Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Latest Visit to the Georgia Aquarium

I love aquariums and sea life as a whole. I can't point to anything in particular that fostered this in me but I have a feeling that, like most things in my life, it can be traced through a series of small, seemingly insignificant and unrelated events that got me here. Regardless of the reasons, I love watching marine life. I'm not interested as much in the biology of them except for the social, community, personality aspects of it. I've been to the Georgia Aquarium several times, so when we started planning a trip back to Atlanta, I knew that a return to the aquarium was in order!

I ordered our tickets ahead of time, including parking, so we were all set. We decided to go on Sunday on our way out of town so I got our tickets for first thing in the morning. We arrived right at 10am, so we got a great parking spot not far from the reserved member spaces. We took the covered walkway to the entrance and were able to hop through the "advance purchase" line and there was no waiting, even at security. We strolled right in and got down to business.

There seemed to be a lot more volunteers there today than there were the last time we were there. They were all very nice, but you could tell that a few had worked really hard to learn their little bit and darn it we were going to hear it whether we wanted to or not! The guy at the sea horses probably got on my nerves the most. He wasn't rude, but as soon as we walked up to the exhibit, he started telling us exactly where all the sea horses were located. To me, the game of hunting for the various creatures is half the fun so it kind of killed it when he had already told me where they were!

My all-time favorite exhibit has always been and probably always will be the Beluga Whales. I could sit and watch them for hours. The cool, darkened room with soft music and the beautiful glow coming from their tank is very comfortable to me, and the way they move so gracefully and yet playfully is simply mesmerizing to me. I caught Jeff laughing at me on more than one occasion because I had this look on my face like I was in a trance but I was so calm and peaceful and happy that I couldn't help myself! I also had a "first" when I got to see one of them blow a bubble ring several times. Apparently that is something they learned, but it was very cool. Going early to this exhibit was definitely a plus because it was easy to get a great view and enjoy the atmosphere. When we came back later it was much more noisy and crowded and hard to get a good spot to watch for long. One day I'd love to do the Beluga interaction program, but I don't see it happening anytime soon!

Another neat experience was going through the tunnel under the Ocean Voyager exhibit where they have the manta rays and whale sharks. I always see neat stuff, but this time was probably my favorite because at one point all four of the whale sharks were within view over our heads at the same time! I also saw a lot more of the manta rays than I normally do, including one doing flips (which I learned is how they eat!) The "big tank" is another place I could normally spend a lot of time, but this time there was a dive show happening. It was very cool to get to see all the divers, but the room was so crowded with people who wanted to see the show that we didn't stay long.

Something new for this trip was the Dolphin Tales show. Because this requires a separate timed ticket, I opted for the second show of the day. That way, just in case we got a slow start from the hotel that morning, we wouldn't miss it. I discovered that was a bad mistake on my part. We ended up being done with everything else and having to kill some time waiting for the show. We were told we had to arrive 30 minutes prior to show time to get in, and getting into the theater was an ordeal in itself. It was very disorganized without much structure to the lines to go up the escalator. Then, when you got up the stairs it was tight, hot, crowded, and confusing. I came very close to just leaving if I could have figured out how to get out of there! Finally we came to the actual entrance to the theater, which again was kind of chaotic and involved lots of line jumping, shoving, and rudeness. When we finally got to our seats we were relieved except that we had to wait another 20 minutes for the show to start. I saw the same commercials about different aquarium things I'd already seen several times and a few bits about the creation of the show but that got old very quickly.

The show itself was kind of disappointing. It definitely had more theatrics than most of the shows we'd seen at Sea World, but the "story" was beyond cheesy. There was an "audience participation" part which is not something I enjoy or appreciate simply because there's a reason we're not the ones on stage! Still, we got through that part of it. I am all about the animals doing tricks to music, but at the "climax" the dolphins were doing their thing while there was a lot of other action happening on "stage" and because there was more lighting on the people than the dolphins, the animals kind of got lost at that point. If I had wanted to see a play, I would have gone to the Fox! The "end" when all the dolphins really got to shine was really fabulous, I just wish the whole show had been like that! The trainers really did a wonderful job. There were a couple of points when one dolphin didn't want to do what the others were doing, but with a little encouragement and a treat the trainers didn't miss a beat and just went on to the next thing. The most disappointing moment to me was when about four dolphins and four trainers popped over the front edge of the pool for the perfect photo opportunity. Why was that a disappointment? Because no photography was allowed! I get no flash and I even get no video, but if you're going to say no photos, don't work in the perfect photo-op as a trick of the show!

I guess I'm glad I went to the show because I know what it is but I also know that I don't want to see it again unless it changes! Despite all that, we had a wonderful visit to the aquarium. I will definitely be back, especially to see Baby Beluga!

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