Ever since Jill wrote a guest blog post about the Georgia Aquarium, which happens to be the world's largest, I have had a hankering to go to a really good aquarium. Well, every time I mentioned to people that I was visiting the Monterey/Carmel area for a few days, they would always say "Don't miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium." I was glad to comply, and on Monday I went and had a great time. It was a cool gray day and I was happy to have an indoor activity since much of the trip has focused on the outdoor wonders of Northern California.
I started with the sea otters, which I would later see in the wild later that day on the 17 Mile Drive and the next day in Big Sur. But when I saw them in nature, all I could see was a little head bobbing in and out of the water in the distance. When I saw them at the aquarium, I could appreciate what graceful swimmers they are as I could observe them both underwater and above water.
Then I hit the fish tanks, for lack of a better word. I got to see plenty of starfish, and a wide variety of species at that. On Friday, I had been disappointed that I didn't see any at the tidepools at Moss Beach. But after spending a few hours at the aquarium, I couldn't feel starfish-deprived anymore. Even the penguin exhibit had tons of starfish!
My favorite exhibit was one that's fairly new: Secret Lives of Seahorses. Fifteen different kinds of seahorses are on display. They don't do all that much yet they are still fascinating to watch because they're such beautiful and unusual creatures. When I was looking at the tank with the leafy sea dragons at first I mistook them for seaweed — talk about incredible camouflage. You'll see one the slideshow below — it's the one that looks like seaweed.
The award for the most photogenic go to the jellyfish, hands down. The seahorses were frustratingly difficult to photograph because most of them were in cylindrical tanks, necessary for optimal magnification since these are little animals. The larger jellyfish were a treat to photograph. Their translucent bodies love the camera, and their movements are mesmerizing. There are several different tanks, and I literally could have watched them all day.
Going to the aquarium is fairly expensive ($29.95 per adult), but you do feel like you get your money's worth. Plus, the admission fees support their work as a non-profit and they do a lot of amazing marine biology and environmental research. Everyone who told me not to miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium was right.