Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get up close with the animals that are at the Vancouver Aquarium? I have. When I was a kid, it was our trips to the aquarium that had me dreaming of being a marine biologist, I even took biology throughout all of high school with this as a possible career interest for me. This was not the career path I took, but I still always remain amazed by all the animals at the aquarium, and I always wonder just what it is like to be up close to them, and what it is like behind the scenes.
Right now, til the end of April, the Vancouver Aquarium is giving guests the chance to get up close. I had the opportunity to experience what Up Close will be like for guests. Up Close will allow guests to see the aquarium like never before with different displays, interactive shows, and even the possibility of behind the scenes experiences. You might be the one of the lucky visitors selected to participate with the dolphins, belugas, or sea otters. It’s all about being at the right place, at the right time. What an incredible surprise would it be if you get picked to go and have a turn feeding a dolphin and giving some instructions to follow, such as coming up and touching your hand.
When I got to experience Up Close, we started by going to the Wet Lab. You can actually see this area of the aquarium when you look through one of the fish tanks that is in the main entrance. This display acts like a window, behind it is a fun area that until now has only been available school groups. In the Wet Lab you get to check out all sorts of different invertebrates. This includes things like sea stars, and sea urchins to sea cucumbers, and crabs. We were told we were allowed to touch any of the creatures before us, but to follow the pinky finger only rule.
The staff were full of knowledge about the different creatures that we were learning about in the Wet Lab. It’s not every day you learn what a rhinoceros crab is, or get to touch a sea cucumber. My favourite was the anemone. Corals, sea anemones, and jelly fish are all in the same large group of animals – cnidarians. We also learned that just like jelly fish can sting, so can anemones. Because our skin is so thick on our fingers, it does not hurt, it just feels like its stuck to us.
Our next destination was to the Shark Penthouse. It is called the penthouse because you need to head to the one of the highest areas of the aquarium to get to the top of the habitat. I found myself fighting back some tears because this is something I have always wanted to experience. I have several memories of scuba divers suddenly being in the sea turtle and shark habitat and I always wondered how they got in there. My questions were answered.
Schoona, the green sea turtle, is the queen of this habitat, and she is definitely in charge. She is also a fan of cameras it seems, as she came up to visit us several times, which made for some great photo opportunities. Always a favourite to be seen by many of the aquarium visitors. We were asked how much we thought she weighed before heading to the penthouse. Some of our guesses were very close, her last check up had her in at about 245lbs. Schoona was brought to the aquarium after she was found off the BC coast, sadly because of not knowing exactly where she had come from she was deemed unreleasable, so the aquarium became her new home.
We got to adventure into the jellyfish hallway, which is tucked way in a very secretive location. I have never noticed the door to get to this location on my many visits to the aquarium. In the jellyfish hallway there are many varieties of jellyfish. You notice the unique shape of the jellyfish tanks as soon as you see them. It is this shape that helps to keep the water constantly moving, and the jellyfish then keep moving and swimming along. We also learned which type of jellyfish are considered edible. Would you ever eat a jellyfish?
Currently playing in the 4D theatre is Planet Earth: Shallow Seas. You get to learn a bit about and see things on sea lions, the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, and a mother humpback whale and her calf. You are never quite prepared for the splash of the ocean, the bubbles in the water, or the shock of a predator capturing its prey.
We wrapped up our Up Close adventure with the dolphin show, where we got to see Helen and Hana the aquariums white-sided dolphins show off there amazing skills of agility. During the show you also learn about how the research at the helps researches understand these amazing creatures just a little bit more. This show is always a crowd pleases, especially for young children. Be warned you just might get splashed. During our viewing, one of the members of our group was whisked away to get to experience what a little bit of a dolphin encounter is like. Remember, right place at the right time.
I left with even more of an appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes of the Vancouver Aquarium. So much goes into the care for the over 50,000 sea creatures. This feature will help educate, and provide answers to questions that many visitors have when they go to the aquarium. We will definitely be visiting again, and I truly recommend going during Up Close. You just might get a once in a life time opportunity to hang out with dolphins, sea otters, or perhaps visit jelly hallway or wet lab. I know I will always remember this experience.
Experience Vancouver Aquarium Up Close until April 30. View the daily schedule of Vancouver Aquarium Up Close at www.vanaqua.org. The Vancouver Aquarium is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life.