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Aquarium of the Pacific: Aquatic Fun for All Ages

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Have you ever been in Southern California and wondered whether there is a place where you could see all different kinds of animals that live in water instead of the usual sightings on dry land? The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is the perfect place for you. There are so many exhibits to see and so many animals to watch, ranging from the deep waters of the Northern Pacific coast to the Tropical climate off the coast of Australia. In these interactive exhibits, you can do anything from touching hands with a scuba diver to watching sea otters be fed to touching a slimy stingray. The aquarium is a great place for people of all ages.

When you first walk in, your eyes are overcome with so many different sights and happenings. There are fish tanks sporadically placed all over the main hallway, giving the viewer an idea of what they’re going to be seeing in the specific exhibits. As you walk through the many hallways, you are introduced to many different types of undersea life, ranging from tiny seahorses to the Giant Pacific Octopus. Outside the building, there are various enclosures, housing animals such as the lorikeet and the seals and sea lions. There’s even a tank where you can touch small sharks! These sharks are harmless, yet the dangerous ones are behind glass that only employees or interns can go into. The exhibits outside the structure are hands-on, with the small exception of the large sharks and the seal/sea lion habitat.

A fun thing to do while viewing the lorikeets is to buy a small cup of nectar from a kiosk outside the door of the enclosed space. For only $3.00 a person, you can buy a cup of nectar (about one and a half tablespoons), and walk into the cage with the birds. However, they also allow you in even if they didn’t purchase the food for the birds. A word of advice from an experienced feeder is to not go in right after the aquarium opens. The lorikeets haven’t been fed all night, and they’re usually very hungry, and they will bombard you for food. Also, watch your step because it is usually very slick or sticky in places on the walking path. I myself have slid when walking in the area, and have spilled the nectar on myself. There are about 140 lorikeets in the confinement of the cage, so there is never a shortage of birds to feed. They may perch anywhere on you, ranging from the hand to the shoulder or even on your head! These little birds will do anything to get some of the prized food from your hand.

As you exit the exhibit, there is a walkway that branches off in two directions. One path takes you to the amazing Shark Lagoon, and the other takes those who are still watching the lorikeets to a place to sit. People of all ages enjoy Shark Lagoon, not only because the thrill of being so close to some of the most dangerous predators in the ocean, but also the enjoyment of touching the smaller, less harmful species. Still, as with all animals, there are rules and guidelines about how you should touch the sharks. Touching them a certain way could injure them, so the guide for the display will lecture about the proper ways to touch a shark. The excitement factor varies from age to age, but the enjoyment is always there.

Once you have had your fill of the sharks, there is an elevator which will take you to the second level, and subsequently the third. The second level houses the sea lions and seals, and there are daily shows that are put on for the audience. The activities that occur during the shows range from feeding the animals to amazing feats performed by the trained mammals. The tricks and feats that they perform range from “flipper-stands” to diving out of the water like a rocket, are exciting to watch. Some sea lions may even wave at you! Many just sit and watch the aquatic mammals frolic with each other.

On the third level, there is a small pool where a few stingrays reside, and you’re able to reach in and touch them. The rays will be splashy, so be prepared to get a little wet. If they are eager to be petted, they may swim right up to the glass and poke their heads out of the water. People of all ages are able to pet the rays, but be cautious and hold onto small children. Once you walk back into the building, you are in the section of the level that is centered on the Gulf of California. The species in this area range from eels to pufferfish, and have informative plaques on the walls and ledges surrounding the tank.

One of the most impressive sections of the aquarium is the Northern Pacific Gallery, which houses various creatures such as the giant spider crab to the fluffy sea otters. Other than the otters, the most popular exposition in this gallery is that of the Giant Pacific Octopus. Found off the coast of the Pacific Ocean, this impressive invertebrate can reach lengths of up to 20 feet long and weighing in at about 100 pounds! The tank is dimly lit with different color lights, and you have to look for it. It’s not out in the open like the other fish and sea creatures are. Down the hall a short ways is the sea otter habitat. These scruffy little animals spend their time both in the water and out. The daily shows that occur usually are feeding and training sessions. People love watching the otters frolic and devour the treats that volunteers and employees bring them.

There are many galleries to be seen at the aquarium, and this is a pleasant day trip. Wear comfortable clothing, and the proper footwear. The aquarium becomes crowded very quickly, so it is best to get there right as it opens. For those of you who enjoy boat rides and whale-watching, the aquarium is located right next to a dock where there is a whale-watching tour group you can accompany on the ride. No matter what your aquatic interests are, anyone can, and most likely will, enjoy their visit at California’s Aquarium of the Pacific.





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