Immersing yourself in the virtual ocean at National Geographic Encounter

- This isn't the National Geographic you thumbed through as a child. From sharks going under your feet to sea lions meeting you face to face, the latest National Geographic show isn't in your magazine – it is larger than life in Times Square. And it is not an article, but a fully immersive experience.

Lisa Truitt is the creator of the National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey. She guided us through the vast project, five years in the making and finally opening this week. The journey takes us across the Pacific as a National Geographic photographer would see and hear it -- beginning in the sands of the Solomon Islands.

With a wall that flows into the floor below, we got out of the way of the tiger shark going under. In the distance, a dolphin teaches its young to nose into the sand for food. The floors are interactive, sting rays scatter to avoid our feet.

Then we went through the mirror maze of kelp which feel like swimming through nature's cathedral, Truitt said. The maze is so convincing, our camera kept getting fooled, bumping into ourselves at nearly every turn.

There is also a 3D experience with a towering screen surrounding you. Capturing the grandness and wonder of being in the Pacific Ocean with scenes assembled by award winning animators.

And then there was the interactive sea lion exhibit, which left us speechless. We took a minute to collect our thoughts. We're so blown away with this area we had to highlight it. Once you step in, your personal sea lion steps up. It tracks dozens of different movements. What adult can say they can walk by without trying this themselves?

It can take 90 minutes to peel yourself out of this 60,000-square-foot space, which is capped off with a room featuring interactive learning. Individual species that came up in the show are detailed, there's even a hologram format where the guest can manually manipulate to learn more. And there's also what we can do as individuals to protect the ocean's health, like using less plastic.

Ultimately, that is the true mission of this journey that Truitt and her team have created. She said the exhibit is entertainment but it has purpose and substance. Truitt said she wants people to fall in love with the oceans and realize they are in need of love and care right now. This is a lesson available for anyone to absorb, without even getting wet.

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