By John Metcalfe From The Mercury News
SAN JOSE, Calif.—You could spend an entire day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and not run out of stuff to do, thanks to behind-the-scenes tours, animal feedings and opportunities to get wet. Here are five awesome ways to maximize your time at the aquarium (and you’ll no doubt find others).
Explore a New Deep-sea ExhibitGiant isopods scurry like roly-poly bugs in a touch tank. Japanese spider crabs the size of Labrador retrievers stalk a whale skeleton. Glasslike jellies crackle with electric-rainbow lights. Into the Deep, which opened in 2022, features the largest collection of deep-sea animals in all North America—you’ll find awe in this weird environment lurking around every darkened corner.
Dive With Aquarium StaffWant to immerse your child, literally, in the wonders of the ocean? You can with surface-diving excursions in the Great Tide Pool right outside the aquarium. For $150 plus admission, staffers will give kids ages 8 to 13 lessons in dry-suit scuba diving and guide them through the diverse wildlife that exists in the shallows. Afterward, they get a dive log and a warming cup of hot chocolate. Call ahead for dates.
Get Happy With PenguinsThere’s something mood-lifting about standing in front of the African penguin environment. Looking like wobbly bowling pins with flippers, many of the birds have paired up into couples, and the romance spreads across species—on a recent visit, a man proposed to his partner in front of the penguins. Get there at feeding time, and you’ll learn plenty of interesting facts, including that the birds can defecate 3 feet away by “projectile pooping.”
Witness a Feeding FrenzyEver see hundreds, perhaps thousands of fish swarm a diver like a massive fish-nado? That’s the scene at feeding time in the aquarium’s Kelp Forest, when a brave naturalist descends into the tank to scatter grub and give live commentary in front of gathered crowds. An equally impressive feeding takes place in the Open Sea exhibit, with huge tuna and hammerhead sharks, and if you want to expand beyond fish, there are mealtimes with penguins and sea otters, too.
Take a Behind-the-Scenes TourEver wonder what’s behind the aquarium’s locked doors? Book a backstage tour – at noon, 1 p.m. or 3 p.m. daily, for $24 plus admission—and you get to find out. Staffers demonstrate how they prepare food for more than 10,000 animals and guide you around the labyrinthine network of pipes channeling water to exhibits. They might relate stories from the aquarium’s olden days, or highlight off-display marine creatures. One gem on a recent visit was a tank loaded with the tiniest of jellyfish.
If You Go
Aquarium is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily at 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, California.
Tickets range from $44.95 (child) to $59.95 (adult)
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