The tickets queue was very long, so we were glad to have passes. Our first priority was the Oceanarium, where Brendan hosts the Dolphin Show every 1.5 hours. We got there early enough to watch an earlier show starring a sea lion that happily jumped about, roared, and 'kissed’ volunteers. Though excellent, it lacked the glamour of the dolphins. Four Pacific white-sided dolphins, all complete charmers, leaped, pirouetted and raced. After such an amazing show, few people could resist the temptation to go down to the water’s edge and watch the dolphins as they darted about below the surface.
The Oceanarium also includes other marine mammals, such as whales (we got to see Bella, a brown Beluga calf, swimming shyly alongside the protective bulk of her big white mother) and otters. Above the Oceanarium, on the ground floor, are a number of other galleries showcasing riverine and marine fauna from across the world. The most representative is Waters of the World, with sections devoted to each major ecological system. It houses some fascinating species: a Congo puffer fish, marked like a miniature cheetah; an Australian lungfish that’s been at the Aquarium since 1933; velvety midnight-blue eels, covered in delicate red stripes; red devil cichlids; turtles; piranhas; and more.
There’s Local Waters, which focuses on snapping turtles, lake sturgeons and other American aquatic creatures. There’s Seahorses and Seadragons; Amazon Rising; and the circular Caribbean Reef in the centre of the main hall. It’s full of fish and coral in some of the most dazzling colours ever - cobalt blue, turquoise, orange, yellow, red, shimmering silver. The colours are repeated in the awesome Wild Reef, but this particular exhibit, which reproduces a Philippines coral reef, is a lot more. It has plenty of information on the zoological, economic and social importance of coral, and (like all the other exhibits) offers loads of opportunity to watch fish- including sharks and sting rays - up close.
The exhibits are diligently labeled and educational. Touchscreens allow you to view the feeding habits, habitat, and other traits of fish you’re watching, and push buttons let you see an artificial giant coral polyp feed off mock plankton.
On the whole, a fun experience for both children and adults - though children are probably more in evidence. Ticket fees vary from the cheapest, at $8 per adult, which allows you access only to Waters of the World, Amazon Rising, and Caribbean Reef; to $27.50 per adult, which covers everything except food, drink, and shopping of course. The aquarium is open from 9am to 5pm in winter (except weekends, when it stays open till 6pm) and from 9am to 6pm in summer. Restrooms, souvenir shop, and food court are within the aquarium.
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Next you tour through various areas of the world and different environments, such as the Amazon, Southeast Asia, North America, and river, ocean, lakes, etc.
If you paid to see the Northwest/Pacific exhibit, you will be able to see the beluga whales and dolphins. The tickets were only several dollars more (~5.00) to see these animals, and you also get to see the Amazon wild life exhibit. It was very impressive.
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