Endangered Asian arowana flash lustrous orange and green scales; a Victorian crowned pigeon shakes its cerulean tufts and spreads its turquoise wings; 16-inch fairy penguins waddle across a forest floor. And that’s all before you hit the admissions booth. The Dallas World Aquarium’s Borneo exhibit greets guests to the zoo and aquarium with a preview of the colorful, exotic wildlife that await them inside. But the animals aren’t just there for visitors’ entertainment—the aquarium plays a large role in conservation efforts not just in the U.S., but around the world, and yhe majority of its residents are endangered or threatened in the wild. Once inside, guests explore each critter’s natural habitat as they delve into exhibits that emulate different global regions, much like the control centers run by evil TV weathermen. The eight-story Mundo Maya’s 400,000-gallon Cenote river teems with sharks, rays, and sea turtles indigenous to the Yucatan Peninsula. In the Orinico exhibit, crocodiles and red-bellied piranhas form a menacing welcoming committee in the water, but residents of the sloth forest remain unconcerned, moseying lazily from branch to branch.
Outside in a mock South Africa habitat aptly named tomato frogs, squat and orange like their namesake, hop around a flourishing botanical garden, alongside Madagascan big-headed turtles and black-footed penguins. And in the aquarium, a 20,000 gallon walk-through tunnel lets guests get up close and personal with hundreds of Indo-Pacific fishes and sea critters, including the blue-dot stingray—named for the blue specks scattered across its yellow coat.
Sea Life Aquarium gets the gill-less as close to ocean critters as possible. A glass tunnel carves a path through the heart of a shark tank, granting guests 360-degree views of menacing swimmers such as the blacktip reef shark. For more hands-on exploration, starfish welcome petting in an open rockpool.