On May 19, 2000, the South Carolina Aquarium opened in Charleston after much anticipation and great fanfare. The building actually extends into the Charleston Harbor, allowing visitors the chance to observe bottlenose dolphins and other marine life in the Cooper River. Exhibits include more than 10,000 native plants and animals, a touch tank, and the Great Ocean Tank – a two-story tank containing 385,000 gallons of water and more than 700 animals such as sharks and loggerhead sea turtles. Divers also interact with visitors while maintaining the tank and its inhabitants.
Though the aquarium focuses on the natural communities of South Carolina’s coast, a rotating exhibit featuring exotic animals adds diversity to the attraction. Conservation is the central message of this non-profit aquarium, which promotes and supports a variety of conservation programs.
The aquarium even houses a sea turtle hospital, employing veterinarians to care for loggerhead turtles – our state reptile – as well as other species. The hospital treats sick and injured turtles brought to the hospital by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Rehabilitated turtles are released into the ocean.
More than 400 volunteers keep the South Carolina Aquarium thriving. Volunteer opportunities ranging from aquarium guides to divers are available to those interested in learning more about ecosystems in the Palmetto State or those just willing to lend their time and talents to a popular venue for tourists and locals. Adjacent to the aquarium is the Fountain Walk, pictured above. Stores and restaurants in this commercial venue, along with an incredible view of the harbor, provide aquarium visitors with a full day of discovery.