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Review of Shark Reef aquarium dive at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Discussion in 'General Travel and Vacation Discussions' started by Esprise Me, May 28, 2019.

  1. Esprise Me

    Esprise Me Kelp forest dweller ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
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    So I did this thing. TL;DR version: it was fun for a newbie diver like me, traveling with non-divers, with $650 to burn and no desire to gamble.

    Longer version:
    The dive costs $650 for one person, or $1000 for two, plus a $50 resort fee if you're not staying at the Mandalay Bay hotel. (I stayed there but had checked out that morning before my dive; they didn't charge me the extra fee.) The price does include all equipment (you're allowed to wear your own mask and dive computer if you wish; they'll want to take off any neoprene straps and dunk the rest in chlorine though) as well as admission to the aquarium and an approximately hour-long, behind-the-scenes tour for you and up to four guests, all the shark and sawfish teeth you can find in the aquarium during your up-to-an-hour dive, a hot shower, snacks, and water bottle after, and a video of your experience. So yes, it's hideously expensive, but it does come with some cool perks.

    The dive is available daily but only at 3pm, and the whole thing lasts 3-4 hours start to finish. This presented some scheduling challenges in terms of shows and no-fly time, so plan ahead. Also, even though it's sort of affiliated with/inside Mandalay Bay, the aquarium folks do not communicate with the concierge (who could not confirm my reservation) and do not answer their phones before they open at 10.

    There are a half dozen species of sharks, plus turtles, rays, and fish. Most of the sharks are in the 5-10 foot range and pretty docile species; I know there were sand tigers, white tip reef sharks, one Galapagos shark, zebra sharks, and a few others I'm forgetting. (They do give a quick predive fish ID lesson.) Although I've done the bull shark dive in Playa del Carmen and randomly encountered some leopard sharks off the coast of Catalina, this was still really cool because the combination of the crystal-clear aquarium water and the slightly-tamer sharks let me get a better, closer look. Conclusion: shark eyes look weird and fake.

    There's a rehabilitated turtle nicknamed OD with a collapsed lung, on whose shell they epoxy weights to try to balance him out. He reportedly does not care for the intervention and periodically scrapes them off; even with them on he's still kinda tippy and adorable. The affection the staff have for the animals is evident and infectious. My inner 9-year-old aspiring marine biologist was bouncing on her toes with excitement.

    The aquarium is only 23 feet deep and not much wider at its longest point, so there's a little bit of lazily swimming around and a lot of kneeling in various spots to let the critters come to you. There's also a bit of hamming it up for the folks visiting the aquarium, including some cute kids who, according to my friends (so maybe not the most reliable source?) were more jazzed by the sight of divers waving to them than by the sharks.

    The water was 76 F and they gave me a 5/3 wetsuit, which was great because I'm a wuss and we hardly moved. They also have you in head-to-toe chain mail, which is silly but honestly I'm surprised their lawyers let them do this at all. They also outfit you with an earpiece so that both your guide and a surface tender can talk to you underwater; my guide, Jack, talked about the critters while the surface tender asked about my air supply at scheduled intervals (every 20 min to start, then every 10 min, I think.) I'm getting to the point of noticing when my rental gear is new or worn, when valves are stiff or turn easily, and my regs are well-tuned vs. when I have to work harder or they breathe a bit wet. I was happy with all the equipment they furnished (though the wetsuit irritated my skin a bit--possibly the cleaning products.) Although this is the ultimate in valet diving--they pick up and clean everything for you!-- they treated me like a diver, not some idiot who doesn't know which hole to breathe from. They allowed and even encouraged me to inspect each piece of equipment, and listened to me on my needs for more or less weight.

    My husband and friends swear they had fun watching; hopefully yours love you enough to say the same. I'm glad I did it, though I don't feel the need to do it a second time. If you're an experienced diver, you might find this a little tame. But if you're fairly new or a casual vacation diver, and especially if you've been wanting to share the experience with your non-diving friends and family, this might be worth your while.

    Feel free to ask me any questions.
     
    Doc, Khrissi, FreeFlyFreak and 4 others like this.
  2. dflaher

    dflaher Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Chandler, AZ
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    Thanks for the review! My wife and I are going to be in Vegas with some friends in October and I thought this might be a cool way to get off the Strip for a few hours. One can easily blow $650 in 3-4 hours there and not have anything to write about.
     
    Hoyden likes this.
  3. arcticat99

    arcticat99 Barracuda

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Saskatoon Sask canada
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    sounds cool i believe you can do the same in orlando for 200 per person same thing you can only use your own mask .i think it would be worth the money .i don't gamble
     
  4. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year
    9,875
    2,610
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    Heard the current can be wicked.
     
    Sam Miller III likes this.
  5. homerdoc

    homerdoc Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: South Caroline
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    are there any other scuba options in Las vegas? I just looked at this dive and it says you have to be staying at Mandalay bay.

    Thanks for the review. I did the GA aquarium and it is cool to see these rare sites under water.

    I thought I heard someone talk about a circe de soleil one, but cant find it.
     
  6. Esprise Me

    Esprise Me Kelp forest dweller ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
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    Not that I know of, but perhaps. And you don't have to stay at Mandalay Bay; you just have to shell out an extra $50 if you don't.
     
  7. BoundForElsewhere

    BoundForElsewhere ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: New York, New York
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    how much does that chain mail weigh? i'm asking for a friend....
     
    FreeFlyFreak likes this.
  8. FreeFlyFreak

    FreeFlyFreak Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: California
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    Where are the pictures?
     
  9. Esprise Me

    Esprise Me Kelp forest dweller ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
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    63
    Good question; I'm not sure. If you're asking whether it'll be hard to walk or get out of the water with a bum knee, don't worry; it's not that heavy. They help you get in and out of it too; it's easier than you'd think. If you're asking about getting your weight right, don't worry; there's a shallow, gated section where you enter, where they give you ample opportunity to check your buoyancy and add or subtract weight as needed. They don't rush you at all. They make sure everything is working (including the comms; my first one didn't, but they replaced it) and you're 100% comfortable and ready. I was really impressed with their people skills, as they manage to be cautious without undermining confidence and helpful while still being respectful.

    As for pics, they don't let you take your own camera, but they do put together a video to remember your experience. I'm not posting the whole video because I'm shy about putting my full name and face out there, but I'll try to upload a couple low-quality screen grabs to give you a sense.
     
    dflaher likes this.
  10. BoundForElsewhere

    BoundForElsewhere ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: New York, New York
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    It sounds freaking awesome. We have a similar thing here in NYC where you clean the tanks at the NY Aquarium and do learning sessions with kids. Its a volunteer basis one day every two weeks and is totally on my bucket list.
     

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