If you’re looking for an interactive, educational and memorable activity to do with the kids, Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters in Port Stephens, north of Newcastle may be just the place! Kids and adults can experience ocean life in a hands-on and exciting way.
There are a variety of options available in terms of how adventurous or up-close and personal you wish to get with the sharks and rays. You can get in the pools with these creatures. Or if you prefer, you can opt to stay dry but still participate in touching, feeding and learning from the perimeter of the aquariums.
All tours are completely guided and the staff members we encountered were helpful and knowledgeable. We learned many interesting facts about the ocean and a number of marine species. One of the first things our guide brought our attention to was one of the smaller tanks located near the entrance.
Inside was a simple plastic bag floating in the water. We were told that this same bag has been floating in that space for ten years! The bag was fully intact with no signs of deterioration. This was a great visual to remind us of the impact plastic pollution has on our oceans and environment. It helped set the tone of respect and appreciation for ocean life.
There are a variety of fish to see in some of these smaller aquariums including a clownfish and blue tang, perhaps better known to children as Nemo and Dory! It was a lot of fun to spot these two loveable fish.
For those who want to immerse themselves in the water and have the full experience, you can put on some waders or a full wetsuit which are both available in a variety of sizes. As advertised in the brochure, any age can participate.
We had an information and safety briefing at the wetsuit area where my husband put on his waders. Again, the staff member here was informative and answered any questions we had with confidence and clarity.
From there, our guide started the tour. There are a few different pools where the encounters take place. All are accessible in either dry or wet attire so everyone is included throughout the duration of the tour. There were children in wetsuits as well as adults.
We were blown away by the magnificent Leopard Whiptail Ray! These three beauties are named Bella, Archie and Indy. There are also Smooth Rays which are the world’s largest species of stingray! Tawny Nurse, Zebra, Brown Banded Bamboo, Port Jackson and Epaulette sharks are the variety you will encounter at Irukandji.
During the visit to the area with the largest shark, it is necessary for those entering the water to put on some gloves just as a little extra precaution. What an amazing experience my husband had touching that incredible creature. He was pretty thrilled!
The rays came right up very close on the wall to be stroked and even flapped a bit, splashing a little water, which added that extra bit of excitement for those in their dry clothes. It was good fun! All of the marine species we encountered were friendly and gentle.
One of the best things about our time at Irukandji was watching our children grow in their confidence and courage toward these lovely creatures. They were a little hesitant to put their hands in the water at first, or even to stand too close.
The more they heard from the very informative guides and observed others, including their dad, feeding and patting the sharks and rays, the more they opened up their own minds and hearts to the experience. It was really lovely to see.
The gift shop has some themed souvenirs as well as a few snacks and drinks. You can also book birthday parties which would be pretty awesome for those kids who are fascinated with sharks and fish.
It’s an exciting time for Irukandji with the addition of the Irukandji Sea Shelter. We were informed that in 2020, construction will begin on Sea Shelter’s Marine Animal Hospital for the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles, sharks, rays and other marine life.
This facility in Port Stephens will be the only one of its kind between Taronga Zoo and Ballina. This shelter will provide a safe haven for injured or sick ocean creatures. We’re looking forward to hearing more about this as plans take shape and construction begins!
Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters is located at 2 Jessie Road, Anna Bay. For more information, visit the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters website.
Janice is a proud mum to two energetic girls who love spending their time dancing, exploring and just plain having fun. She followed her heart and relocated from overseas to Australia thirteen years ago. After six years in Sydney, Janice and her family made the decision to return to her husband’s hometown of Newcastle and with the amazing lifestyle Newcastle has to offer, they feel grateful to call this place home. She is passionate about embracing lifelong learning and making lasting memories with loved ones.