If you haven’t visited Alabama’s own Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) and its Alabama Aquarium (formerly known as the Estuarium), or you’ve never been before, now is the time to make a special visit or incorporate it into your next Alabama beach trip.
Published: August 31, 2023
By: Carol Muse Evans
Recent renovations are complete, and doors opened to the new and improved facility earlier this summer. Spend the day or a few hours here and get a natural feel for the marine life of Mobile Bay.
The original Alabama Aquarium at DISL first opened in March 1998. It has been a popular attraction for residents and tourists. This renovation delivers an improved visitor experience, a refreshed interior and a deeper connection to the research led by DISL faculty and students.
The Alabama Aquarium is a nearly 12,000-square-foot facility that houses more than 100 species of marine life common to the northern Gulf of Mexico and Alabama’s Watershed. The mission is to educate visitors about the importance of ocean conservation and Alabama’s Watershed.
“We are thrilled to reopen our doors and welcome visitors back to the Alabama Aquarium,” says DISL Executive Director Dr. John Valentine. “Our goal has always been to provide an unparalleled experience that inspires visitors to care for and protect the ocean and its creatures, and we believe that the improvements we’ve made will help us achieve that goal.”
Whether you are a serious student or have an interest in marine life in Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico, the Alabama Aquarium is a great educational facility and great fun for families. Expect many of the types of exhibits you would in any other world-class aquarium – but on a slightly smaller scale, specific to the Gulf of Mexico and right ON the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. And it’s an excellent place for families who just want to see sea life, and kids who love the creatures of the ocean.
The exhibits at the Aquarium are more attractive than ever, engaging and interactive, and on any given day, they have a lot of “touch and feel” opportunities for younger children and old alike. The “story” is all about the interactions of marine life in Mobile Bay, the fourth-largest estuary system in the United States.
Step outside to the Gulf of Mexico and see a few exhibits here and some fun climb-on creatives like the big turtle for little children to spend some energy here. Don’t miss the living marsh boardwalk.
See stingrays up close in a 7,000-gallon touch pool right outside. Touch a ray and watch their activity. Rays here include the Atlantic Stingray, Bluntnose Stingray and Cownose Stingray. A few fish share the tank!
The Aquarium’s Mobile Bay camera gives you a live look at the Mobile Bay exhibit right inside the Aquarium. It features drum, pipefish, the diamond back terrapin and even more species that all call Mobile Bay home.
Does your child love sea horses? Be sure to check out their updated exhibit. Beautiful but somewhat dangerous jellyfish? You can see these lovelies in the new exhibit. Large skeletons of some of the great fish from the gulf still hang in the lobby, and every exhibit has educational information about both the creatures and their habitats.
The DISL is on the eastern end of Dauphin Island, a 17-mile-long barrier island about 3 miles from the mainline and 35 miles south of Mobile. Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico surround it. DISL is a 35-acre campus that is both for research and education and offers the Alabama Aquarium to visitors of all ages who want to know more about the marine life remarkable to Alabama. You can even take the Mobile Bay Ferry over from Gulf Shores or Mobile if you are on vacation there!
The Aquarium will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and visitors are encouraged to book their tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line. However, check online for any changes, seasonal and holiday. For more information about the Alabama Aquarium and to purchase tickets, please visit www.disl.edu/aquarium.
Carol Muse Evans is publisher and editor of Birmingham Parent.
*** Much of this piece is dedicated to the Alabama Aquarium; however, there is a wealth of information about classes, camps and all the research at the heart of DISL, which is first and foremost a research and education facility. You can learn much more at www.disl.edu.