Our Guide: Planet Shark at Bishop Museum

6 Tips to Navigating Bishop Museum's New Exhibit

Photo: Jennifer Carlile Dalgamouni

What: Planet Shark: Predator or Prey exhibit.

Where: Bishop Museum

Who: 2 families with four kids, ages ranging from 3 to 11 years old.

When: A Sunday morning, around 10 a.m.

My 3-year-old shark aficionado cuddles his Hammerhead to sleep every night, tries to pick-pocket shark toys from his preschool and even won a contest to have his drawing of a shark blown in glass. So, when we heard that Bishop Museum was bringing in a shark exhibit, I had to take him.

Planet Shark: Predator or Prey focuses on the history and science of sharks as well as the current threats to the population. As soon as you enter the exhibit you come face-to-face with a 17-foot Great White Shark and the head of another Great White chomping a surfboard.

“Look a shark! And another shark! And mommy, another shark!” squealed my 3-year-old as he eyed the models cast from real specimens poking out from the walls of the museum.

The exhibit takes up the two big rooms of the Castle Memorial Building. As you enter, the side on the left details the evolution of sharks and has fossils on display. In the center are real jaws, facts about shark attacks on humans and puzzles and coloring stations. On the right, families will find information on the movie Jaws, how people protect themselves from sharks, the shark trade and shark products, and conservation efforts. The back room is where you’ll find the Sensory4 cinematic gallery with life-size projections of sharks and other ocean life.

Photo: Jennifer Carlile Dalgamouni

After taking a few photos with the Great Whites, we walked over to a long glass-covered table full of shark fossils. Here, the kids marveled at a pile of 26,000 shark’s teeth representing the number of teeth a shark sheds in a lifetime. Some were very big, some were of species now extinct.  This was the 7-year-old girl’s favorite part of the whole exhibit, she was awed by the size of the largest shark teeth. But, the fossils that got the most squeals and laughs were those of “coprolite” or “shark feces.” As soon as my boys started yelling about the “shark doo doo,” several other young kids ran over to see it. The table is quite high for little ones, so you’ll need to lift them up for them to get a good look.

There are posters with more information about “The Rise of Modern Sharks” and “Bite-Sized Facts” with information on the world’s biggest shark, a shark that can live in both salt and fresh water and details on the “Lantern Ninja Shark” that emits light from its head. The kids shot right past here to the Sensory4 cinematic gallery.

Photo: Jennifer Carlile Dalgamouni

Life-size underwater scenes of sharks, fish, scuba divers and more are projected floor-to-ceiling on the walls of the room while fish and coral reefs are projected on the floor. The HD quality and surround sound really immerse you in the scenes. The girls enjoyed sitting and playing around on the changing images beneath them while my boys were enthralled with videos on the Leopard Shark, Tiger Shark – also known as a “garbage can with fins,” camouflage “Wobbegong” and the King of the Ocean, the “Great White Shark.” Both boys ran up to the screens and jumped up trying to grab at the massive predators and run with the sardines amid a feeding frenzy.

A full-size shark cage in the gallery was a great photo op for all of us. We spent the most time here and all of the kids said the gallery was their favorite or one of their favorite parts of “Planet Shark.”

Our younger boys enjoyed making shark rubbings in the front room while we read about the shark attacks in 1916 that inspired the movie Jaws. The older girls were not interested in the arts and crafts, though my 3 year old carried his rubbing of his beloved Hammerhead all day. There are also artifacts from the movie and information on threats to these sea predators. A large glass box filled with real shark fins and a chart shows how the 100,000,000 sharks killed each year for the shark fin trade compares to the populations of the biggest cities on earth. At this point, my five-year-old started to engage the bigger questions of the exhibit and if the shark was “scary” and bad” or “good” and we should “help” it.

“Maybe they need to tell everybody to stop killing the sharks,” he decided.

I was happy that not only had everyone enjoyed the exhibit but they seemed to learn something too. That is, until I picked my 5-year-old up from preschool the next day, I found him serving all the kids pretend shark fin soup!

Interactive touch screens let kids research different types of sharks. Photo: Jennifer Carlile Dalgamouni

Our Tips:

1 – Stay in the front room of the exhibit as long as possible. There are a lot of neat facts and quirky things to see, but keiki will probably not want leave the Sensory4 gallery once they go in.

2 – Keep ahead of your kids. The order of displays is a little confusing and involves quite a lot of reading, so skip ahead and find items of interest to point out to your kids.

3 – Find the interactive displays. My 5 year old loved screens where you can pull up prehistoric, modern and usual shark species. The 11 year old enjoyed trying on a chain mail glove, the material is impenetrable to sharks and is used by filmmakers and shark tour operators.

4 – Take a break in the Sensory4 gallery. Leave this until last and you can sit on benches and relax while watching the shark movies. Keiki can run or roll around too.

5 – Visit the gift shop inside the exhibit or the shark section in the main gift shop. We thought that real 60-million-year-old shark teeth were a bargain at $4. You can also get small items like eight shark tattoos for $2, choose from various species of shark models for $8 each (each is about the length of an adult’s hand), or find a birthday or bigger gift like a large 4D shark anatomy model for $40.

6 – Make sure to pay $5 for parking at the kiosk outside the museum (for which you’ll need to know your license plate number) and display your receipt on your dashboard. (We were warned that the system doesn’t always record payment correctly electronically.)

Planet Shark: Predator or Prey runs through September 5 at Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. General admission is $22.95, kamaaina and military with ID are $14.95. Kids are $14.95, $10.95 for kamaaina. Kids 3 years and younger are free. Don’t forget parking is $5 a car. 847-3511, bishopmuseum.org