Coral World Ocean Park

By: Justin Burch

Most families have visited aquariums, but few can compare to St. Thomas' Coral World Ocean Park. As one of the highest rated attractions on the island, Coral World delights scores of visitors every year. Unlike many other aquariums, Coral World also features several distinct activities - each highlighting a different aspect of the Caribbean's diverse underwater universe. Families can interact with sharks or observe a colorful coral reef from an underwater observatory. If you want to get in the water yourself, Coral World is located next to one of St. Thomas' most popular beaches for snorkeling and the park's two-story catamaran, complete with slides and rides, takes visitors out into the Caribbean. When you visit St. Thomas, trust the recommendations and experience the Coral World Ocean Park for yourself.

For aquarium lovers or anyone curious about life under the sea, the Underwater Observatory is the can't-miss attraction. Located 100 feet from the shore, the observatory takes you 15 feet underwater to the home of coral reef and more fish than you can imagine. At the complex's bottom level, you can photograph numerous species of tropical fish swimming amongst the natural coral reef. Check the times of the twice-daily feedings as you will have the opportunity to see creatures of all sizes swim into view to meet the courageous diver.

Another part of the offshore facility is the Predator Tank, a 50,000 gallon aquarium housing all of the region's most imposing sea creatures. Gazing into the massive tank, you can expect to see plenty of sharks, moray eels and tarpon. Much like the observatory that is open to the sea, Coral World has scheduled feeding times for the predators throughout the day. Lastly, while you are keeping dry underwater in the sprawling offshore exhibit hall, check out the Caribbean Reef Encounter. In addition to being one of the world's largest coral reef tanks, this 80,000 gallon aquarium is open to the light at the top, providing a truly unique way to view different types of coral, sponges and tropical fish.

If you are thrilled by the predators of the deep, you can take your obsession one step further at the Shark Encounter. After participating in a lesson about these often misunderstood creatures, you can hop in the Shark Shallows Pool with the guide and swim with over a dozen young lemon, blacktip and nurse sharks. With your mask and snorkel, your guide will allow you to get within two feet of the sharks. Afterwards, guests are invited to touch one of the park's baby nurse sharks.

If you decide you want to get wet out at sea, make a reservation for the park's popular Sea Trek. Supported by an underwater handrail, visitors walk on the bottom of the sea while schools of fish dart through the coral reefs. Sea trekkers are supplied with giant underwater helmets capable of providing oxygen and stability without the weight of a tank. A less-wet - but no less eye-opening - alternative is the Nautilus semi-submarine, described as half-boat, half-submarine. From the air conditioned interior, you can relax and watch all the bustling activity of the Caribbean through oversized windows.

Within the past year, Coral World Ocean Park also added two new activities - Sea Lion Splash and Lorikeet Garden. The Sea Lion Splash allows visitors to interact and swim with some of the world's friendliest sea creatures. The Lorikeet Garden is an aviary full of sociable tropical birds. If you saunter the trails of the garden with a cup of nectar, the birds will flutter down and eat from your hand.

Once you have experienced all the sites of the Coral World Ocean Park, walk up the shore to Coki Beach - one of the most popular beaches in St. Thomas and a great site for snorkeling. Rental equipment is available at the beach for snorkeling and other water sports. When you are finally done playing in the water, relax on a stretch of sand and plan your next adventure in St. Thomas. If you just can't get enough of the Coral World Ocean Park, you can always head back the next day and take advantage of free admission for return visitors.

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