Saturday, November 1, 2008

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Check Spellingwas simply one of the best aquariums that we have visited. We enjoyed it so much that we ended up spending nearly 6 hours there, when the average visit is typically 3 hours. The main aquarium attractions are the otters, penguins, the Outer Bay and the Kelp Forest tanks especially at the designated feeding times. There are two large tanks and exhibits for two different kinds of otters. One is for the central California coast sea otters which were nearly extinct until very recently and the other for fresh water otters from Africa and Asia. Both types of otters are cute, playful and energetic, making them very fun to watch, especially during feeding which you don't want to miss. (Times for all feedings are found on the aquarium's website, as well as the visitor's guide you'll get when you enter the building.) The penguins are a variety from South Africa which are use to water temperatures similar to Monterey Bay ; they are smaller than their cold climate cousins but equally as interesting to watch. We went twice to watch the sixteen or so penguins being hand fed (that way the aquarium staff can ensure each one gets enough food). The very large Outer Bay tank contains huge fish like bluefin tuna, sunfish, sharks, schools of anchovies and other sea life from sixty miles out the Pacific Ocean. It was very impressive. The enormous Kelp Forest tank contains fish and other creatures that are found in the local waters, but live closer to shore. This aquarium was the first of its kind to have a tank of live kelp, made possible by the use of an innovative pump that was developed to replicate the moving surf which is critical for these sea plants. You definitely don't want to miss the feedings at these main exhibits. The rest of the aquarium is very nice clean and full of smaller hands-on exhibit and aquariums. The jellyfish area has many varieties that are truly amazing and bewildering. You cannot bring your own food into the aquarium, but you can eat at their cafe Portola. - we found their cafe quite good for the price, quality and selection. If you are in the Monterey area, we would highly recommend taking the better part of day and enjoying this wonderful aquarium.

Tip: If you are a AAA member, you can save $2 off the admission price ($24.95) by first purchasing your tickets at the local AAA office (they do not honor AAA at the ticket window). Also, you'll need to pay for parking somewhere near the aquarium. We found a close-by lot that charged $1 for every half hour up to a maximum of $12.

See more terrific photos of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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