Our family homeschools on a tropical island surrounded by reefs and a staggering diversity of marine life. For those who are intent on a career in marine biology, the University of Guam has probably the best marine lab and marine biology program in the world. Some families dive together and see first-hand all the beauty and fascination of the live reef. But for those who want to experience it in air-conditioned comfort and also include younger family members, we recommend a local membership to Underwater world in Tumon Bay.
About the Membership
We have had our local membership for a few years. As sponsors of the original program, we offered a discount at our driving school and got the membership cards for no charge. This year, we were happy to pay for it.
Approximate cost of entry:
$25 per adult
$12 per child
Approximate local rate, single visit:
$12 per adult
$6 per child
Local Membership Rate:
$45 per adult
$20 per child
You can see that four visits will pay for the membership and then the rest of the year is free.
This is a good deal for the company, because they also know you will be likely to buy a snack or a toy or something. We often visit without spending a penny, but we also make a point of buying something periodically to make sure the program continues to work.
When you pay the membership fee, you get your picture taken and get a nice card to keep. The card has a bar code and must be scanned to activate the turnstile. They really have a high-tech operation now. Be sure to bring the card. Previously, when we forgot our cards, the employees knew us and let us in, but now they have to scan the card, so that has changed.
What else? Well, I think Underwater World is a great value. If you are a frugal home school family on Guam and like to be careful how you spend money, this is an excellent bargain in my opinion; our family bought 1 adult and 2 kid memberships for about $90. This will provide entertainment and education for an entire year. Excellent for special occasions or just something to do when the kids are antsy.
If you are a family who doesn’t mind spending money, this is also an easy sell. Why buy books about fish when you can see it all first hand?
About Underwater World
This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, aquarium in the world. There was a unique distinction, but I can’t remember exactly what it was. The longest tunnel, maybe? It is unfortunate that the curvature of the glass is concave, so the animals inside look about 30% smaller than they are. Nothing to be done for it, though. The grouper in there is WAY bigger than it looks and he weighs as much as a small car. Here is a picture of his big ol’ head.
We have taken advantage of guided tours during which the guide showed us behind-the-scenes activities: feeding the fish, cleaning the tanks, moving animals and preparing displays. We heard stories behind many of the creatures and how they got here. We have actually fed the fish from the employee’s platform.
We have slept with the sharks a few times and each time it was wonderful. The marine creatures seem to be more active at night, especially the sharks and rays. They fly around overhead while you enjoy the view and the ambiance. It is a unique experience that the children will keep forever. Ask the Underwater World staff about programs they have for members.
A visit can be very quick or you can take as much time as you want. Since you don’t have to worry about getting your money’s worth, there is no pressure to stay any longer than everyone wants. We have found that to be a good thing. Sometimes we just go in and spend 15 minutes getting calmed down and cooled down in the middle of a busy and hectic day. There's something about the under water world, the blue reality of the fish’s existence, that is very calming and relaxing.
As you enter the aquarium, the first displays are snakes and crabs and other animals that live on land in the misty jungle, featuring waterfalls and dappled lighting. Then you round the corner and enter the tunnel. Your eyes are treated to a random smattering of colorful reef fish, a school of tasty-looking fish cruises by, and right behind them you can see a giant sea turtle. He treated my kids to a close-up look at sea-turtle poop yesterday. That was the highlight of that particular visit.
Sharks slide by at a lazy pace and some sleepy sharks nap in a row beside a WWII-era Zero plane (Don’t worry; it’s a replica.)
Over the years, we watched a little spotted ray grow from a nervous infant to a force of nature . It is fun to take ownership of something that special. We feel a kinship with that beautiful animal.
After many twists and turns in the tunnel--a new view around every corner--you come to the end of the tunnel. Then up the escalator and to the petting zoo, called the touchpool. Yesterday there were not many animals in the petting area, but sometimes there is a baby shark to pet. Many displays are featured on the upper level: octopi and jellyfish, moray eels and huge spider crabs. It’s amazing.
Then you leave the aquarium via the souvenir store. Like I said, we don’t mind spending a few bucks sometimes, but if you want to leave without buying anything, take the time before you start to explain to the kids that they will walk through the store without asking for anything. It is strategically set up to get parents to buy stuff for demanding children, so be prepared for that. But it’s not really too expensive; for six or seven bucks a kid, you can purchase a nice toy that will be cherished for a long time. We bought a sleeve with liquid and sharks inside. The liquid rolls around and its hard to hold. That’s the fun of it. Cassie got a cuddly dolphin stuffed toy and Eric chose a horror shark that displays the bloody body parts of the humans he has apparently snacked on recently. Not all the toys are educational, but Eric is a ten-year-old boy, so you gotta know how great that is for him!
My little kids excitedly showed Mom and Steph their toys and breathlessly recounted the sharks, crabs, eels, and turtle-poop. Stephanie said, “I don’t need a membership because I am going to be a diver and get to see the real thing.”
True. Today (Saturday, April 3), Stephanie and I will don our suits and tanks and go beneath the waves for the first time.
Guam is a fascinating place to visit, reside, or raise a family. But if you do not get beneath the surface of the water that surrounds us, you are missing out on at least half of the bio-diversity and natural beauty of our island home.
Underwater World is a valuable educational resource for anyone, but is especially perfect for home school families.
Web Site: http://www.aquariumteam.com/
This is a beautiful site. It’s worth a visit. Learn about their educational programs, events and conservation efforts.
To go to Underwater World, just turn in at the Outrigger and drive under the overhead walkway. Drive up the ramp to the left. There is a sign that says Sea Grill and Underwater World. It is very easy to get in and out of the parking and the facility.
As a homeschool dad, I highly recommend Underwater World of Guam as an educational resource not to be missed.