ATLANTIS PARADISE ISLAND – BAHAMAS
The 141-acre waterscape at Atlantis Paradise Island defies conventional understanding of what an aquarium is. The sprawling network of salt and freshwater lagoons is second only to Mother Nature in its scope and size and came at an initial cost of $800 million. Atlantis’ many lagoons hold more than 20 million gallons of water and are home to more than 50,000 marine animals. The closest Atlantis comes to having a ‘normal’ aquarium is The Dig, a maze of underground passageways and tunnels. But in all honesty this is a place where it makes sense to leave any expectations at the door and simply be amazed by the overall experience. The resort has a strong emphasis on theme-park-like displays and rides, but there are also vast expanses of open water, some of which guests can snorkel in. The resort is also heavily involved in environmental and educational programmes, and the highly informative Dolphin Cay, established as part of an extensive revamp in 2007, is an absolute must.
BURJ AL ARAB – DUBAI
Being the most luxurious hotel in the world comes with a caveat – every time you do something, it has to be the absolute best. With its three state-of-the-art aquariums designed by Tom Price and WS Atkins and Partners, the Burj al Arab has once again delivered the goods. Weighing in at just over 100,000 litres they may not be the world’s biggest hotel aquariums, but they certainly are the most opulent. The aquariums, which are exclusive to the hotel’s guests and visitors, offer several special viewpoints, including a 360-degree oval shaped, shark- and fish-filled exhibit in the hotel’s signature restaurant, the Al Mahara. The Burj Al Arab is also committed to conservation, education and research. The aquarium, which has operational costs of 1.5million Dirhams, has rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 690 sea turtles into the wild, and its resident researchers have been responsible for ground-breaking research on zebra sharks.
HOTEL H20 – Manila, Philippines
Much like the Radisson Blu in Berlin, Hotel H2O has an aquarium complex as its neighbour. But instead of wowing guests as they arrive, Hotel H2O has made the marine experience intimate by bringing the fish into guests’ rooms. Two enormous aquariums (one containing fish and the other jellyfish) form one side of the hotel’s 76 Aqua rooms, in the process completely eliminating the need to hang any art on the walls. The sheer size of the tanks (the bigger of the two holds 27,600 gallons) means that you won’t have to stare at the same lonely clownfish all night long…especially when you consider that the hotel is home to 5000 creatures and more than 300 different species. Hotel H2O has a ‘locals only’ policy in its aquariums, as every fish, crab and jelly can be found on the Philippines’ coral reefs. If you want to see ‘foreigners’ like penguins, you’ll have to go to Manila Ocean Park next door.
RADISSON BLU – Berlin, Germany
Many hotel lobbies include an aquarium, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one like this. The AquaDom measures 25 metres in height (including 16 vertical metres of water), and contains 1 million litres of salt water, making it the world’s largest cylindrical seawater aquarium. Interestingly it’s not owned or managed by the hotel, but its prominence in the lobby has done wonders both for the Radisson Blu’s global profile and for the views from the 102 atrium-facing rooms. Guests of the hotel can purchase discounted tickets for the Sea Life Discovery Tour, which starts at the neighbouring Sea Life Centre and culminates with an out-of-this-world elevator ride through the middle of the AquaDom. This double-storey elevator, which accommodates up to 47 people, can also be reserved for exclusive evening use by event organizers – something which really sets the hotel apart for corporate meetings and events.
SILVERTON HOTEL & CASINO – LAS VEGAS
Hotels in Las Vegas have to try hard to stand out from the crowd, but with a 117,000 gallon aquarium Silverton Hotel and Casino have hit upon a real winner. The aquarium is open to the public 24/7 and its regular stingray feeding shows and mermaid swims (this is Vegas after all!) are extremely popular. The tank itself was designed by Seattle-based Jim Peterson at an initial cost of about $12 million, while in 2009 it underwent a $40,000 coral restoration project. The aquarium is costly to run, but it also brings extra business to the hotel; it’s been voted ‘Best Free Attraction’ in Las Vegas and has also been featured in numerous TV programmes and movies.