String beans?!? Really? Okay, my daughter took a string bean out of the bowl and eagerly held it up for the 2-toed sloth to eat. The sloth inquisitively looked at her and the string bean before nibbling the vegetable. We proceeded to feed the sloth a large helping of string beans, which she slowly, but steadily devoured – all while hanging upside down! This was part of our unusual afternoon at the World Aquarium in St. Louis, Missouri!
While in St. Louis, a relative had arranged for us to take a special 2-hour long, hands-on Discovery Adventure Tour at the World Aquarium, which is housed in the City Museum. Our guide, Chuck, lead us through the City Museum which looks like a Gaudi-esque wonderland with aquatic and animal-themed mosaic tiling and sculptures. Along the way, we stopped to feed some fish and turtles including an enormous catfish named Bob.
The World Aquarium is a non-profit organization that rescues animals who can no longer live in the wild or had owners who could not take care of them, which means the aquarium hasn’t paid for any of its animal acquisitions. Admittedly, the layout is a bit strange and almost feels like an enormous exotic pet store gone crazy, but our experience with the animals there was incredible. Our first unusual experience was a “manicure” from some doctor fish, which nibbled the dead skin off of our hands – apparently this is a spa treatment at many resorts! Chuck then gave us lettuce to feed the tortoises and helped us to pet a small, docile shark.
Afterwards, we met up with Chris who started off the second half of our tour by giving us shrimp to feed the sting rays! The rays which were at least 3-feet wide excitedly flapped their wings and splashed us as they swam up the side of the tank to get their food. Our ray encounter was followed by some playtime with albino ferrets. We then fed the 2-toed sloth who was happy to let us pet her as she ate her string beans. Chris explained that while he studied biology in Costa Rica, he had seen many sloths off in the distance hanging from trees, but he had never been this close to one until he started working at the aquarium.
After sliding or rather scooching through a tunnel slide that goes through the shark, eel, and turtle tank, we met the aquarium’s anteater whom we fed some blueberry-banana baby food. Chris asked the anteater if she would share her food as he put his hand towards her bowl. The anteater didn’t bat an eye as she rather politely swatted his hand away with her left arm! She also treated us to the aroma of anteater gas – apparently they fart! She wasn’t done with her food when it was time to go back into her enclosure so she grabbed it with her two front paws as Chris carried her away.
We wrapped up our tour by holding 3 snakes which were all literally wrapped up in each other before meeting an armadillo. The armadillo was excited to see us when we gave him a bunch of meal worms to eat. He ate them so quickly and efficiently it was like his mouth was a vacuum cleaner sucking up the worms. As a parting gift, Chris gave each of us a fossilized shark tooth to remember our time at the aquarium; however, I think all of us will remember this unusual animal experience even without the shark teeth! My animal loving daughters love telling people about this awesome animal encounter!
- Skills: Visual acuity, fine motor, curiosity, gross motor
- Preparation: No preparation is really needed – just go prepared to interact with the animals!
- Cost: The listed price for the Discovery Adventure Tour is $65 per person; however, they offer deals of 50% off or more if there’s availability for a tour that day. I would recommend looking for a deal on Groupon or Amazon Local which offers the most affordable pricing at $49 for 2 people and $79 for 4 people.
- Time & Energy: This 2-hour tour runs everyday at 3:00 p.m. as well as at other times on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In addition to the slide through one of the tanks, there are a couple of other structures kids can climb and slide through so wear comfortable clothes and closed-toed shoes.
- Contact Info: The World Aquarium has a website (http://www.worldaquarium.org) and can be reached at (314) 647-9594 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Try to get Chris to guide you through the aquarium – his enthusiasm and knowledge made the tour more memorable.