August 14, 2003
I’ve been told that my brain is a compendium of useless information, so I really loved adding this bit of trivia to my store of useless knowledge. Even if you’re not a trivia junkie, a visit to the Nature Center is still great. Okay, it wasn’t as much fun as Legoland. But he was really glad he got to pet the rays. Yes-—PET the rays!
According to the website, "The Chula Vista Nature Center is an internationally recognized zoo/aquarium, exhibiting plants and animals native to San Diego Bay and marsh/wetland habitats." In other words…this place is COOL.
Most of their exhibits are interactive, but their newest and best is "The Shark and Ray Experience." It is a 17,000 gallon glass tank with at least 15 species of sharks and rays. The tank is free standing, so you can walk all around it and really get a good look inside it. I walked down the slope and stood where I was eye level with the top of the water, and instantly came eyeball to eyeball with a stingray! It was swimming near the top, poking its head above water (looking for top, as I was told by the Guide). What an incredible moment.
But the most fun in that exhibit was petting the rays. There’s a waist-high pool that’s open to the air, and it is filled with Round Rays and Bay Rays. It’s low enough that the average child can lean over the edge and actually reach in and pet the rays. They feel like jelly.
The outdoor walk-through aviary contains herons, egrets, and ducks. Special flight cages contained "Raptor Row," with majestic golden eagles, hawks, and owls.
We were there for about 90 minutes. I would have gladly stayed longer. I wanted to walk the trails, especially after I spotted a jackrabbit, but the last shuttle was about to leave. Vehicle access to the site—-located in the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge-—is restricted. To visit the Nature Center, park in the lot just west of the E Street exit off of I-5 and take the free shuttle to the center. The shuttle starts at 10 a.m. and makes a loop approximately every 15 minutes.
Hours: Tuesday- Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
From journal San Diego like the locals do