NEW – Lemur Forest at the Tennessee Aquarium

Walking into the new Lemur Forest exhibit at the Tennessee Aquarium for the first time is a bit like cheating geography.

Overhead, Red-ruffed Lemurs clamber along vines to perches in the top-most branches of towering Ficus trees. On a miniature nearby island, a Radiated Tortoise shares a miniature island with a group of inquisitive, acrobatic Ring-tailed Lemurs, who bound enthusiastically from branch to branch of a huge Baobab Tree.

Especially when the sun is shining down in tropical splendor through the glass peaks overhead, passing Lemur Forest’s threshold can feel like crossing 9,000 miles into the heart of Madagascar with a single step.

Red Ruffed LemurThe charismatic mammals that lend their name to the exhibit are truly captivating to watch. Their large, expressive eyes stand out from adorably furry faces that exude charisma and remarkable intelligence. As guests watch the lemurs’ energetic movement through a sprawling exhibit encompassing more than 125 horizontal feet and dozens of feet in elevation changes, they’ll see some of the natural behaviors for which these animals are so well-known.

The tree-loving Red-ruffed Lemurs dangle upside down by their tremendously strong hind feet while snacking on fruit and fill the room with boisterous calls at the approach of new visitors. Closer to earth, the smaller Ring-tails often crowd together into so-adorable-it-hurts furry masses called “lemur balls” or sun-bask in a seated, yoga-like pose with their arms outstretched.

Lemur Forest is the capstone of a top-to-bottom upgrade to a months-long renovation of Tropical Cove, the topmost floor of the Ocean Journey building. The exhibit occupies a horseshoe-shaped footprint in the gallery, cradling a shallow stream filled with Freshwater Stingrays.

Nearby, the Aquarium’s largest touch tank, Stingray Bay, also underwent dramatic upgrades as part of the Tropical Cove renovation. It emerged with a sleeker look courtesy of thinner, smoother walls and a step-up along the bottom of the tank’s taller sections. This new design makes it easier than ever for guests of all ages and sizes to lay fingers on the many ray and shark species gliding through its warm water or riding along the walls as if begging to be touched.

Ring Tailed Lemur 2Although they can explore the new and improved Tropical Cove on their own, guests can learn more about the gallery’s newest residents during a pair of daily Extraordinary Experiences programs featuring the lemurs. These short, keeper-led presentations will show off the lemurs interesting natural behaviors and convey important information about the threats they face in the wild and how the Aquarium is taking part in efforts to protect them.

Best of all, Tropical Cove is just the first stop on an adventure that encompasses two buildings worth of thrilling galleries filled with amazing animals.

There’s the rest of Ocean Journey to experience, with its bustling colony of Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins, hordes of captivating, otherworldly jellyfish and the massive Secret Reef, a 600,000-gallon tank filled with more than 5,000 fish (and a pair of sea turtles).

Even with all there is to see and do in Ocean Journey, however, it represents less than half of an Aquarium experience. Each ticket also includes admittance to the River Journey building. This building is even larger, and its collection of freshwater species helps to tell the story of a raindrop’s epic journey from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. Here, guests will watch River Otters frolicking through the waters of River Otter Falls, encounter a dozen toothy reptiles lazing about Alligator Bayou and see North America’s largest collection of freshwater turtles.

With all there is to see and do, a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium can fill an entire day. Download the FREE Tennessee Aquarium app for a complete listing of programs and to learn more about its collection of animals to eke the most fun out of your visit.

Red Ruff Lemur 2And if two buildings of amazing wildlife doesn’t manage to slake your thirst for excitement, you can also purchase combination tickets and catch a showing of a giant-screen adventure at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater.

With all there is to see and do here, there’s no better time to get started on your Aquarium adventure. Be sure to hurry, though — the lemurs are waiting.