Behind the scenes at Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium with our Vegas Insiders

There’s a reason the whole country is obsessed with Shark Week, shark attacks, Jaws and everything else shark-related. It’s because they’re superawesomelymegabadassterrific, duh. So much so that the Mandalay Bay named their Shark Reef Aquarium after them (ok so technically this is speculation, but it totally seems legit).

Shark Reef has been kicking ass and taking names for the last 15 years (HBD BTW), which is the equivalent of “antique” in Vegas attraction years. Naturally, we got all kinds of nosy wondering what they were doing that has made them a go-to destination on the Las Vegas Strip for so long. Here’s what we found out.


This is what you don’t see, life above the aquarium. Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright /

There aren’t a whole lot of places that take the public behind the scenes for an up close and personal experience with the animals. But luckily for you, Mandalay Bay is one of ’em. With the Animal Encounters program, guests can feed stingrays, 300 pound sea turtles and even sharks.


“Hey guys, wait for me!” Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright /

Spoiler alert: No lunch shall be licked from your fingertips, at least at the aquarium. They use a claw grabber-thingy so everybody leaves with the same number of digits they came with (unless you meet a cute marine biologist, but those are a different set of digits). Plus, it’s probably not a good idea for the sharks to start associating humans with “lunch,” just saying.


The divers at the entrance to the aquarium. At this point, the only thing between them and the sharks is a gate that’s about to be opened. Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright /

For all you adrenaline junkies or just plain aquatic wildlife enthusiasts, they’ve also got a scuba diving encounter that’ll let you swim with the sharks. Given the mob’s history in Vegas, we’re pretty familiar with the term “sleeping with the fishes,” and this doesn’t seem a whole lot different. The good news is, we found out this is actually much safer than dealing with the dons. Well, if you consider diving in a tank with 30 of the ocean’s top predators, safer. The cool thing about this experience is that you’re guaranteed the sharks will show up, something you don’t have much control over in the ocean.


Hunt for shark teeth with your scuba guide. Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright /

We learned a lot of things at the Shark Reef Aquarium, like the importance of opposable thumbs. Lacking digits, sharks have no choice but to test something out with their mouths. It works for them, but it totally sucks for us. We also discovered that there are way more animals than just those in the aquarium. The Shark Reef is home to crocodiles, piranhas, snakes and a Komodo dragon too.


Hey little buddy. Just kidding, you do NOT want to pet this dude. Photo courtesy of Shark Reef Aquarium

The Shipwreck exhibit has two underwater tunnels and holds 1.3 million gallons of water and sheer aquatic awesomeness. With more than 1,200 species of marine life, the Animal Encounters and petting pool make the Shark Reef Aquarium a place unlike most others. Finally, a place where you can look and touch.


Behind the scenes of the Vegas Insiders filming at the Shark Reef Aquarium. Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright /

For more information on the Shark Reef Aquarium in Mandalay Bay, click here.


Born a Buckeye - raised a Hoosier. I grew up in a one-horse town that straddles the Indiana/Ohio state line and until 2006, was in two different time zones. There were three stoplights and a whopping 48 students in my graduating class. Fast forward a few years later, I was bitten by the travel bug and decided to head west. It seems like no matter how long I live here, there’s always something that still makes my jaw drop. That’s what I love about Vegas; you never know what you’re going to see next and that’s what makes living here so much fun. Basically, if you’re bored in this town, there’s something wrong with you…not the city. I’m an avid traveler with an incurable case of wanderlust so stay tuned for all the tours, attractions and shopping adventures that Sin City has to offer.