We make no secret of the fact that we love visiting aquariums. And we consider ourselves most fortunate that we have the Aquarium of the Pacific located in Long Beach just an hour drive from where we live.
When traveling if there is an Aquarium close by you can depend on the fact that we will visit it. So the list is long with San Pedro, Monterey, San Francisco, Newport, Oregon , Camden, New Jersey and yes, Monaco.
Actually we can never stay away from the Aquarium of the Pacific for very long since they keep coming up with new exhibits and new movies in their theaters
As you enter the Aquarium you are handed a 32 page book entitled "Map and Explorer Guide" which explains in great detail what there is to see and do. Increasingly the Aquarium is focusing on conservation of both species and resources. There is an excellent Watershed display which shows how water moves from the mountains of Southern California to the ocean and its impact on animals and people.
Always popular is the Shark Lagoon which allows visitors close up views of sharks of many species. A special shallow pool allows children to actually touch and interact with bamboo, nurse, epaulette and zebra sharks.
Exhibits have been created to match the geography and life of separate parts of the Pacific Ocean. First is the Southern California and Baja Coast, then the North Pacific coast Gallery and the Tropical Pacific Gallery which, with its beautiful corals, was new to us. The Tropical Reef exhibit is the largest at the Aquarium and contains some 1,000 species from South Pacific waters. It represents the archipelago of Palau in Micronesia and shows the corals and fish of the region
On our recent visit it was a busy day at the Aquarium with hosts of small children, others in large groups being chaperoned by harried adults. It was most interesting to watch the children and enjoy their wonder and excitement as they studied each exhibit. There was much for them to see with the live seal, penguin and sea otter exhibitions. There is a special Children's Program twice a day and a special program on the sea otters.
Did we mention movies. There are two theaters, the Ocean Theater features free film as well as 4D films for a fee. Then there is the Ocean Science Center where films are projected onto a six foot globe, which was new to us. Here we watched two short films, one on how important water is to a still growing planet population, another on rising sea levels and what this means for the future.
Then there is the Ray touch pool where one can actually touch the rays or shovelnose guitarfish. These are local residents of Southern California coastal waters. For the exhibit the barbs of the rays have been removed. Then there are the popular Sea Otters with their outlandish behavior and silken fur. This hair, the most unusual of any mammal, was almost their undoing in an earlier era when they were hunted without mercy.
The exhibit of jelly fish is particularly fascinating to us with their long graceful lace-like tentacles trailing them in the water in every changing patterns. Beautiful to look at but in some species deadly to the touch.
We also looked in on the Lorikeet Forest with the decor as a tropical island. Part of Explorers Cove, it is a walk through, hands-on aviary filled with dozens of Australian lorikeets. These are friendly birds that will without hesitation land on your hand, arm or your head if you care for that sort of head wear. Also it is possible to purchase a cup of nectar which will further induce the Lorikeets to become part of your person. With children it is a sure winner.
There is so much to see and do at the Long Beach Aquarium that one visit in not enough to enjoy all the exhibits and programs. New to us was the steelhead trout exhibit and how urban development has changed its habitat. Once upon a time the Steelhead moved up the San Gabriel River to spawn before returning the ocean. Then barriers on all the local rivers brought the Steelhead almost to extinction. This story is now well told in this exhibit.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is family education and entertainment at its best. There are ongoing education classes for all age groups and a continuing schedule of special events.
The Aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but December 25. It is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach. For more information call 562-590 3100 or on the web at www.aquariumofpacific.org. Parking is convenient with a special rate for those purchasing tickets to the Aquarium.
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