One of the best experiences of my life, Swimming With Giants at the Georgia Aquarium was magical! We were actually in the large aquarium, home to two whale sharks, huge manta rays, and so much more and snorkeling above them! The whale sharks actually came up to us and even touched us! It was just incredible!
We first heard about the Journey With Giants Experience at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta when my kids were still too young to participate, but in 2016 we spent our Thanksgiving break in Atlanta, and one of the things we did was to visit the Georgia Aquarium and see where we would one day swim with the whale sharks! We have talked about it ever since!
When my youngest turned 14, the minimum age to swim with the whale sharks, we started planning our trip back to the Georgia Aquarium, only to find out that they had actually lowered the minimum age to 12!
We booked the experience about 6 months out, and I’d say about half the Summer dates were already booked. This was probably the “stressiest” part of it. Even though the aquarium will let you change your date, there probably won’t be another date available if you wait too close to Summer or holidays. I checked again about a month before we went, and Summer was completely booked!
We had timed tickets to enter the aquarium at noon, and our experience was at 4:30. I was told to be at the 2nd floor entrance at 4 to get waivers, etc. filled out. We enjoyed exploring the aquarium for 3 hours, and watching the dolphin show where the kids all sat in the Splash Zone and were soaked by the end of the show! They were glad they had towels with them for the whale sharks so they could dry off! We grabbed a quick bite to eat between the dolphin show and our time to check in at the food court.
After checking in and filling out online waivers, we met the 3 others who would be swimming with us, a father and daughter and a man by himself, for a total of 8. We were led back to a classroom to be walked through the process ahead of us, led out to meet our swim team, which consisted of a lead and a tail and a videographer who took pictures and videos as we were swimming, then we headed into the locker rooms to change into our wetsuits. We brought with us swimsuits and towels. We changed into our swimsuits then pulled on the wetsuit. The tank water, at 72 degrees, isn’t freezing but the wetsuits make it comfortable. We came out and I was able to take several pictures in our wetsuits with my phone. You aren’t allowed to take a camera into the tank with you. After helping us in the swim vest, a life vest for snorkeling, we put on our snorkels and mask and hopped in the water. I will suggest if you’ve never been snorkeling, find a pool where you’re comfortable and do it. Just buy or borrow a cheap snorkel and mask to learn, but all the gear at the aquarium is provided and it’s all top notch stuff! We were given a couple of minutes to acclimate to the water before we swam off in 2’s behind the lead around the tank!
And it was incredible! The tank is 20′ deep at one end and 30′ deep at the other. We floated more than swam, crossing over the clear tunnel with people looking up and waving at us! Schools of beautiful pompano fish swam around us, and I was totally lost in the moment! I hum when I’m happy, or stressed, and I was a little of both, so I was in full chorus of Part of Your World from the Little Mermaid! Of course, one of the rules, really the only rule, is to not touch any of the animals, and when they come up to you, or touch you, to just cross your arms if possible. The huge rays swam right by us, and the whale sharks swam close enough to touch each of us at least once! I took a ride along his big dorsal fin as he used me as a backscratcher! It was breathtaking! A large green sea turtle shares the tank, too, as well as black-tipped sharks, giant groupers, a guitarfish, cownose rays and so much more! We made two passes through the deep tank, then a big figure eight around to the smaller tank and back to the dock. In all, we were in the water about 30 minutes, which felt like 10, and I was not at all ready to get out. I could have stayed there forever, or until I was hungry at least…
Back on dry land, we put our snorkels and mask in a bleach water bath, then headed to the locker rooms to shower and wash our hair and change back to our dry clothes. They did provide soap, shampoo and a towel, also. So really, all we needed was our swimsuits, but I had surprised the family with these fun, Sand Cloud Towels with whale sharks on them from Amazon (affiliate link), and they really take up very little room. We didn’t bring a plastic bag to hold the wet swimsuits but they did have the little swimsuit ringers in the locker rooms.
Before leaving, we were shown our video and pictures, and offered to purchase the video. The picture in the wetsuits is included in the package, but not any pictures in the water. We did purchase the video, and my son was able to get pictures from the video for us.
Afterwards, we still had a couple of hours to finish our way around the aquarium exhibits before heading out.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Centennial Olympic Park, which is about a block from the Aquarium, so we didn’t have to drive or park, as it was a very quick walk, or scooter trip away. In what to me is the heart of Atlanta, you’re near the World of Coca Cola Museum and the Centennial Olympic Park is beautiful to explore!
Our Swim With Giants Experience was part of our 2023 South Carolina Road Trip. Each year our family takes a big road trip to see a different part of the country, and we see National Parks, State Parks, baseball games and as much else as we can squeeze in a couple of weeks on the road. On our way back to Texas we stopped in Atlanta for a couple of days and took in an Atlanta Braves game and then the visit to the aquarium. It was an incredible adventure!
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