MEETING THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM OTTERS CAN’T BE MISSED (+ OTHER FUN ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS!)

NOTE: It looks like the otter encounter has been suspended.  We will update you as more info is available. The Aquarium is still worth visiting, though! Find Skip-the-Line tickets here.

As soon as we arrived, Cruz, one of the Georgia Aquarium otters, started chatting and following us with his soft brown eyes. He seemed just as curious about us as we were about him, swimming away, making a roll, then pressing his wet black nose to the window for a closer look.

As we reluctantly turned our attention to our hostess for a short Sea Otter 101 session, Cruz banged a shell on the side of the tank as if to say, ‘Hey, I’m over here!’

If you like to watch these playful pups from afar, let me tell you, getting up close is even better. Here are several reasons why the aquarium is a top Georgia attraction.

MEETING THE GEORGIA AQUARIUM OTTERS CAN'T BE MISSED (+ OTHER FUN ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS!)

GEORGIA AQUARIUM OTTERS AND OTHER INTIMATE ENCOUNTERS

Our sea otter encounter at the Georgia Aquarium was a family affair. Two of my sons and I took my dad, who is 89 years young, to experience it with us. Pop immediately feel in love with Cruz, our main representative.

When I asked him his favorite part of the experience, he said, “Being close enough to look him in those soulful eyes. He is so adorable, you just want to touch him.” In fact, we were able to shake hands with the otter, as well as pet his fur and feed him!

My 17-year-old echoed Pop’s sentiment. “In less than an hour, I felt like Cruz was our pet, that he truly had fallen for us, as much as we did for him.”

That connection is one reason the Georgia Aquarium offers guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with these sweet creatures, as well as other animals during behind the scenes animal encounters. Guests can feel good knowing proceeds from their experience go toward research and conservation. 

Read More: GEORGIA AQUARIUM: ATLANTA’S BELOVED ATTRACTION THAT LIVES UP TO THE HYPE

Want to experience everything the Georgia Aquarium has to offer? Try some of these fun adventures!

  • Get Your Georgia Aquarium Skip-The-Line Tickets. Enjoy skip-the-purchase-line tickets to the Georgia Aquarium, which has an interactive 4D theater and 7 different areas containing more than 10 million gallons of water and thousands of sea creatures.
  • Take A Virtual Tour Of Ocean Voyager. Experience the thrill of the Georgia Aquarium from the comfort of your home with this virtual tour of the Ocean Voyager area.
  • See The Otters From Home. Experience the thrill of Georgia Aquarium from the comfort of your own home with this virtual tour of the Cold Water Quest section at the Georgia Aquarium.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SEA OTTER ENCOUNTER

My teens were a bit more reserved than me during our sea otter encounter, but the experience made it to my oldest’s Snapchat story, which is always a sure sign of a successful field trip with teens. Here’s what you can expect from your own encounter.

MEET THE OTTERS

The Southern sea otters are endangered animals, and the Georgia Aquarium is committed to helping rescue and rehabilitate stranded sea otter pups like Cruz.

The Georgia Aquarium has two more rescued pups Bixby and Brighton, who join Oz, one of the aquariums original sea otters.

PRE-ENCOUNTER PLANNING

To get the most from your encounter, it’s advisable to read up on the sea otters.

Most of this information is covered again in the educational portion of the program, with the added bonus that you can ask the expert trainers at the aquarium questions.

ARRIVAL

Groups assemble at the Animal Interactions desk, located near the entrance to the Ocean Voyager gallery. Check in time is 15 minutes prior to your program. This gives everyone time to gather, plus sign waivers, if you haven’t already.

When the time came, our trainer came down to the desk and escorted us behind the Cold Water Quest Gallery where the sea otters live.

SEA OTTER HABITAT

The sea otter habitat includes three interconnected spaces with three different pools.

The main pool is the public habitat, but we were able to see two additional pools behind the scenes. The human space isn’t large, which is the reason there are only five spots for each sea otter encounter, making it a very intimate experience.

EDUCATIONAL PRESENTATION

After a quick tour of the facility, our guide gave us a 10-minute presentation on sea otters, their habitat, conservation efforts, and care. The animal care team showed us a replica of a sea otter’s jaw and the teeth that allow them to crush crab shells. We were also able to pet a confiscated otter pelt. It was so incredibly soft and at one million hairs per square inch, super thick!

During the entire presentation, Cruz, one of the three orphaned sea otters at the aquarium, was swimming in the tank behind us, chirping away as if to say, ‘Hey, pay attention to me!’

It was hard not to watch Cruz as he cracked a shell on the side of the tank, illustrating almost on cue as our guide told us how they open their food with a rock, and sometimes in the aquarium habitat, by banging it on the side of the tank.

ANIMAL TRAINING

Next we took a seat on stools while we watched Brighton, another sea otter, participate in a training session. The sessions prepare the otters for health screens, like learning how to put out their paws for inspection and getting drops in their eyes.

The coolest thing was watching Brighton work a ball full of food, squeezing it to push out the juicy restaurant-grade shellfish inside.

OTTER BOMBING

Not to be ignored, Cruz continued his requests for attention. We were only too happy to accommodate him. We were able to pet his nose and feel his paws, including retractable claws, and shake hands.

I’m sure it was more about the shellfish treats, but I felt like Cruz was just as excited to play with us as we were to engage with him. He made quick work of the shrimp, shelling it in his paws and chopping its soft contents in a matter of minutes. (Otters, we learned, are one of a few sea mammals that chew their food.)

After playtime, Cruz posed for photos with each one of our party. The photos are part of your experience and can be picked up afterwards at the Animal Interaction desk.

FISH POPSICLES

Our encounter ended with frozen treats. The trainer brought out fish popsicles that we fed to Cruz through the acrylic.

My youngest gave him two at a time, which he eagerly took, stuffing one in his pocket for later while he munched the first.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

This encounter is currently suspended so check their website for updates.

Once back open, if you are ready to make your own sea otter encounter reservations, there are a few things you should know first.

  • Reservations. There are only five spots for each sea otter encounter, so it’s best to make a reservation vs. expecting to book the encounter on the day of your visit.
  • Age Restrictions. You must be at least 7 years old, and guests 15 and under must be accompanied by a participating adult. Also, there is a maximum of three children per participating adult.
  • Sea Otter Encounter Tickets. The Sea Otter Encounter does not include tickets to the aquarium — those must be purchased in addition to the encounter tickets.
  • Special Needs and Accommodations for Older Guests. The aquarium has complimentary wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as handicapped parking. Parking staff also offers golf cart assistance to the wheelchair drop-off and pick-up areas, which is to the left of the ticketing windows.
  • Leave Time To Explore The Aquarium. If you do have time and energy to view one other exhibit during your visit I highly recommend the Sharks! Predators of the Deep! But the whole aquarium is worth a visit, of course!

SEA OTTER FACTS (FRESH VS SALT WATER)

There are 13 species of otters in the world, with 12 of those species requiring access to freshwater and only one, the Southern Sea Otter, residing in the ocean.

There are two otter species at the Georgia Aquarium – The Asian Small-Clawed Otters and the Southern Sea Otter.

ASIAN SMALL-CLAWED OTTER FACTS

  • Asian Small-Clawed Otters range in size from 4-11 pounds with a body length of 16 to 24 inches. They are about half of the length of the Southern Sea Otters at the Georgia Aquarium.
  • They typically live in southern India, southern China, and parts of Southeast Asia.
  • Their habitat is often freshwater wetlands and mangrove swamps, and at higher elevations, it is associated with fast-flowing, rocky streams.
  • They prefer shallow water and mud banks and often venture onto land.

SOUTHERN SEA OTTER FACTS

  • Adult male Southern Sea Otters are about 4 feet in length and a body weight of 65 pounds, with females weighing around 45 pounds.
  • Sea otters are found along coastal areas of the northern Pacific Ocean and the southern Bering Sea. Three separate subspecies live along the coasts of Russia, Alaska, and California.
  • The southern subspecies lives along the central California coast, from San Mateo County to Santa Barbara County. 
  • They are found in marine habitats with rocky or muddy sea bottoms, and are frequently associated with kelp forests. They rarely venture onto land.
  • Southern Sea Otters are on the endangered species list.

BOOK MORE ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS

The Georgia Aquarium otters are excellent, but the aquarium offers several other exciting animal encounters that educate, engage, and create memories that will last a lifetime. These animal encounters are up-close, multi-sensory experiences that allow guests to enjoy the thrill and awe of ocean-dwelling creatures firsthand.

PICK AN ANIMAL ENCOUNTER:

  • Shark Cage Dive
  • Shark and Ray Interaction
  • Dolphin Encounter
  • Sea Lion Encounter
  • Journey with Gentle Giants – Swim or Dive
  • Beluga Encounter
  • Harbor Sea Encounter
  • Penguin Encounter

FIVE MEMORY-MAKING GIFTS FOR CHILDREN, TEENS AND GRANDPARENTS

Our sea otter encounter is a memory we will always treasure. Here are some more memory-making gift ideas for your crew!

  • For the Grandparents Behind the Seas tour.  Get a look behind the glass, including the topside decks of Ocean Voyager and Tropical Diver.
  • For the Whole FamilyAnnual Memberships are one of my favorite gifts to give and receive. The Georgia Aquarium has several different types, including a new family membership. If you can’t afford the entire membership fee, consider gifting tickets. The recipient can redeem them at the membership desk and put the ticket fee toward purchasing their own membership.

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR ENCOUNTER WITH THE SEA ANIMALS

Follow us here: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube

All articles belong to 365 Atlanta Family LLC, and all photos belong to us as well, unless otherwise noted. It’s all copyrighted. Please don’t repost anything elsewhere without asking me first. All rights reserved. This site uses cookies to enhance your experience.

We make no guarantees of any price listed on our site. We are not responsible for content on external web sites linked from ours, including linked resources, an external blog post, any partner site, hotel property sites, or affiliate sites. We only write about places we love in an attempt to help you in your adventures, but we can’t guarantee you will love them, too.

Posts may contain affiliate links at no cost to you. Several of our trips are also compensated by the respective tourism boards for the city or state we are visiting. This never impacts how we share the destination with you – opinions are always our own and we pride ourselves on that. We do not sell links or accept unsolicited guest posts under any circumstances. Don’t even ask.

United States Copyright, 365 Atlanta Family, LLC

View our Privacy Policy | Subscribe to our Newsletter | Contact Site Owner | View Terms & Conditions | About Us

8 Fabulous Fall Festivals in Georgia GEORGIA CREEKSIDE CABIN RENTALS LAKE BLUE RIDGE CABIN RENTALS FOR YOUR NEXT ESCAPE