On our travels we never miss the opportunity to visit an Aquarium if one is available. This is true from Monaco, Camden, New Jersey, Newport, Oregon and California. But best of all is near by Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. For here, in a one hour drive on 405 Freeway, we can return as often as we like to watch exotic creatures and wonder how they came to be.
As you enter the Aquarium you are handed a 32 page book entitled "Map and Explorer Guide" which explains in great detail what there is to see and do. Increasingly the Aquarium is focusing on conservation of both species and resources. There is an excellent Watershed display which shows how water moves from the mountains of Southern California to the ocean and its impact on animals and people.
Always popular is the Shark Lagoon which allows visitors close up views of sharks of many species. A special shallow pool allows children to actually touch and interact with bamboo, nurse, epaulette and zebra sharks.
Exhibits have been created to match the geography and life of separate parts of the Pacific Ocean. First is the Southern California and Baja Coast, then the North Pacific coast Gallery and the Tropical Pacific Gallery with its beautiful corals. The Tropical Reef contains species from South Pacific waters. It represents the archipelago of Palau in Micronesia and shows the corals and fish of the region
On our recent visit it was a busy day at the Aquarium with hosts of small children, others in large groups being chaperoned by harried adults. It was most interesting to watch the children and enjoy their wonder and excitement as they studied each exhibit. There was much for them to see with the live seal, penguin and sea otter exhibitions. There is a special Children's Program twice a day and a special program on the sea otters..
The exhibit of jelly fish is particularly fascinating to us with their long graceful lace-like tentacles trailing them in the water in every changing patterns. Beautiful to look at but in some species deadly to the touch.
We also looked in on the Lorikeet Forest with the decor as a tropical island. Part of Explorers Cove, it is a walk through, hands-on aviary filled with dozens of Australian lorikeets. These are friendly birds that will without hesitation land on your hand, arm or your head if you care for that sort of head wear. Also it is possible to purchase a cup of nectar which will further induce the Lorikeets to become part of your person. With children it is a sure winner.
There is so much to see and do at the Long Beach Aquarium that one visit in not enough to enjoy all the exhibits and programs. New to us was the Steelhead trout exhibit and how urban development has changed its habitat.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is family education and entertainment at its best. There are ongoing education classes for all age groups and a continuing schedule of special events.
The Aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but December 25. It is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach. For more information call 562-590 3100 or on the web at www.aquariumofpacific.org. Parking is convenient with a special rate for those purchasing tickets to the Aquarium.