Thursday, November 19, 2009
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Day 34 Rest Day/Fun Day
I have been talking about going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium since I knew we were taking this bike trip. I had been told how cool it was and that it was one of the best in the world. Today was the day! We got up and took our time making a great breakfast and packing up our camp. We got to the aquarium right around opening and tried to make the most of our day. We started out by going to the Outer Bay exhibit (which houses large ocean going fish) to watch a feeding that happens about 4 times each week. There were 400 pound tuna, barracuda, sardines, an ocean sunfish and huge Mahi Mahi in the tank. It was really exciting to watch them feed. The tuna swim so fast, it was cool to watch them swoop and speed, gulping down chunks of squid. A major theme at the aquarium is making good seafood choices. They have a Seafood Watch guide that gives a rating for each species you can find at restaurants, telling you if it is a good, better, or poor choice of fish. The rating is based on the whether the species is being harvested sustainably or if their habitat is in danger due to fishing practices, etc. Please check it out on their website. After the big fish feeding we went to the kelp forest to see the fish in that exhibit get fed. A diver went into the tank and handed the fish their food. He gave a talk and answered questions while in the tank. The kelp forest is unique because it is in the Monterey Bay Aquarium that kelp was first able to be grown in captivity. We went to a lecture about deep sea creatures and the research being done to learn more about these species. It has been said that we know more about space than we do about the deep ocean. What a fascinating world.
We went to the touch tanks and got to feel many of the critters found in tide pools. This was a really neat experience for both of us. There was an amazing little aviary where wild birds who were injured, raised in captivity or recovering lived. You could get really close to these birds and notice things about them that would be difficult to see in the wild. We even saw a snowy plover, which is an endangered species. There was a black oystercatcher living there because he never learned how to break open his oysters and clams. I really enjoyed the bird exhibit.
Some other interesting exhibits included the jellies gallery and "secret lives of seahorses." Monterey Bay Aquarium is famous for its jellyfish collection and it is spectacular. To see the strange shapes, colors, and movements of jellyfish is unlike any other creature I have seen. Some had spectacular arms while others displayed amazing light shows.
The seahorse exhibit amazed Greg and I the most because we saw some animals we had no idea even existed on this earth. There were sea dragons, (leafy and weedy) which can hardly be described, you just have to look at their pictures above. A different species, the pipefish, hides among the spines of sea urchins for protection. They even have a purple stripe on their sides to blend in better with the urchins spines. Another amazing thing about seahorses is that the males carry and give birth to the young.
We also saw feedings of sea otters and penguins, which was really fun to watch. Sea otters are so playful and charismatic. The aquarium had an incredible amount of activities and exhibits for kids as well. So if you have kids and you are ever anywhere near Monterey, you will not regret taking kids here. I hope you guys enjoy our pictures, we had so much fun today we stayed around until closing.
After we left the aquarium we got dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Maha's Cuisine. Mmm...new foods! Then we climbed back up the hill to our campground. We are taking another rest day tomorrow because at this point we are reading the forecast, which calls for gale-force 45 mph winds from the south and about 1/4 inch of rain. The chance of precipitation is 100%. We hadn't planned on staying another night, but we will still be just fine on time to get to the next place. This additional rest day is also good news for Greg. It will be good to have more time to rest his aggravated Achilles tendon.