Last night Duncan (one of the interns from last year) had his 23rd birthday party (though I understand the birthday was a while ago). Stefan, the next intern to arrive after Brendan, has just moved in with a woman called Onita, she's very nice. She offered to drive Stefan anywhere he wanted to go, so she got to go sight-seeing as well, and was surprised that he didn't seem keen to take her up on his offer. So she offered to be our taxi service on the weekends instead. Which is great, cos it really sucks not having a car.
So today we went with Onita and Stefan to the Monterey Aquarium, about an hour south of San Jose. Everyone whom we've talked to from the US has raved about this aquarium, so we thought it would be nice to take a look. (Check it out, including the live webcams, here.)
I really loved it. The first place we went was the penguin feeding - we timed it just right. 200 people stood crowded around the glass, jostling me as I tried to video and take pictures, and the two feeders fed the penguins. It was quite cute actually - one was so friendly it came up and wanted to be petted by the trainer a lot! I suspect it thought it would get more food that way. They fed them anchovies, and counted each by name and how many fish each was allowed. I took way too many photos of penguins.
There was a huge 3-story wall of glass with different fish behind - it was a typical kelp area apparently. Small sharks and fish floated along - it looked like they were hovering in mid-air.
At one point we came back and there was a diver in the tank, feeding the fish!
There were touching tanks for kids, with things like starfish, and shellfish with huge long tongues.. they looked quite disgusting! And a whole pile of really cool little tanks with different fish in them, like rock pools with glass on top. There were so many!
At one stage, I heard a whole pile of kids shouting, "It's Dory! It's Dory!" I looked, and I assume it must have been "Dory" from Finding Nemo, as there was a lovely wall of tropical fish:
One of my favourite things (part from cute penguins) was the rooms full of jellyfish. They were incredible - walls of jellyfish all lit up with lights so you could actually see them, floating about. When their tentacles touched each other, they glided across, but anything else- ouchy! From huge ones to the tiniest deadliest box jellyfish (about 1cm in diameter and kinda square), they were very cool. One room contained mirrors and a huge wall of jellies - it looked like it had them all the way around, and Onita walked into the mirror by accident!
Lastly, they had cute otters, with their own routines - they know they are making people laugh! The next room had wading birds just standing there - I coudl have reached out and touched them. One really tiny bird hopped madly about, which most of the rest stood around or swam. It was funny. Small stingrays swam in the pools around these wading birds - you could reach out and touch them. Brendan and I each touched a few - they were kinda slimy actually. They had their spines trimmed so they weren't dangerous, and they were only a foot or two across, so not huge. One large ray in particular did a circuit, coming back each time and lifting its head out of the water completely to look at us.
Brendan and I walked up to the top of the building, where there was a huge machine making the waves for the tanks. The aquarium is right on the shoreline and has its own rockpools, presumably to get fresh water every day for the fish, and keep the water nice.
The last thing we liked very much was in a room with this huge wall of glass. Behind it, enormous sharks and tuna and two sunfish floated round and round. I thought that was COOL. These tuna were huge - some were at least as long as me, I would estimate! but the coolest thing about this tank wast the sunfish. Huge, alien and like mournful clowns, they drifted around the tank and came up to inspect the people several times. I loved them - they were just so strange and unusual. And they had odd human-like eyes and a mouth in a permanent 'O' shape. They looked made of silvery rubber. I've been trying to upload the photo of it (it looks like the girl is kissing it!) but I can't get blogspot to work. :(