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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Sharks, grouper and other ocean fish swim July 6, 2018, in front of divers during an Out to Sea Shark Dive at Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Mo. Divers don wetsuits and diving helmets, then go underwater in a protected cage with sharks and other fish with teeth.

No need to catch a plane to the Caribbean to dive into the water with sharks. The big toothy fish swim is just a short drive away.

Sharks the size of a man swim within inches of visitors who take the plunge during a Sea Trek Shark Dive, a thrilling new attraction at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Mo.

Take a shark plunge

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium offers helmet shark dives all year in Springfield, Mo. The museum is located 500 W. Sunshine St., next to Bass Pro Shops.

Advance reservations are required. Divers must be at least 10 years old.

Cost is $130 and includes admission to the museum and aquarium, which alone costs $40. The cost is $90 for members of Wonders of Wildlife.

For reservations and complete information, visit wondersofwildlife.org.

Souce: Staff report

No need to be certified in scuba to get eye to eye with sharks and an array of other sea-faring fish on an aquarium shark dive. Visitors don a wetsuit and state of the art diving helmet, then slip beneath the 78-degree saltwater inside a protective cage.

For about 20 minutes, divers see sharks glide lazily by without fear of becoming their next meal. Dozens of saltwater species show a kaleidoscope of color in the 200,000-gallon aquarium. Small fish swim beside giant 400-pound grouper. A shark dive transforms adventurous souls to a coral reef right here in the Ozarks.

Each diver can take all the underwater pictures they want with an easy to use GoPro underwater camera provided for each diver. The dive fee includes a flash drive with all the photos that a diver shoots. It's handed out at the customer desk when visitors check out after their dive. No need to bring a wetsuit. In fact, personal wetsuits aren't allowed. Everything a shark diver needs is provided.

Just bring swim trunks and any toiletry items for a shower after the dive.

David Clark and his daughter, Maddy (12), Georgia residents, took the plunge July 6 during their travels through the Ozarks. An aquarium guide met them at the customer desk and led the pair through a maze of fish-filled tanks and displays to the shark dive area.

The father and daughter gazed into the massive aquarium at brown sharks, sand tiger sharks and barracuda that moved lazily through the tap water-clear saltwater.

The guide outfitted the two with perfectly fitting wetsuits. They emerged from the changing room ready to dive after watching a short safety video. They learned how to communicate by hand signals with their safety diver and how the dive helmets work.

Air pressure inside the helmet keeps water out when divers are about seven feet deep inside the cage. Dive helmets look like the helmets astronauts wore when exploring the moon. A big sphere of glass gives divers fabulous views of the saltwater fish that are so close to them.

The cage accommodates four divers and a certified safety diver. Once helmets are on, shark divers go down a couple of stairs and go underwater behind protective bars.

Maddy was in nonstop grin the whole 20 minutes underwater. She snapped away with the GoPro camera at the amazing tropical life in the 200,000-gallon aquarium. Sharks and dozens of other fish finned in front of the steel bars and along the sides of the cage. Air and bubbles are the only sounds.

Divers can identify the fish they see with an underwater fish guidebook attached to the bars.

Maddy's smile didn't leave when she and her dad stepped out of the warm water.

In typical 12-year-old fashion, she simply said she liked it. The dive was special for her dad, too.

"The best part for me was experiencing this with her," he said.

Fish in the aquarium come from various collections around the nation, said Shelby Stephenson, aquarium spokesperson.

Shark dives make it possible for anyone to get the sensation of diving on a coral reef without being certified in scuba. "Where else can you dive with all these saltwater fish without leaving the Ozarks?" she said.

Community on 08/02/2018

Print Headline: Sharks In The Ozarks

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