After the inspiring talk by Jean-Michel Cousteau, we were able to see some ocean creatures up close and personal at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is one of our favorite places to visit in California, and we try to go several times a year. We have been members of the Aquarium for a number of years, and try to make it down there as often as we can. This time, my brother Troy was in town with his wife, Michelle, so we took the opportunity to show them the Aquarium.
One of my favorite parts of the Aquarium is the jellyfish exhibit. Although I am kind of terrified of jellies in the ocean, watching them for a safe distance behind a glass is a mesmerizing experience. I’m not sure how they get them to appear to light up, but they looks like the floating ghosts of flying saucers, and take on an ethereal quality in the dimly lit backdrop of the Aquarium.
We arrived just in time for feeding time in the big tank, and a big crowd had gathered to watch an assortment of sharks, tuna, and others get their breakfast. A museum spokesperson was on hand to explain how and what the fish were eating, and how they were able to keep the fish from eating each other through a steady diet of ocean treats. She explained schooling behaving of a large group of sardines in the tank.
After the big tank, we made our way to the kelp forest in time for feeding there. In that tank, a diver went down into the tank with a bag of fish treats and hand-fed the kelp dwellers. He was miked up, and had a conversation with the aquarium spokesperson on land, explaining what he was doing. It was fascinating to watch. Alex and Michell were transfixed by the show. The diver had a microphone on and gave a play-by-play of what he was doing, and talked to the docent inside about the various fish and their feeding habits.
We had lunch and dined on what else? fish in the Portola Cafe restaurant, a fine dining restaurant inside the aquarium. We picked up copies of the Seafood Watch guide, to be better informed on what fish is being caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways.
After feeding time, we made our way to several of the special exhibits, including a beautiful tank replicating a coral reef, with colorful, small fish darting around. The coral reef is like an underwater garden with gorgeous coral formations.
One of the special exhibits in the Aquarium right now is a couple dozen pink flamingos. The exhibit is called Hot Pink Flamingos. The exhibit actually features a number of different wading birds, currently endangered by riding sea levels invading their habitats. I think the bird in this picture is a Roseate Spoonbill, since it doesn’t look tall enough to be a flamingo, and seems to like standing on two feet. It’s hard to believe that these beautifully colored birds exist in nature, with their brilliant pink plumage.
I like this quote from Anne Stevenson, and visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium enables us to get close to this other world, the one below the surface of the ocean.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is a great place to visit with kids of all ages. Upstairs is a special play area for toddlers and younger kids, and big kids can learn about the ocean, climate change, and ways to conserve the precious natural resources in the ocean. If you’re visiting California, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is something not to miss.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located at 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, California. It’s open 7 days a week, and the price of admission is $29.95 for adults, $17.95 for children 3-12, and kids under 3 are free. Prices good through December 2010. Discounts may apply for students & seniors.