Ripley’s has become synonymous with oddities-based attractions, and you’ll find a bunch of them in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (including Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Haunted Adventure, Moving Theater, and Marvelous Mirror Maze). But Ripley’s has also gotten into the aquarium business. Enter the glidepath at Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach.
The glidepath is Ripley’s name for their 340-foot long acrylic underwater tunnel, where you walk safely among the swimming sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, and sawfish. This aquarium is one of the rare ones with sawfish.
Sawfish would seem to fit in well with the Ripley’s oddities theme. They look a lot like sharks that have partially swallowed a chain saw, but they are technically a family of rays (like the sting rays that are numerous around them). To confuse things further, sawfish are commonly called carpenter sharks, though that name seems to suit them well. Unfortunately, sawfish are rather rare; they are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered species. Mostly they use the “saw” (technically, a rostrum) to poke around in the bottom sand for food, but they can also slash their way through schooling fish and pick up the pieces.
The aquarium is relatively small but does have a nice selection of the typical tropical fish common to aquariums – tangs of various colors; angelfish; triggerfish, clown fish; cichlids; damsel fish; a really cool 3-foot Arawana; barracudas; groupers; sandbar, blacktip, leopard, bonnethead, and nurse sharks; and a variety of rays. In the Amazon section they have iguanas, poison dart frogs, and piranha. Of course there are also the octopuses, horseshoe crabs, and jellyfish that are ubiquitous to aquariums. They also had a very large catfish.
The aquarium sits at one end of a salt water pond surrounded by a variety of restaurants and other attractions. Unlike the large catfish in the aquarium, apparently the pond’s resident catfish have turned into beggars, eagerly gulping for anything edible tossed in by the touristing hordes.
Overall the aquarium and area are a nice day’s visit. Easy to reach just south of the North/South Carolina border, and with plentiful parking, the aquarium is worth a visit if you’re in the area. My visit was part of a longer road trip that took us down through the center of Virginia and North Carolina, then back up through North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Along the way was the North Carolina Aquarium, a quaint little place on historic Roanoke Island. More on that in a future post.
David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in July 2016.
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