Odysea in the Desert: Behind-the-scenes tour of Odysea Aquarium, 10 things not to miss

Posted at 10:36 AM, Aug 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 13:36:39-04

For the last several months, construction crews have been building what appears to be an amusement park of sorts, off the Loop 101 at Via de Ventura.

It’s called Odysea in the Desert, a 35-acre entertainment and shopping destination. It includes Odysea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Odysea Mirror Maze, and eventually over a dozen restaurants and shops.

(Dolphinaris, which is another entertainment experience coming to Phoenix, is located next to Odysea in the Desert, but is not connected to, nor owned by Odysea.)

From the outside, it looks like a lot of cement with the intricacies of water along the side. What it really does is build curiosity. What is it? What’s inside? What’s there to see and do?

Earlier this week, ABC15 was invited inside for a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility and to meet some of the critters who will soon call this place home.

With hard hats, yellow reflective vests, and protective sunglasses, we entered the construction zone. Over 200 construction workers and animal care specialists were busy finishing final projects to get ready for the soon-to-be-announced grand opening.

Watch the video above to check out what is happening behind the scenes.

Below are a few of the animals and experiences you’ll be able to check out:


Gizmo, Pepper and Peanut are 8-month-old African small-clawed otters. We were there as they explored their habitat for one of the first times. We learned that they’re the smallest otter species and considered an apex predator, meaning they’re at the top of the food chain. Another fun fact is that they communicate with each other using over a dozen vocal sounds, each with their own significant meaning.



The SeaTrek tank is the first salt water exhibit along the tour. It has a variety of stingrays, schools of fish, and smaller sharks. In this exhibit, guests will register to put on an air-tight, pressurized helmet and walk around the floor of the exhibit. This isn’t included in general admission, so if you don’t sign up, you can still look at the stingrays and watch other people under the water.


In the penguin exhibit, there are 20 African Black-Footed Penguins, including a juvenile. To spot the little guy, look for his gray feathers. Once he gets older, those gray feathers will be replaced by white and black feathers.


There will be over 20 sharks in Odysea's shark exhibit. One unique element about the shark tank is the glass is connected to the public bathrooms. So as you're washing your hands, you'll be able to watch the sharks swim by. Don't worry, the sharks cannot see you; only you can see them.


Just behind the SeaTrek experience is a large tide pool, where you’ll be able to gently touch some of the sea life, including sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.


The Lighthouse Café is in the same area as the tide pool and SeaTrek. It will serve a variety of food options. Odysea has implemented state-of-the-art technology in their trays so once you order your food,the wait staff will be able to find you. 


Odysea is an aquarium, but the designers have incorporated some amusement-park animatronics. Pip and Polly are two larger-than-life penguins that will educate guests on what it’s like to be a penguin.

Salty the Sailor will welcome guests into the 3-D theater. Make sure to stay until the end of the flick because the screen rises to show off the deep-sea tank.


Once the aquarium opens, they will be offering behind-the-scenes tours where you can learn about what goes into managing an aquarium and caring for its animals and sea life. You’ll even be able to see the shark tank from a bird's-eye view. It’s not included in general admission and pre-registration will be required.


This program won’t be available right when the aquarium opens we’re told, but once it is up and running, guests will be able to sign-up and go behind-the-scenes of the penguin exhibit. You won't just look around. Instead, you'll be able to see and interact with them.


The aquarium will open first followed by the outdoor courtyard and retail space. The outdoor courtyard will feature an entertainment space in the middle, as well as over restaurants and local shops, including an ice experience.

Odysea Aquarium, 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale AZ 85256
Admission: Adults - $34.95, Child (3-12) - $24.95, Seniors (62+)/Military - $32.95, Student - $29.95, Child (2 and younger) – Free.
Opening date: Not yet announced
Hours: Not yet announced