Life in Water, we have the Wild & the Wonderful, and
we have Predators. And we’re currently working on our
next phase, which is going to be River Monster,”
explains Assistant Aquarium Curator Chris Faucett.
The new building will showcase a 40,000-gallon
freshwater exhibit that’s 10 feet high and 44 feet wide!
Next to it will be a giant cylindrical tank with sea turtles
zipping about. The building will also house the very
playful and mischievous small-clawed otters.
Faucett, who has a degree in marine biology, joined
Wildlife World Zoo almost six years ago—before the
the owner and
“Kids in the desert don’t (usually)
get EXPOSED to this, so it’s a neat
experience for them to come and
see things that they normally
wouldn’t see in their everyday life,”
Faucett says. “But our oceans and wildlife affect
everybody, so I think it’s important that they understand
everything that’s involved with that.”
Overfishing is a good example. “The fishing industry
takes stuff out of the ocean, (yet) it’s important to
preserve the wildlife. Understanding what we can take
sustainably and not take is important. There are lots of
species going into extinction from overfishing and over
harvesting, so it’s important to
understand all of that,” Faucett says.
But fun is really the priority of this
IMPRESSIVE aquarium. “I just want kids
to have fun coming here,” Faucett says.
“For me, if I go somewhere, I’d like to see
something that I’ve never seen before.”
At Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium, that could
mean seeing a 60,000-gallon circular tank filled with
black tip and white tip reef sharks, zebra sharks and a
big peacock grouper or even reaching out and touching
dozens of big floppy stingrays in the Stingray Touch
Tank! Other touch tanks let you hold living sea stars,
urchins and some fascinating crustaceans. The giant
moray eels, the snowflake morays and the electric eels
have faces only a mother could love. But there are also
hundreds of beautiful
fish to behold like
bright blue wrasses,
yellow tangs, graceful
seahorses and the
lionfish. And if you like
penguins, you’ll enjoy
She adds that
having a wow factor
encourages kids to
learn. In fact, Faucett
remembers being little when she and her folks visited
the New England Aquarium in Boston. Seeing the
fish and the water got her hooked on ocean critters!
She warns that working at an aquarium is far
from easy. “Many people have said that this is the
hardest job that they’ve ever done. It’s just a lot of
work,” Faucett points out. “But it’s incredibly
rewarding, so I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”
The animals need to be cared for 365 days of the
year. “Animals don’t take holidays; we don’t take
holidays” she explains. Staff care for the critters every
single day, working in
Her day usually starts
at 7 a.m. or earlier. Any
problems with the tanks
or animals need to be
taken care of right away.
There is a ton of work
being done behind the
scenes. Giant filtering
systems are built onsite
and need to run well.
Making suitable seawater
from groundwater is a big job, too. “I do ordering and
the inventory and part of the water quality (salinity,
water temperature, etc.), but 90 percent of it is animals
and water and getting in the tanks and dirty,” she adds.
On the large tanks, the staff put on wetsuits, jump in
with the sharks and rays, and get to work cleaning.
For special classroom rates, other offerings and hours:
SSEEAA LLIIFFEE AArriizzoonnaa
Who knew that you could learn about and
enjoy ocean creatures big and small in an
You can at the amazing SEA LIFE Arizona,
which opened last year at Arizona Mills, off of I-10
between Baseline and US60.
“We call it bringing the ocean to the desert, and
there was a lot involved,” says Kelly Schwartz, SEA
LIFE Arizona’s marketing manager. “The most
important thing was letting people know that we
were bringing a real quality aquarium brand that
intertwined fun and education to Arizona Mills—to a
And when your main attraction is a 161,000-
gallon Ocean View tank, complete with black tip
and white tip reef sharks, you make every square
inch of your space count!
“So many people are pleasantly surprised when
they go through the aquarium and see how many
creatures we have, how many displays there are
and the size of our creatures,” Schwartz continues.
SEA LIFE Arizona is self-guided, but there are
workers at key areas (like the touch tanks) and
demonstrations, too. Kids also might enjoy the Quiz
Trail, where they find answers by reading the Fin
Facts posted on the walls throughout the aquarium.
The exhibit areas have themes and start with the
Harbor display, which focuses on creatures you’d
find in the Sea of Cortez, the nearest ocean to
Schwartz’s favorite areas are the Bay of Rays,
the newly opened Claws (highlighting the
aquarium’s crustaceans) and the Ocean Tunnel.
“My favorite exhibit is probably the Bay of Rays.
It’s all tropical and has a very south island, Fiji-type
flare to it. It also has some really cool creatures—a
variety of shark species as well as some different
ray species in it,” Schwartz explains. She especially
likes the tanks with concave “pop-in” viewing
windows that you can stick your head into.
Claws just opened on March 17 and has two of
Schwartz’s favorite sea critters: Busta the coconut
crab and Lucky the Maine lobster. Busta is APTLY
named because his over-sized claws are powerful
enough to crack a coconut! Lucky was named
because this big lobster was bought through a food
distributor and went to SEA LIFE on St. Patrick’s
Day instead of the Joe’s Crab Shack next door.
Claws has a retro Hollywood B movie feel to it.
But the Ocean Tunnel is sensational and gives
you a 360-degree aquarium experience. “There’s
water on all sides of you,” she continues. “You can
even look through the floor and
see the animals swimming
beneath you. It’s really neat.”
It was really a challenge to
bring an aquarium and 5,000 sea
creatures into a mall. And like all
aquariums, it takes a ton of work.
“We have a full-time staff—a
curator and underneath him are
five aquarists,” Schwartz says. It
has taken some time to get used to her job. "It's a
working aquarium where we have animals, we have
quarantine, there's a water lab, there’s just so many
intricacies that I would have never even thought of,”
“It’s definitely worth the effort. I think it’s even
more important that aquariums are in areas where
the ocean isn’t because the children and families
that are living here might not always be able to go
to the ocean and snorkel, scuba dive or something
Schwartz adds that the coolest thing she has
done so far is to feed the sharks. “We pole-feed all
of our sharks—you put the fish on the end of the
pole and hold it out into the tank,” she explains.
For classroom offerings & more info, go to
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