May Happenings at The Maritime Aquarium

THE MARITIME AQUARIUM AT NORWALK, 10 N. Water Street, Norwalk, CT;(203)  Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

The only Aquarium focused on Long Island Sound presents sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles, jellyfish and more than 100 other species from Long Island Sound and its watershed. Two staffed touch tanks allow hands-on close encounters with intertidal animals and a chance to pet live sharks and rays.  “Go Fish!” explores our cultural relationship with the sea through fishing and the sustainable seafood movement. “Ocean Playspace” offers fun for toddlers and a rest for big people. Marine Lab shows visitors how we care for marine animals, including raising baby seahorses and jellies. IMAX® theater offers the largest movie screen in Connecticut. And, on weekends (daily in July & August), come aboard for exciting hands-on study cruises out onto the Sound aboard the research vessel Oceanic.


Special Exhibit:   “White Alligator”

Open Sat., May 26 – Labor Day (Sept. 3)

See a very rare “great white of the wetlands,” an 8-foot white alligator!

It may be the rarest live animal you’ll ever see. Of some 5 million or so American alligators thought to be alive, only 44 are white and The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk has one for the summer.

This “Cajun curiosity,” hatched in Louisiana and raised in Florida, will be on display from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The exhibit is free with Aquarium admission.

Previous visits of a white alligator in 2005 and 2008 were extremely popular with Aquarium visitors.

The alligator to be exhibited isn’t an albino, it’s leucistic. (Albinism and leucism are similar in that both have a genetic cause that results in little or no skin color.  Leucistic animals can have normal eye color, while albino animals will have red eyes.)

Aside from being creamy white, the alligator looks and acts like a regular gator.

White alligators are rare because, when young in the wild, they cannot hide from predators. Also, alligators are cold-blooded reptiles that rely upon the warmth of their surroundings for energy. Unfortunately, white alligators can’t bask in the sun because they’re susceptible to sunburns. (The Aquarium’s visiting white alligator will enjoy a special shaded, heated enclosure.)



NORWALK, CT  – Get close to one of the rarest animals you’ll ever see in a special “White Alligator” exhibit, open Memorial Day-Labor Day at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.  It will be included with Aquarium admission. Get more details at

New “Sharks & Rays” Gallery

Opened April 14

Come and play in the shark-infested waters of The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, with a new Sharks & Rays gallery that offers the chance to touch a live shark.

Just opened in April, the new gallery’s Shark & Ray Touch Pool features nurse sharks and several species of raysMore than 90 feet of pool-edge access allows more visitors more chances to run their fingers down the backs of these prowling – but harmless – predators. (By comparison, the Aquarium’s former Ray Touch Pool, which has closed, had slightly more than 20 feet of visitor access.)

A clear side panel on the new exhibit provides fascinating underwater views of the sharks and rays as well.

Other don’t-miss exhibits in the new Sharks & Rays” gallery display the creatures as they come to life. Watch as skates and chain dogfish sharks develop in – and hatch from – their embryonic egg cases. Be charmed by baby sharks and rays. And get a real feel for sharks, by touching actual shark teeth and cartilage at an artifacts display.

This permanent new gallery is part of the Aquarium’s $4 million “FINtastic RefurbFISHment,” which mostly opened in February.

  Marine Life Study Cruises

April 28 – June 30:  at 1 p.m. Saturdays.

July & August:  at 1 p.m. daily.

Cruise out for close encounters with crabs, fish, lobsters and always a few surprises when you come aboard the research vessel Oceanic for The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s new season of Marine Life Study Cruises.

These exciting outings reveal what is, to many, a surprising diversity of marine life just off our shores in Long Island Sound.  Aquarium educators put participants to work in collecting and examining animals from all levels of the water column:  tiny wriggly plankton gathered at the surface (and viewed with a videomicroscope), little crabs and worms grabbed from the muddy bottom, and an always-unique variety of fish, crabs, lobsters and surprises brought up in the Oceanic’s trawl net.

Starting April 28, Marine Life Study Cruises will occur at 1 p.m. Saturdays through June 30.  Beginning July 1, they’ll depart at 1 p.m. daily through August.

Weekday chartered cruises are available for school groups.

Tickets are $20.50, or $18.50 for Aquarium members. Maritime Aquarium Study Cruises are good for ages 8 and older. Space on the Oceanic is limited so advance reservations are strongly recommended.  Walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting.The cruises depart from the dock outside the Aquarium’s IMAX movie theater.

To purchase tickets or for more details, go online or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206.


More Special Exhibits


•  “Meerkats”

Special exhibit open daily through through Labor Day 2012

A family of meerkats, one of Africa’s most entertaining species, burrows into visitors’ hearts in this special exhibit at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

First popularized by the comical sidekick Timon in Disney’s “The Lion King,” and then celebrated in the Animal Planet television series “Meerkat Manor” (2005-2009), meerkats are members of the mongoose family that live in social “mobs” in the Kalahari Desert, in the southern African nations of Botswana and South Africa.

No mere cats, meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are fascinating for living in structured but cooperative societies, including a foraging strategy where adults take turns standing guard upright on their hind feet, watching for predators, while the others eat.

The exhibit features six sibling meerkats – three males, three females – born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their exhibit offers the meerkats lots of opportunities for climbing, digging and exploring, with several feeding locations to keep them always on the alert for incoming crickets. And a viewing bubble lets visitors pop up right among the meerkats.

It’s made possible by Bank of America and Fifth Street Capital, and is free with Aquarium admission.


•  “Africa: From the Desert to the Sea”

Special exhibit open daily through through Labor Day 2012.    

Explore the aquatic wonders of Africa and discover how the continent’s fish – though much different from those in Long Island Sound – face similar environmental challenges.  

See amazing fish from the Nile River, the lakes of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and the Red Sea. Species highlighted include exotic air-breathing lungfish that can survive for a year if their waterhole goes dry, and electric catfish that use bioelectric radar to sense surroundings and zap their food in a dark and murky habitat. Colorful cichlids and coral reef species shine in shimmering rainbows.

Sponsored by Bank of America and free with Aquarium admission.



In The IMAX Movie Theater

Connecticut’s largest IMAX theater, with a screen that’s six stories high and eight stories wide.  For the latest movie schedule, call, go online or text “TMA” to 71297. (Regular texting charges apply.)


Daily April 20 – Sept. 3:

•  “To the Arctic”

Call, text or go online for IMAX show times.

Follow a polar bear and her two cubs as they navigate a changing wilderness in the compelling new IMAX movie “To the Arctic.”

Travel with a migrating herd of caribou, plunge into the ethereal underwater world of waltzing walruses and gaze across an incredible vast expanse of the Arctic Ocean, an exquisite spectacle of sapphire white – all shown with dazzling clarity on the Aquarium’s six-story screen.

Two-time Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep narrates the film, which is a production of Warner Bros. Pictures, MacGillivray Freeman Films and IMAX Corp.  


•  “Sea Rex: Journey to a Prehistoric World”

Call, text or go online for IMAX show times.

Through the power of IMAX, experience a wondrous adventure from the dinosaur age. Join an imaginative young woman named Julie on a unique voyage through time and space. Explore an amazing underwater universe inhabited by such creatures asLiopleurodon and long-necked Elasmosaurus – enormous animals that were ruling the seas before dinosaurs conquered the earth. See science come alive in an entertaining manner and get ready for a face-to-face encounter with a gigantic Prognathodonthe T-Rex of the seas!


•  “Search for the Great Sharks”

Call, text or go online for IMAX show times.

Join shark experts Dr. Eugenie Clark and Rodney Fox on a round-the-globe expedition for close encounters with some of the world’s largest sharks, including whale sharks and great whites. Swim with a whale shark (life-sized on the giant IMAX screen), witness the birth of a baby shark and see if Fox survives when dropped into great white-infested waters while inside a clear diving tube.


•  “Born to Be Wild”

Call, text or go online for IMAX show times.

This inspiring film follows orphaned baby orangutans and elephants, and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them for eventual release back into the wild.

This heartwarming adventure transports audiences into the lush rain forests of Borneo with world-renowned primatologist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, and across the rugged Kenyan savannah with celebrated elephant authority Dame Daphne Sheldrick, as they and their teams rescue, rehabilitate and return these incredible animals back to the wild.  It’s narrated by Academy-Award® winner Morgan Freeman.



Trainings for Horseshoe-Crab Tagging

Thurs., May 3 and Sun., May 6, both at 7 p.m.

It may not be sweet romance but the spring moons soon will be drawing male and female horseshoe crabs up onto our beaches for an annual mating ritual.

Staff from The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk will be on hand to greet them. But your help is needed.

The Maritime Aquarium is seeking volunteers to help attach census tags to horseshoe crabs as the crabs come up out of the water to spawn at Calf Pasture Beach.  It’s all part of a census of horseshoe crabs in Long Island Sound, being led by Dr. Jennifer Mattei of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.  The Maritime Aquarium is assisting with the census and tagging.

The horseshoe crab population on the East Coast may be declining as the animals are harvested and ground up for use as bait in eel pots.  Fewer horseshoe crabs would mean fewer horseshoe crab eggs, which are an important food source for migrating shorebirds.  Thus, fewer horseshoe crabs could mean fewer birds on our coastline.  Dr. Mattei’s census is establishing a baseline crab population and will reveal horseshoe crab migrations and any change in numbers.

Horseshoe crabs come up onto beaches to spawn on the nights of the full and new moons. That’s a tagging bonanza time for researchers, so extra volunteers are needed to help.

To participate, volunteers should attend one of two training sessions at the Aquarium: at 7 p.m. on either Thurs., May 3 or Sun., May 6.  They’ll learn about the natural history of horseshoe crabs, what has been learned so far from the census work, and how to safely tag horseshoe crabs. Volunteers should be in 10th grade or older. Younger children can assist if working with a parent, teacher or guardian.

Tagging sessions at Calf Pasture will be held on selected mornings and evenings later in the month of May and also in June.

To sign up or for more details about the training sessions, call The Maritime Aquarium at (203) 852-0700, ext. 2352, or



Toy Boat-Making Workshop

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays & Sundays.

Visit the toy boat-making area on weekends for a fun 20-minute boat-building project.  Build and decorate a toy sailboat to take home as a special keepsake of your visit.  Cost: $5 per child (plus Aquarium admission)



Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Sat., May 19 at 8:15 a.m.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk opens its backstage spaces for a rare behind-the-scenes tour. Conducted before the Aquarium opens, from 8:15 to 10 a.m., the guided tour offers unique opportunities to see how the animal-husbandry staff meets the varying food and water needs of some 2,000 resident animals.

The tour includes stops at the Aquarium’s “fish kitchen,” where 18 tons of fish a year is prepared, and above the 110,000-gallon Open Ocean tank, where the dorsal fins of 8-foot sand tiger sharks cut through the water surface. Learn the delicate requirements of a jellyfish “nursery.”

Participants must be at least 10 years old; under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Cost is $32.50 ($22.50 for Aquarium members) and includes Aquarium admission.

The tour is limited to 25 people, so reservations are strongly recommended. Walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting.

For reservations or more details, call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206.




10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily; open until 6 p.m. daily in July & August. (Closed only Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day)



Call (203) 852-0700 or go online to  or for text alerts and our IMAX movie schedule, text “TMA” to 71297.  (Standard text charges apply.)



Aquarium only:  $12.95 for adults, $11.95 for seniors 65+ and $9.95 for children 2-12. Members free.

Adventure Pass (Aquarium + IMAX movie):  $19.45 for adults, $17.95 for seniors 65+ and $14.45 children for 2-12.

IMAX movie:  $9 adults, $8 seniors and $6.50 kids 2-12.  Members save $2.

Hollywood IMAX movies:  $11.50 for adults, $10.50 for seniors and $9.50 for children 2-12.

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The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk inspires people of all ages to appreciate Long Island Sound and protect it for future generations. A vibrant and entertaining learning environment, it achieves this goal through living exhibits, marine science, and environmental education.

 The Maritime Aquarium receives support from the State of Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

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