Belugas and Whale Sharks offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. But add the multitude of interactive and up close and personal accounts and this is a vacation in and of itself. We needed so much more time.
by nmagann on August 16, 2013
Cold Water Quest contains eight exhibits including the Beluga Experience which is not only unique but also not able to be viewed by those not paying for the pleasure. However, there was simply not enough for everything when we went. While we only glimpsed the playful Southern Sea Otters exhibit from a different vantage point in route to the see the beluga whale, we did literally pop in on the African Penguins.This display was quite uniquely styled. Behind this clear Plexiglas, we saw playful penguin as well as those napping from the hard work. The bottom of the housing was about three feet often the ground. This enabled children to walk under and adults to crawl under and pop our heads up into bubble spaces to be right in the middle of things. Fortunately for me, I found a bubble right a penguin graciously posed for me with real pucker power. I suppose you could say this was a bit interactive and I enjoyed it.Another incredible site was at the Alaskan Rocky Reef where the world’s largest octopus put on a captivating, but graceful show. So close I could see the suctions cups stick to the walls one by one as it moved across the enclosure. The details were as if I could feel the texture of the soft underbelly. The clarity made for a remarkably personal encounter.On the other hand, the Deep Sea Dwellers offer a chance no scuba diving could provide a mere glimpse into the depth below.For the touchy/feely people like me, the Rocky Tidal Pool offers the opportunity to feel the stickiness of anemones and the smoothness of rays. I choose not to feel the pain of the urchins, but my eyes feasted upon the small cleaner shrimp. Only one offered to clean my fingers which tickled tremendously.Having had my senses truly tantalized, it was time for suiting up and getting real.
by nmagann on July 27, 2013
We arrived at the aquarium at opening time which was 10 in the morning. There was no line for tickets and maybe a dozen people were already inside. The idea was to visit the rotating attractions first and then cover the permanent displays.Being a huge fan of tiny frogs from visits to Costa Rica, the many displays of the little darlings didn’t disappoint. Some were transparent and could have easily been a fake made of rubber....until that is, it moved. The poisonous dart frogs ranged in colors from black with bright green to red ones wearing blue jeans to black ones with yellow polka dots. The blue ceramic one was a real favorite as it looked like a miniature ceramic figurine that I may have painted as a child. The idea of being poisonous was preposterous. In actually, the ones here were not. The poison is created from the type of vegetation eaten which is not provided to those in captivity.Fascinating excerpts about the frogs from their habitat to diet was cited. Facts like the only frog that gives birth to tiny frogs in lieu of tadpoles was the most interesting. Additional tidbits included where the tadpoles were deposited such as inside a bromide for the purpose of water were also provided. Hearing the sounds and feeling the misty surrounds of their home was a great experience.
by nmagann on August 6, 2013
Georgia Aquarium contains shows, theme areas and exhibits within them, as well limited time displays and marine life tanks. The Ocean Voyager not only affords the opportunity to circle the huge tank but go through a clear tunnel through the middle. This miniature sea is large enough to be home to several whale sharks. This is the where swimming with the gentle giants and scuba diving with them is available.Other large and somewhat imposing creatures include sawfish, rays, grouper and snapper. While the sawfish hunts and night and uses the chainsaw appendage for slicing up crustaceans, distance is advised. Spook the little guys and a turn of its head in response is likely to find a fish or human leg severely cut.Rays ranged from stingrays to spotted eagle rays to the majestic manta rays. Knowing too well, think Steve Irwin, rays have sharp barbs I wondered if these creatures still had theirs and if they could present any danger. The fluid moves of rays and how manta rays curled and uncurled appendages were breathtaking. They glided in and out of rock arches and through schooling fish with such ease. None seemed to a threat or threatened. Perhaps meal times were very satisfying.Large grouper and snapper were outnumbered by the beautifully colored hogfish, blue tang and the usually elusive batfish. I particularly enjoyed the woebegone whose name perfectly described the unkempt appearance with raggedy edges and molted coloring. Rather on the order of a face only a mother could love.Rounding out the underwater world were the cute little garden eels rising maybe 3 inches up from the sand with a circumference of a little finger. Thinking of how hideous and dangerous moray and green eels have been show in movies, it seems hard to believe these creatures are relativesFish to mammals and shark to rays, this was truly a sea experience.
by nmagann on August 1, 2013
We had no more than showered and dried off and again we stood before the guide that would take us and two employees for an experience with the whale the shark. Back into wet suits we were escorted to a much larger tank. This was the tank tourist came to view from below. Whale shark, sting rays, barracuda and a host of others were swimming all around. Obviously everyone has been fed earlier so I'm not in danger of being dinner I hope. We sit on the edge of the pool, getting our mask, and fins on while a brief overview of how the tank on our chest works. Regulators in, we slip into the water one at time keeping relatively close to each other, not for safety, so as to appear schooling and non-threatening.We had been advised, not to attempt touching any creatures and that being bumped by one of the whale sharks is considered a bonus. Although huge, these whales are not only graceful but keenly aware of where each and every body part is in relation to everything nearby. Case in point, all three of them came within inches of me literally. So close in fact, I stretched my leg with the additional length of the fin in an effort to feel a tinge of resistance, in other words trying to get bumped, to no avail. Whether my intentions were being sensed or felt via the water or simply seen, I do not know.As the shark would pass under me, having come head on my direction, I would swivel my head to follow breathing out with a "wow" sound. I would barely have time to enjoy other fish, particularly the one with the chain saw for a nose, and another whale shark would glide near.Just as we finished the last circle and proceed to the exit station, I clung to the outer most part of the pool, lagging a bit as I didn't want the experience to end. Apparently feeling emotions, I received the lightest tap as a whale shark continued his pattern and I floated away.We all got out excitedly speaking as fast as we could to each other while slowly heading to the locker rooms. We had managed to remain beyond closing time and had to exit with the employees out the on remaining unlocked door. It was so very worth the $225 price tag as your chances of it the wild are, well you know.
The two-hour Beluga Interactive Program is an excellent hands on learning experience with the added value of fun. For a $170 you will have a once in a life time thrill limited to two groups of about 4 people each. Going up to the information counter to get information, the gentleman took us a tour to where the changing room and lockers were as well as the pools where the beluga were being trained. Okay, we’re convinced, sign us up. It just so happened the encounter would be in fifteen minutes.The program began with showing us some pictures of various belugas, indicating habit areas on a map and informing us how few of the little guys there were and why the diminishing numbers. The four of us directed to the lockers where we would don swimsuits (provided) and a full length wetsuit, relinquishing any jewelry and camera (grrrr) we had.The pool seemed small, but realizing that this was where training took place, it made sense. Another group was there ending their experience with a different instructor and whale than us. Walking to the corner of the pool we were instructed to descend a couple of steps and stand on the ledge that jutted out. Wow, was the water cold. In a wetsuit only waste deep, I held my arms up as if I would be any warmer.The guide beckoned the beluga to come over and we began a new understanding. These little darlings understand whistles, vocal commands and hand gestures. We participants, got to engage in communicating via hand gestures. The first, motioning as if knocking on a door, elicited a similar movement from within the famous bump forehead. I had to laugh at weird it looked. It was as though an alien creature was within and trying to get out.Moving the hand horizontally at the wrist elicited a "no" shaking of the head from the whale. We discovered patting the tongue felt good----even to me. A playful act consisted of tossing water into the open mouth. The return was a scoop of water tossed back. When my turn came, I angled the water to appear to be coming from my sister who was standing next to me. This resulted in her getting the water tossed into her face. I just had to test my theory. After everyone laughed, except perhaps my sister, I tossed water again making sure I was the recipient of the return.The highlight was being able to pet the smooth skin of the beluga, careful not to cover the blow hole. How would you feel if someone plugged your nose while patting you on the head? We each got to have a photo taken while wrapping our arms this now-seemingly small whale, while hoping to meet again.
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