The Monterey Bay Aquarium: Another dimension

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Come and walk on the ocean floor and experience a colorful, spiritual adventure that is also dramatic, romantic, mysterious and entertaining. This is what the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers in all its wonder. This is a place to savor and enjoy over and over again.

A dream come true

In 1977, Julie Packard – with her background and education in botany and marine biology – and four marine biologists from the Hopkins Marine Station had a dream of converting an old cannery in Monterey into a world class aquarium.

With a generous gift of $50 million from her parents, David and Lucille Packard, and much hard work by Julie and her associates, the vision became a reality. The privately funded Monterey Bay Aquarium opened to the public Oct. 20, 1984, with Julie Packard as its very qualified executive director.  

‘The Jellies Experience’

The newest glorious presentation of MBA is “The Jellies Experience.” Just about every kind of “jelly” is represented in all their magnificent brilliance. Hands-on activities are available – even creating your own jelly and e-mailing it to yourself. The whole experience is mystical and unforgettable. Become hushed with wonder as you watch the purple striped jellies – a translucent wisp of life so beautiful it takes your breath away – do their delightful undulating drifting dance that seems like a performance just for you.

Get your hands wet

Hug a starfish, cuddle a sea cucumber, pet a bat ray, tickle a decorator crab, giggle at the whimsy and charm of the puckish sea otters and watch an octopus do its magic act and just about disappear before your eyes.  

         

Be observed

When you wander along the 90-foot long, hour glass-shaped Monterey Bay Habitats exhibit that holds 326,000 gallons of purified sea water, you will see a cross-section of the bay’s major habitats, and you will at times feel more like the observed than the observer.   Choose a favorite critter follow it a while, and you will want to make a friend.

A sense of humor that’s all wet

It’s hard to realize that there are fewer than 3,000 California sea otters left on the planet. A 55,000-gallon, two-story tank lets the visitor observe these playful characters underwater and above the surface.

They are delightful, interesting creatures that will eat up to 25 percent of their body weight in one day, and each runs up a feeding bill of about $6,000 per year.

Their undoing is their beautiful fur that is the thickest of any mammal in the world. At one time they were hunted for their pelts and their population diminished. Since the hunting of otters has been banned, they are slowly increasing in numbers.

They are a joy to watch as they give their lesson in precious good humor and fun. Many are abandoned by their mothers, injured or have been involved in oil spills; the Monterey Bay Aquarium rescues, treats and has a surrogate adult sea otter take over care and training of abandoned or hurt pups until they are fit for release or stay at the aquarium.

 

The amazing seahorses

There is a special exhibit presenting an intimate look at the remarkable, fragile lives of seahorses and the threats they face.

With a head like a horse, a belly pouch like a kangaroo, a prehensile tail like a monkey and the ability to change colors like a chameleon, seahorses are as unique as any fish can get. If all that weren’t enough, their most unusual claim to fame is that it is the male gets pregnant and gives birth. This lesson in these threatened, charming fish is well presented and easily understood.

Can you top this?

Just when you think they have done it all, along comes the “Vanishing Wildlife” exhibit, “Saving Tuna, Sea Turtles and Sharks.” These extraordinary animals face extinction from fishing customs and habitat devastation. The exhibit is displayed in in the million gallon Outer Bay venue that is so spectacular and stunning, it has to be seen to be believed. To see this is to enter into another planet, another dimension. Imagine drifting to the bottom of the bay, without scuba or diving gear, and enter an area of dusky, ethereal blue lights that flood from the tanks onto the walls to enhance the feeling that you are walking on the bottom of the sea. Subtle, mellow music enriches the mood.  

Just the facts

Arrive early, wear comfortable shoes, plan to spend an entire day. (Two days are better.) Stop for a snack at the excellent restaurant on the premises, or you can get your hand stamped for return admission and have lunch at one of the fine restaurants in the area.

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