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Did you know there’s an aquarium inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel? It’s called Shark Reef, and from the outside, you might not think there’s much to it.
But once you step inside, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a new world full of land and marine animals. And you’ll even get to interact with them, too.
The attraction is popular with visitors and locals, but is it worth going? In this review, I’ll answer that question, cover ticket options, and give you a peek at the exhibits.
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About Shark Reef in Las Vegas
This experience isn’t just an aquarium. It’s an ancient sinking temple that leads you through a jungle full of reptiles and exciting fish. And then, a tunnel takes you underground to the bottom of the ocean floor.
Over 2,000 animals call the sanctuary their home, including reptiles like crocodiles and pythons. And you’ll see lots of fish, like the Arowana, which some cultures believe brings good luck.
You’ll also encounter sharks and stingrays as you go through a shipwreck. This decaying vessel will make you feel like a real underwater explorer!
VIDEO: See What It’s Like
Where Is The Aquarium?
The Shark Reef Aquarium is at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The address is 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, Nevada 89119.
You’ll find the entrance inside the resort next to the South Convention Center and Food Court. And I will warn you now – the walk to the aquarium takes a long time!
It took us about 15 to 20 minutes to get there from the parking garage. Unfortunately, there aren’t any signs above in the casino area to guide your way.
So the first thing you’ll need to do is find your way to the restaurant corridor. And then, from there, you’ll have directional signs overhead.
From The Front Desk:
Walk towards the casino and follow the pathway on your left. Keep walking straight until you reach the restaurant corridor (the flooring will change to tile here).
Then, follow the signs to the Mandalay Bay Convention area. You’ll soon pass by Kumi and Starbucks. Next, you’ll see the wedding chapel and Shark Reef will be immediately after that, just ahead on your left.
From The Parking Garage:
Enter the hotel through the parking garage doors and walk past Citizens Kitchen + Bar. Then follow the signs overhead to the Convention area. (Be careful not to head into the casino, as doing so will add about five minutes to your walk time.)
Next, you’ll walk through the restaurant corridor, passing by Starbucks and Border Grill. The Shark Reef Aquarium will be on your left after the wedding chapel.
Days Open & Hours
Shark Reef is open seven days a week from 10 am until 8 pm. So you’ll be able to catch all the aquatic action no matter what day you’re in town.
Remember that the last entrance time into the aquarium is at 7 pm daily. So you can’t arrive any later than this, or you won’t be allowed in.
Entry Ticket Options
There are two ticket options for the Shark Reef Aquarium:
- Timed Entry
You can check availability for different times here:
A timed entry ticket will get you the lowest rate, and they’re valid for a one-hour window on your selected date. For example, if you bought a 10 am entry, you can arrive between 10:00 and 10:59 am.
In contrast, with an Anytime entry, you can go anytime during operating hours on your selected date. Just remember that the last entrance time of the day is 7:00 pm.
NEW – All tickets now include an Undersea Explorer VR Experience.
Getting your tickets a few days before is a good idea, especially during the Las Vegas busy season. In particular, the Timed-Entrance tickets often sell out fast.
Buying your admission online will also save time since you won’t have to get in line at the box office to buy them. However, there is a short wait for everyone in the entry line.
And that’s because the aquarium limits the number of people they let in so as not to overcrowd the exhibits. But don’t worry; you won’t be waiting long – the line moves quickly!
Shark Reef Aquarium Exhibits
There are many exhibits to see at the Shark Reef Aquarium. For instance, you’ll encounter crocodiles, piranhas, snakes, and marine life like jellyfish and sharks. Here’s a quick summary of the most popular ones.
Stingray Touch Pool
The Stingray Touch Pool exhibit is my favorite at the aquarium. You’ll find this exhibit in the center of Shark Reef. Here, you’ll encounter about a dozen stingrays swimming around in a shallow pool.
Both kids and adults are welcome to interact with these smaller ray species. So you’ll get to touch them and see them up close. Just keep in mind the rules below for your safety (and the stingrays).
Touch Pool Guidelines:
- Keep your camera and electronics out of the water
- Kids should lie on their stomachs to touch the rays
- Only use one finger to touch a stingray gently
- Do NOT touch the eyes or tail
- Sanitize your hands after you’re done
An aquarium staff member will also be on hand to teach you all about the rays and answer any questions you have. And don’t worry about getting stung. All of the stingrays in the touch pool have their barbs trimmed.
One of the first exhibits you’ll see when entering Shark Reef Aquarium is the Komodo dragon. And let me tell you – this guy is enormous. He must be at least eight to nine feet long.
Now, getting to see a Komodo dragon in person is a rarity. This is because they’re an endangered species with less than 5,000 left.
And an interesting fact about the aquarium’s dragon is that it came from the largest group born in captivity. There were 28 in total!
Be sure to check out the educational signage at this exhibit too. There’s some fascinating information about these giant lizards that you don’t want to miss.
For instance, you’ll learn how a Komodo dragon finds and hunts down its prey. And how much they can eat in a single feeding.
The octopus is quite popular with Las Vegas guests but is a little hard to find. So when you’re near the Touch Pool, head to the starfish tank (next to the jellyfish), and you’ll likely find him hiding there.
He also looks pretty similar to some starfish, so you’ll have to look carefully. But he tends to hide in the corners of the tank. We found him hanging out in the upper right corner.
Vegas Sharks Experience
In the Shipwreck exhibit, you’ll get to see some predators of the deep – like sand tiger sharks and giant stingrays. I even saw sharks swimming around that had bites taken out of them!
You’ll also be closer to these animals than at most other aquariums in the country. And with 30 different sharks to see, it’s fun to take some time here to experience them in their “natural” habitat.
When exiting the exhibit, marine life will swim around you. The sharks go over your head and underneath your feet, so don’t forget to look down.
While you’re there, you may notice that you can see the sand tiger sharks’ teeth. And that’s because they have so many that they can’t even shut their mouths.
The Shipwreck exhibit is also home to the green sea turtles. And it seemed everyone was trying to find one when we were there.
We finally saw a turtle super close-up as it swam by the glass. It was well worth the wait, so if you don’t see one right away, stick around for a while, and you should be able to spot one.
FAQs: Mandalay Bay Aquarium
Below you’ll find some of the most asked questions about this Las Vegas aquarium.
When Is The Best Time To Go?
The experience tends to be less busy Monday through Thursday. So you’ll have a bigger crowd on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
I’ve been a few times now and noticed that the peak hours are generally late mornings until around 2:30 pm. And then it tends to clear out some.
So the afternoon and early evening are the best if you want to go when fewer people are there. Based on what I’ve seen, I recommend visiting between 2:30 pm and 7:00 pm.
But remember that 7:00 pm is the last entry time each day because the aquarium closes at 8:00 pm.
How Long Does It Take To Go Through The Shark Reef Aquarium?
If you want to get through the Las Vegas aquarium quickly, you can do it in about 20 to 30 minutes. But if you’d like to read the educational material and watch the animals, it’ll take about 45 minutes to an hour.
You’re welcome to stay as long as you want, though.
Can You Feed The Animals?
Unfortunately, feeding the animals is not included with a Timed Entry or Anytime ticket. But Shark Reef does offer Animal Encounter tickets. You can choose from a stingray, sea turtle, or shark feed with these.
- Stingray Feed: 9:15 am daily, $45 for kids (ages 5-12), $65 for adults
- Sea Turtle Feed: 1:45 pm (Mon-Sat), $99 per person (ages 13 and up)
- Shark Feed: 12:45 pm (Mon, Wed, Fri), $99 per person (ages 13 and up)
The above ticket prices and ages are subject to change, and additional rules may apply.
What Animals Are At The Shark Reef Aquarium?
I saw the following animals and fish at the Shark Reef Aquarium. I may have missed some, but these are the ones that I took photos of. Hopefully, this list will give you a good idea of what you’ll see there.
Fish & Aquatic Life: Devils hole pupfish, Arowana fish, pacus, cardinal tetras, razorback catfish, stingrays, piranhas, fly river turtle, clown triggerfish, zebra shark, french grunt, porcupine puffer, sergeant major, french angelfish, jellyfish, starfish, octopus, bowmouth guitarfish, sea turtles, sand tiger sharks, and eels.
Reptiles: crocodile, komodo dragon, snakes, python, and a prehensile-tailed skink.
Is Shark Reef Aquarium Ethical?
This Las Vegas aquarium is the only AZA-accredited facility in Nevada. So you can have confidence knowing that the animals are getting the best care possible.
Mandalay Bay must meet rigorous animal welfare and care standards to receive this accreditation. The AZA Committee also performs on-site inspections to ensure the criteria are met.
Are There Souvenirs?
Upon exiting the experience, you’ll enter the gift shop. There are tons of fun souvenirs like t-shirts, hats, stuffed animals, and even home decor.
Also, before you enter the aquarium, you’ll have the opportunity to get your photo taken in front of a green screen. Then, after you’re done with the tour, you can stop by the photo pickup booth and see your pictures.
There are some silly photo backdrops, too – like getting eaten by a shark! Prices usually start at about $30 for one photo.
Is It Cold Inside?
When you first enter the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, you’ll be on the jungle side with the reptiles. In this area, it’s warm and humid. So if you’re coming during the wintertime, you may need to take off your coat here.
As you make your way into the tank, it’ll cool off some, but I wouldn’t say it’s cold. So you shouldn’t need to bring an extra jacket or sweatshirt with you.
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Conclusion: My Review
I’m blown away every time I go to Shark Reef Aquarium in Las Vegas. The attention to detail is incredible, and nothing is overlooked in the design. I also love hearing all the sounds they pipe in, like birds chirping and the creaking old ship.
This tour is also an excellent escape from all the casino noise. It definitely feels like you’ve been transported to another locale.
Some guests think that the aquarium is small, though. And I understand that – I’ve been in larger ones, too. But it is in Vegas, in a hotel. And, I think how close you can get to the animals more than makes up for its size.
You also get out of this experience what you put in. So if you want to rush through it, you certainly can and be out of there in 15 minutes.
But I recommend staying awhile and taking your time at each exhibit. Educational signs are everywhere, so there’s a lot to learn and observe. I especially enjoyed seeing all the sharks and trying to find the sea turtles.
Overall, I think this experience is great and worth going to. And you really can’t beat the ticket price to see a Las Vegas attraction, either.