I will be sharing a longer post on my trip to Big Sur and Monterey soon but I thought the Monterey Aquarium deserved its own post. If only because I took so many photos there. I apologize now for the amount of pictures.
When I decided to take a trip up to the Monterey area, I knew that one of my stops had to be the aquarium. I have only heard good things about this place so I was excited to see it.
I was planning on buying a ticket but I was pleasantly surprised when my AirBnb host had an extra guest pass, which they let me borrow for the day. 🙂 (This also included a discount in the gift shop!)
The aquarium itself is at the end of Cannery Row, the famous shopping street right along the water in Monterey Bay. From the front it looks like a large blue warehouse but when you walk through the main lobby, it opens up to a patio which faces the bay. I could even see a sea otter playing in the distant water.
There are two floors with a variety of sea animals, ranging from sand dollars and the tiniest bottom-feeding fish to penguins and sea otters. The first area I stopped in was more of an interactive exhibit, with a tide pool where you could reach in and touch the anemone, etc. There were a few stingrays swimming around in a pool inside a closed off room, which also housed rescued seabirds. The stingrays funnily enough tended to stay in the middle of the pool, although most people I saw were respectful (and there were employees always keeping an eye out).
Most of the animals in the aquarium (but especially the birds) have been rescued for one reason or another. Either they were abandoned as babies or were injured, but most are rehabilitated and they attempt to return them to the wild once they are healthy.
The exhibits themselves were beautifully constructed. They were mostly dark which highlighted the giant tanks full of sea life. It’s truly amazing to think about how many different sea creatures there are, and the multiple species among them.
This giant octopus was fascinating! I watched him (or her?) for about 10 minutes, as did most of the people surrounding me. I wish I had a video to highlight how much he was moving.
One of the most visually interesting and beautiful exhibits was the jellyfish. I had no idea there were so many types of jellyfish. They were amazing to watch, and the blue background combined with the dark exhibit emphasized their vibrant colors and movement. There was even a type of jellyfish that lit up like Christmas lights.
The Open Sea exhibit was stunning. When you turn the corner, the room opens up to this gigantic tank with a large school of fish swimming around and around in a circle. It was hard to not be hypnotized by them for a moment. And when you go downstairs, you can see the bottom of the tank and look up at the school of fish.
The hammerhead shark swam in and out of sight. I was about to leave the exhibit when I heard a collective gasp from the crowd. When I turned back around, this giant sea turtle had appeared. It was fascinating to think about how old he could be. (I meant to ask an employee but forgot, oh well.)
I knew that I had to make a stop and see the penguins. While I watched them, I was reminded of that scene from Happy Feet when Mumble is captured and brought to a zoo. He is so sad and almost goes crazy because everyone just stares at them all day and he can’t communicate with them. All of the penguins really did stare directly at you.
These were actually African penguins, although the sign said that all of them had been born in captivity. This strangely made me feel somewhat better, knowing they had never seen the real world. 🙂
I read that these penguins are monogamous and mate for life. These two followed each other around so it was safe to assume they were mates. It was adorable.
The most entertaining part of the aquarium was the sea otters. I attempted to see them when I first arrived but the crowd at the tank was 4 people deep and it was difficult to see them clearly. When I came back around before I left, there was a much smaller crowd. I could have watched them for an hour, but after a while I figured I should let some of the kids have a closer look!
They really are like dogs in the water but are agile like cats. They were so playful, interacting with the crowds and chasing each other around. Sea otters are a big deal in Monterey. There is even a store devoted to them, with a Hairy Potter t-shirt that I almost bought! ♥
Before I left the aquarium, I of course made a stop at the gift shop and picked up a few things for Lorelei! She got her own little sea otter 🙂
The aquarium was definitely worth the stop and was everything that I expected it to be. Anyone else who makes a trip to the Monterey area should take the time to go there. It’s especially great for little kids, but just as much fun and interesting for adults.