Why the aquarium is Toronto’s most underrated Instagram paradise

Why the aquarium is Toronto’s most underrated Instagram paradise

Their latest campaign, SEA.LIKE.SHARE, puts the spotlight on visitors

In the dreariest depths of Toronto’s winters, when practically the only pleasure comes from hibernating with bowls of pasta and hate-watching your friends’ vacation stories, Ripley’s Aquarium is a surprisingly tranquil daytrip—especially if you don’t have hyperactive kids to supervise. The meandering space is home to ten expansive underwater galleries, each of which showcase a mesmerizing mix of sea creatures and submarine plant life. Wandering through the various galleries feels like watching Blue Planet, only instead of lounging in front of Netflix, you get to be the one behind the camera, maneuvering your phone for the best shot of the Sand Tiger shark’s teeth cruising above your head. The resulting social media content can be show-stopping—and totally worth trekking downtown for.

The aquarium’s latest campaign, called SEA.LIKE.SHARE, lets visitors be the stars of their social media. Basically, until the end of February, if you follow @RipleysAquaCA on Instagram, tag them and add the hashtag #SeaLikeShare, the company will consider sharing your post across their much-followed platforms—making you an instant “Finfluencer” (forgive us).

Here are some of our favourite, most photogenic parts of the aquarium, and a few of the programs you should most definitely participate in, whether it’s to maximize those likes or feel like you’ve escaped to the tropics for an afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium

The Rainbow Reef
While the first gallery of the aquarium, Canadian Waters, is great for gawking at the odd-looking fish that reside right next to us in Lake Ontario, the Rainbow Reef is wonderfully exotic, and one of the aquarium’s more popular Instagram settings (probably because it’s guaranteed to remind you of warmer times). The giant wall of seawater is filled with all sorts of impossibly colourful, intricately patterned fish, including various kinds of kaleidoscopic Sharpnose Puffers and Angelfish. The species here are all pretty small and definitely non-threatening, meaning it’s a seriously peaceful environment to contemplate life, and, yes, even perfect your warrior poses. The aquarium runs yoga classes for six-week sessions starting at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, alternating between the Rainbow Reef and Ray Bay (more on that later). You can reserve a spot for the whole session.

The Dangerous Lagoon
In this section of the aquarium, visitors stroll through an underwater tunnel, getting totally submerged by an impressive blend of sea life—including a few different kinds of toothy, ferocious-looking sharks—on all sides. As always, panels provide fascinating information about the species you’re looking at. For instance, did you know that Sandbar Sharks always give birth to an equal ratio of male and female pups?

Photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium

What’s more, the aquarium also offers a Discovery Dive program that lets experienced divers actually get in the tank themselves. For $250, anyone who’s a certified Open Water Scuba Diver and been diving in the past two years can experience a 30-minute guided tour of the Dangerous Lagoon from the inside. You’ll get to shock your followers with up-close-and-personal shots with the sharks, stingrays, sea turtles and more.

Planet Jellies
Of all the aquarium attractions, the jellyfish gallery (one of the largest of its kind in the world) is probably the most awe-inspiring. As the lights in the water alternate between vibrant purples, pinks and blues, otherworldly Pacific Sea Nettles undulate and push themselves around the tank. They’re brainless and eye-less, and rely on light-sensing organs to locate their food. Some of the coolest, silhouette-inspired shots can be taken in front of the glowing tank—including seriously cute couples shots. On one of the aquarium’s regular Friday Night Jazz nights, crooning live bands make the ambiance even more romantic.

Ray Bay
Near the end of the aquarium’s path, visitors will stumble upon Ray Bay, which is home to four different species of stingray, and one shark (the Bonnethead, one of the smallest members of the Hammerhead family). At 350,000 litres, it’s one of the aquarium’s largest exhibits, and provides more than a few opportunities to observe and interact with species like the beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray and massive Roughtail Ray. As part of their Stingray Experience, every day, at 3 p.m., the aquarium lets visitors don snorkel equipment and glide about the waters side-by-side with the graceful, occasionally-smiling creatures.

Tickets to the aquarium start at $30 for adults, and can be purchased in person when you get there, or ahead of time online.

288 Bremner Blvd., 647-351-3474, ripleysaquariums.com