The Florida Aquarium

This morning, after purchasing a ticket through Groupon yesterday, I packed up Rover and drove over into Downtown Tampa to check out The Florida Aquarium.  Even having lived here for 15 years, I hadn’t taken the time to drive into downtown.  I probably should have done it earlier, as it is closing in on the end of the school year here and there were several school groups on field trips.  But it was great to see all the excitement that these young children had for the creatures who inhabit our Gulf and oceans.

I started off walking through the Wetlands exhibit, which replicate a typical mangrove forest in Florida.

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It is amazing the array of life that teams in these forests.

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It wasn’t just the underwater inhabitants that drew excitement from visitors.

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As well as the usual suspects who roam the waters of Florida.

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Up a set of stairs, I found the exhibit about creatures of Madagascar.  It was really popular with the school kids, but I was able to get one family portrait.

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There were many other exhibits throughout the aquarium, giving us glimpses of the denizens of the deep.

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Tiger sharks are known to live in and around the beaches of Florida, but they’re most active at dusk and don’t often head into the shallows.

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Lion fish are an invasive species in the Caribbean and Gulf waters.

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If only the tiger sharks would eat them…

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If you’re visiting with little ones, the Florida Aquarium has a splash park by Ray Cafe, out by the water, which will give them an outlet for excess energy before you head over to the 4D duck theater, which presents shows that are designed for both kids and adults.  Other, interactive presentations happen throughout the day.

Regular price for adults (13-59) is $28.95, seniors (60+) is $26.95, children (3-11) is $23.95 and free for those under 3.  There are add-ons available as well, including a dolphin cruise into the bay, dive experiences and behind the scenes tours.

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Aquarium of the Bay

On Tuesday, I caught the CalTrain from Sunnyvale, where I’m visiting family, up to San Francisco.

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That experience is a blog in and of itself that I’ll save for later.  Once in San Francisco, I caught the E light rail trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf and over to Pier 39, home of the Aquarium of the Bay.

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You begin on the 3rd floor and look at some of the denizens who reside in San Francisco Bay.

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Then you take the elevator down to the first floor and the walk through tubes that represent the waters of the Bay, without all the cloudiness that is actually present.

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The jellyfish are set to the side, then you begin your walk-through.  I guess it is tiring being a display fish, as I found several just resting on their laurels (or tank shelf).

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There was also two large fish that looked like something you would find in the fossil record.

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Certainly made it easy to photograph them.  Next, you come to a small break with displays of some other creatures that wouldn’t do well in the tunnels, including crabs and rock clingers.

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Oh, and this guy.

Then, you move on to the larger tunnel, featuring sharks, rays and sturgeons.

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Finally, you take the elevator back upstairs to see the touch labs and the river otter exhibit.

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We arrived just in time to watch the feeding and the training they do with the otters.

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While not the least expensive place I’ve ever visited, if you keep in mind this is California, then the prices aren’t as bad.  For anyone 13-64, general admission is $26.95, ages 4-12 is $16.95, and seniors 65+ are $21.95.  There are optional add ons of behind the scenes tours or shark feedings plus options of adding on other attractions in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

 

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Today, we decided to check out Fort Walton Beach’s Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, an aquarium setting right by the beach.  The prices weren’t terrible, being $21.95 for adults, $20.95 for seniors and anyone between the ages of 3 and 12 were only $13.95.  The main draw for the Gulfarium is their dolphins.  There are 4 males, ranging in age from 5 years old to 21.  The show can be viewed from stadium seating above or from viewing portals below.  We opted for an under the sea view.

The show discussed what it takes to train dolphins and showed off some of their tricks.  The trainers seemed very in tune with the dolphins and there was a bond between them.

But the Gulfarium isn’t just about dolphins.  There are quite a few other denizens of the shallows and deep that are on display as well.

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I never would have thought to use a fish as a hat.

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I noticed the other fish quickly got out of his way.

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Dads stick together.

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A harbor seal, out for casual swim.

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His shell had a large lump to it.  He seemed drawn to voices and kept near where the people were.

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Okay, those who know me are likely aware of my fear of stingrays, stemming from an incident during our first Caribbean cruise when I was about 12.  But, for our readers, I got close enough to take a picture of several varieties.  Alright, I’ll admit that when it looked like they were all headed my way, I might have made a quick getaway.

There were lots of exhibits and plenty to do for an afternoon.  There’s even a snack bar to get lunch if you so desire.  The exit is through the gift shop, but that’s what we’ve come to expect.

As the highlight of our visit, they had macaws out that you could pet and have your picture taken with.  Since I’m the one who knows how to use the camera (*cough cough*), Mom bravely stepped forward to see the pretty birds.

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That was the last we saw of Mom before the birds carried her away.

 

Just kidding.