Midwesterners can now experience sharks and expand their knowledge beyond 2-D documentaries and TV programs during Shark Week that officially kicks off today.

A short drive westbound on Interstate 44 will take you to Wonders of Wildlife in Springfield, home to the furthest inland shark experience — the Out to Sea Shark Dive. Visitors have the chance to be immersed inside an underwater cage where they will come face-to-face with brown sharks, sand-tiger sharks, barracuda and goliath grouper weighing 400 pounds. State-of-the-art Sea-trek air helmets allow guests to be fully submerged under the water without diver certification. 

Guests will have the opportunity to speak with a Wonders of Wildlife animal care expert who specializes in sharks, their habitat, behaviors and misnomers, and the Out to Sea Shark Dive adventure includes the option to experience mealtime with the sharks and groupers as you dive beneath the surface. 

All participants will receive underwater cameras to take photos during their experience with a souvenir flash drive. Guests will encounter brown sharks, sand tiger sharks, Atlantic goliath grouper, barracuda and colorful reel fish including snapper, grunts, jacks and tangs. 

The Out to Sea Shark Dive cage accommodates up to four guests and one safety diver. All participants must be at least 10 years old. Children ages 10-14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the safety briefing and the parent or guardian must remain in the shark dive area while their child is in the water.  Children ages 15-17 must have a parent or guardian’s signature to participate.

Reservations for the Shark dive experience at Wonders of Wildlife are open to the general public. In response to Shark Week, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 4, community members also have the chance to win a mini-vacation that includes the Out to Sea Shark Dive as the centerpiece with additional prizes included by entering the sweepstakes at https://www.springfieldmo.org/sharkdive. Two winners will be drawn on Monday, Aug. 5 with additional prizes included:

— One night at Angler’s Lodge, a lodge-themed hotel. Not eligible for holidays or holiday weekends.
— A $50 gift card to Hemingway’s Blue Water Cafe, a restaurant inside Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World.
— A $100 Bass Pro gift card that can be redeemed at the store in Springfield, the first and largest Bass Pro in the world.
— Admission for two to Wonders of Wildlife, the award-winning aquarium featuring thousands of live animals and educational displays.

Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium consists of an all-new 1.5-million-gallon Aquarium Adventure showcasing 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, and immersive Wildlife Galleries that bring visitors eye-to-eye with the greatest collection of record-setting game animals ever assembled. Created by conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the 350,000-square-foot experience celebrates those who hunt, fish, and act as stewards of the land and water. 

Located next to Bass Pro Shops National Headquarters in Springfield at 500 W. Sunshine St., the campus is a centerpiece of America’s Conservation Capital in Missouri’s Ozark mountains.