Chattanooga, Tenn. — From watching the acrobatic antics of Malagasy lemurs to learning more about the claw-some might of Coconut Crabs, the Tennessee Aquarium is about to make a Spring Break visit feel more like an island getaway.
Guests arriving at the Aquarium will be among the first to visit the newly opened Lemur Forest exhibit. After a months-long renovation, the Tropical Cove has been transformed into a recreation of the spiny forests and rainforests of Madagascar. Here, visitors will see Red-ruffed Lemurs dangling upside down from perches dozens of feet overhead and watch Ring-tailed Lemurs and Radiated Tortoises soaking up the sun on a miniature island. Lemur experts will provide even more insights into these charismatic, fascinating mammals during Leaping Lemurs presentations offered twice daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Also in the Tropical Cove, guests will be able to enjoy the dramatic improvements to Stingray Bay. The walls of this visitor-favorite exhibit — the Aquarium’s largest touch tank — have been thinned out and smoothed to allow easier access to the ray and shark species swimming through its warm waters.
From March 10 through April 9, the Aquarium is introducing a series of island-themed Spring Break encounters to its schedule of free Extraordinary Experience programs. The following encounters will be offered at 1:30 p.m. each day:
• March 10-18 — “On the Wild Side of Island Life” — Islands have unique animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. During this special encounter, you’ll meet an interesting island resident. (Ocean Journey Level 4 outside Lemur Forest)
• March 19-25 — “Seaside with Seahorses” — Shallow reefs and mangrove forests surrounding islands are home to hungry seahorses. Meet a seahorse expert and watch these marvelous creatures having lunch. (River Journey Seahorse Gallery)
• March 26-April 1 — “Island Giants – Coconut Crabs” — Tropical islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans are home to the world’s largest land crabs. See one of these herculean crustaceans up close and learn more about their incredible feats of strength. (Ocean Journey Level 4 outside Lemur Forest)
• April 2-9 — “Totally Tropical” — The tropics contain an amazing wealth of plants and animals. Meet a living treasure from one of the many tropical regions of the world during this fun program. (Ocean Journey Level 4 outside Lemur Forest)
Spring Break represents one of the last opportunities guests will have to visit Monster Fish before it leaves the Aquarium on April 15. Housed in the River Place building, this National Geographic traveling exhibit is based on the Nat Geo WILD series of the same name hosted by Dr. Zeb Hogan. Monster Fish offers up enormous, scale replicas of titanic freshwater species such as the Goonch Catfish and Sawfish as well as videos and interactive games that show that, despite their extraordinary size, these leviathans face many threats to their long-term survival.
At the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater, guests visiting during Spring Break will be able to take in showings of several 45-minute giant screen movies. Dream Big 3D, Wild Africa 3D and Jean-Michael Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D take viewers on breath-taking cinematic adventures made even more stunning thanks to the theater’s recent upgrade to an IMAX with Laser projection suite. Special screenings of Jerusalem 3D also will be offered at 6 p.m. daily through March 30. A schedule of showings is available online at tnaqua.org/calendar/month/category/imax-showtimes.
An afternoon cruise aboard the River Gorge Explorer can be an unforgettable experience, especially during the longer days of an Appalachian spring. During each two-hour cruise, passengers on the Aquarium’s high-tech catamaran will take in the natural grandeur of the Tennessee River Gorge — also known as “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon” — while a naturalist points out wildlife and locations of historic significance. A schedule of cruise dates is online at tnaqua.org/calendar/month/category/cruise-times.
Although it’s a destination, in and of itself, the Aquarium is just one of many places to make memories during a visit to Chattanooga. A downloadable travel guide breaking down special Spring Break activities at various attractions, as well as a citywide scavenger hunt, is available at chattanoogafun.com/spring/safari-guide.