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Diving Santa Claus Joins Aquarium's Holiday Lineup

11/4/2011 7:00:00 AM

Santa Claus will be joining the holiday fun at the Tennessee Aquarium this year. Bring the whole family to enjoy Saint Nicolas SCUBA diving at the Aquarium or to see exotic birds, tropical species and colorful reef fish.

Santa Claus will be making guest appearances underwater at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Above: Special Weekend Diving Appearances by Santa Claus. The jolly old elf will become "St. Nick-a-jack" when he dons SCUBA gear in the Tennessee Aquarium's Lake Nickajack exhibit.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

The Aquarium’s Tropical Holiday Adventure Featuring
Beautiful New Birds and Special SCUBA Diving Appearances by Santa Claus


Chattanooga, Tenn. (November 4, 2011) – A whole new cast of friendly animals will be waiting to greet visitors at Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari during the Tennessee Aquarium’s “Tropical Holiday Adventure.” Brightly colored birds will make everyone smile as they free-fly through the gallery or entertain from the main stage. “I think everyone will fall in love with “Monte,” our new, keel-billed toucan,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “He has a beautiful beak and spectacular plumage.”

Keel-billed toucans are sometimes called rainbow-billed toucans due to their multi-colored beaks. Aviculturists don’t fully understand the actual function of this oversized bill although these birds use it to skillfully pluck fruit from small tree branches.

It will be quite a contrast to compare Monte to his toucan cousin “Squirt,” the Aquarium’s green aracari. Squirt made his Tropical Holiday debut two years ago. Since that time he’s learned how to catch fruit in mid-air and fly from perch to perch through the Ranger Rick gallery. From beak tip to tail, Squirt is only about as long as Monte’s beak! “In spite of their size difference, there are a lot of similarities in their behavior,” said Graves. “Toucans do a lot of hopping and short flights. And both of these guys love fruit, especially blueberries.

Squirt and Monte have several new bird friends. The Aquarium has now added to the aerial show in River Journey “Daisy,” a trumpeter hornbill, “Butch & Sundance,” a pair of red-fronted macaws and “Dodger & Fagin,” a pair of pink-crested cockatoos. They join “Boo” the African gray parrot who is another crowd favorite.  “We also have many other animals from the tropics like the amazing Brazilian rainbow boa,” said Graves. “She shimmers in the light as if she was covered in glitter.”

The Caribbean vibe continues in Ocean Journey where guests can feed stingrays and guitarfish, bask in the warmth of the Butterfly Garden and talk to tropically clad divers as they float among colorful reef fish several times each day.

New this year will be weekend appearances by Santa Claus who will be SCUBA diving in the Aquarium’s Lake Nickajack exhibit. Look for the jolly old elf among the paddlefish, sturgeon and catfish at 11:00 am on November 19th & 20th, 26th & 27th and on December 3rd & 4th, 10th & 11th, 17th & 18th. He will wrap up a season of special appearances with a quick dive on Saturday, Dec 24th.

“Tropical Holiday Adventure” daily schedule - Nov. 18, 2011 - Jan. 1, 2012
(The Aquarium is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.)

• 10:15 a.m. – Help keepers surface feed stingrays and guitarfish – Ocean Journey – Tropical Cove, Stingray Bay, Level 4
• 10:30 a.m. – Surf’s Up Penguin Program – Ocean Journey – Penguins’ Rock, Level 2
• 10:30 a.m. – Join keepers to release butterflies – Ocean Journey – Butterfly Garden, Level 4
• 10:45 a.m. – Special Presentation: Meet Tropical Animals – River Journey – Stage Program in Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari
• 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. – Talk to tropical “Santa” divers and learn about sharks and colorful reef fish – Ocean Journey -- Secret Reef, Level 2
• 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 12:45 p.m., 2:00 pm and 2:15 p.m. – Animal Adventure Programs – River Journey – Stage Program in Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari
• 11: 15 a.m. – Enjoy the playful antics of river otters during “enrichment” time.– River Journey – Cove Forest, Level 4
• 1:45 p.m. - – Surf’s Up Penguin Program – Ocean Journey – Penguins’ Rock, Level 2
• 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. -- Talk to tropical “Santa” divers and learn about sharks and colorful reef fish – Ocean Journey -- Secret Reef, Level 2
• 3:30 p.m. – Discover amazing facts about seahorses with an Aquarium expert – River Journey, Level A
• 4 p.m. – Surround yourself with butterflies and meet their perfect complement, crested wood partridges living under the trees - Ocean Journey – Butterfly Garden, Level 4
• * 11 a.m. Saturday & Sundays Nov. 19 – Dec. 24th – Santa SCUBA diving in the Lake Nickajack exhibit – River Journey – Level 2
Extend Your Holiday Fun Aboard the River Gorge Explorer
Winter wonders abound aboard the River Gorge Explorer. Aquarium naturalists report more sightings of bald eagles in the Gorge as well as seasonal birds that only visit the area when it’s chilly outside. Fear not, fair-weather fans. The River Gorge Explorer is climate-controlled, so the weather inside is always comfortable. Escape the seasonal hustle and bustle with a relaxing trip into Tennessee’s Grand Canyon. Excursions depart daily except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Go to: for cruise times and to purchase tickets online.                                                             

The Polar Express 3D returns to Chattanooga’s Largest IMAX Screen
Climb aboard the Polar Express for an extraordinary 3D train ride to the North Pole. During this magical journey, audiences grasp at snowflakes as a young boy discovers the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. Experiencing this giant-screen classic at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater has become a tradition for many families. Catch The Polar Express 3D November 25th through December 22nd. Go to: for showtimes and to purchase tickets online.

New Year’s Eve Sleep in the Deep December 31st – January 1st, 2012
Usher in 2012 at the Tennessee Aquarium by registering for  the New Year’s Eve Sleep in the Deep. Celebrate New Year’s Eve visiting animals and habitats from around the world and then raise a “midnight” toast with a sparkling non-alcoholic beverage. This night of adventure includes activities in both Aquarium buildings. Explore behind the scenes, get up-close with our critters, and at lights out, bed down in the Undersea Cavern of Ocean Journey. Includes overnight, guided tours, special activities, pizza and continental breakfast. Families with children AGE 6 AND OLDER, accompanied by an adult. $45/Member, per person; $55/Non-Member, per person. Register online at:


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