Out and About: Celebrating the Holiday “Sea-son” at Sea Life Michigan Aquarium

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS | SEA LIFE MICHIGAN AQUARIUM

This December, the SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium in Auburn Hills will celebrate the holiday “sea-son” with Fishmas!

Running from December 1 to 24, Fishmas features a daily holiday story-time for kids, festive decorations throughout the aquarium, and Santa diving into the large ocean tank to give presents to all the good creatures. Children can search for an Elf on the Shelf, who moves to a new area of the aquarium every day, or they can write holiday messages to their favorite creatures to put into stockings hung near their habitats.

“Placing messages in the stockings is very popular each holiday season, as kids love to send a message to their favorite animals,” according to Debbie Gibb, Senior Marketing Director. “Among the most beloved are Benson, one of our green sea turtles, Jeff, our six-foot green moray eel, and Mrs. Jaws, one of our bonnethead sharks,” according to Gibb. Year-round inhabitants include over 250 species.

In addition to this special holiday programming, the aquarium is swimming in educational and entertaining activities, programs, and interactive exhibits.

The Freshwater Exhibit displays residents of Michigan’s streams, rivers, and lakes. More unusual creatures can be found in the Harbor Exhibit, home to tropical creatures who live in harbors around the world, and the Shipwreck Exhibit, a display of mysterious critters from the deepest and darkest parts of the ocean.

Close-up views of unique characters are available at the Jellies Exhibit, where these unusual beings float about rhythmically, and the Mangrove Exhibit, where little seahorses grasp at seagrass with their curly tails.

The Tropical Ocean Exhibit is an underwater tunnel where visitors feel as if they’ve been immersed among thousands of tropical fish, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and even “shoals” of hundreds of schooling fish as they dart about in unison.

There is also an interactive touch pool that enables brave visitors to reach in and touch amazing rock pool creatures like sea stars, urchins, and lobsters. Doodle Reef is an imaginative underwater world where children can design a virtual fish and watch it “swim” through the reef.

Educational talks and feeding demonstrations take place throughout the day. They’re a great way to learn something new about the amazing creatures at SEA LIFE, what it takes to keep the ecosystem healthy, and ways to help protect marine species around the world.

Conservation is a huge priority for the aquarium. The intent is to impart a love of the creatures by sharing the wonder and beauty of our waterways, from the freshwater lakes of Michigan all the way to the depths of the ocean.

The staff members are dedicated to, and truly passionate about, sharing their message of conservation. In keeping with the message – BREED, RESCUE, PROTECT – the aquarium has developed a system of care and best-practice animal husbandry that draws on decades of collective experience from its marine biologists.

As part of this, the aquarium is home to several rescues. Visitors will delight in meeting Benson and Carr, both green sea turtles that were struck by boats and then rehabilitated.

Michiganders will be particularly interested in the juvenile lake sturgeon program being explored as part of a Department of Natural Resources conservation project. Each year, these lake sturgeon are released to help repopulate Michigan’s lakes and rivers.

Also, visitors can become involved with quarterly watershed clean-ups and do their share to help preserve local streams, rivers, and lakes. The venue presents another enlightening tool to support aquatic life: a guide to selecting seafood from sustainable sources.

The aquarium is a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to animal care, conservation, education, science, and family fun. Visitors receive discounts to visit other AZA institutions like the Detroit Zoo and the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, where the fun and learning continue.

Merry Fishmas!

SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets 4316 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills, MI 48326 l VisitSeaLife.com/Michigan