PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS—While many guests at Atlantis, Paradise Island are enjoying the 141 acres of high-speed water slides, mile-long river ride and 11 swimming pools, others are getting to know the more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species. They reside in the 8 million gallons of ocean water encompassing 14 lagoons—the largest open-air marine habitat in the world. Those major exhibits are the responsibility of Michelle Liu, Senior Vice President of Marine and Water Park Operations.
There is no way around it: the last year has been tough for Atlantis, Paradise Island, just like it has been for any resort. Liu said that before COVID-19, she was responsible for 1,000 team members. “Fifty percent of my team members are back,” she says.
Taking care of so many animals can be a challenge fully staffed but Liu said, “We never cut back on animal husbandry.”
Guests visiting the resort can experience many different marine adventures. One example is snorkeling the ruins of Atlantis, where participants have the rare opportunity to snorkel through the Ruins Lagoon alongside spotted rays and brilliantly colored tropical fish. Another example is Shark Adventures. Using state-of-the-art clear-glass helmets, resort guests can walk on the bottom of the Shark Exhibit and find themselves nose-to-nose with the guardians of the lost world of Atlantis.
Interactions with Dolphins
Guests can also visit Dolphin Cay (pronounced “Key”). It is one of the largest and most sophisticated marine-mammal habitats in the world. Its first residents were 17 stranded dolphins and 10 sea lions whose home in Gulfport, Mississippi was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Dolphin Cay is also the Caribbean’s premier marine animal rehabilitation facility.
“All our programs are designed to be educational,” Liu says.
Programs have been recently redesigned and there is a new VIP program where a family can book an experience for an entire day. “You are assigned a marine concierge,” she says. “You see some of the behind the scenes.”
Guest experiences fall into Atlantis Adventure and Blue Adventure categories and support the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, creating and promoting solutions for a wide range of marine conservation challenges from coral reef degradation to marine species in decline. The Foundation has many success stories, and they can be found on its website. One example, Liu said, was a spotted dolphin named M&M who was stranded. There are only 30 male spottled dolphins in the area. “He was close to dying. We were able to rehab him and reintroduce him to another pod of dolphins.”
“The Foundation partners with other like-minded organizations in the Bahamas. “We have a sea turtle rehabilitation program,” Liu says. “We give a lot of research grants.” One organization that is the recipient of the Foundation’s support is the Perry Institute for Marine Science. One role of the Institute is to effectively reduce the decline of coral reefs and species throughout The Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Liu says guests at the resort need not go far to be reminded of the resort and Foundation’s work. “You learn about it during check-in and even as you walk through the casino,” she says. “We have an opportunity to educate our guests on marine life and what they can do to help to save it.”
Liu says Atlantis, Paradise Island, which is celebrating World Ocean Month in June, takes other steps beyond the sea’s wildlife to protect the environment. For example, you will not find plastic drinking bottles on the property. Guests get refillable bottles at check-in.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.