Our next day in Monterey was dedicated to going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We slept in a bit, and then walked from downtown out to the Aquarium – a distance of 1.7 miles. It was a great walk along the harbor towards Cannery Row. There is a nice paved walking trail that goes right along the water, then breaks away from the water to meander through a park, and a cute touristy shopping area. Once we got to the aquarium, there was a long line. I didn’t realize it was Spring Break for California schools – Spring Break at home wasn’t for another week! So although we had to share the aquarium with more (SCREAMING!) children than usual, we enjoyed the visit.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in 1984 on the site of a former cannery. Cannery Row was the home base for an active sardine fishery from 1916 until the final collapse of the sardine industry in 1973. The Monterey Bay Aquarium primarily focuses on plants and animals that are native to the Pacific Ocean, and they are one of the premier research institutions in the United States for several animals, including Great White Sharks.
They have an Open Sea exhibit, jellyfish of every size and shape, sea horses (they are so cool!), and a Kelp Forest with lots of native fish living among the beautiful tall plants. Jon and I really liked the Open Sea exhibit – it was very peaceful just watching the tuna and the sharks mingle with the sardines and other fish. I imagine that they interact as they might in the wild.
We also really enjoyed the bird aviary. The Aquarium has a program for raising and releasing several species of birds, but there are a couple at the aviary that cannot be released for whatever reason, and they use these birds to raise chicks from incubated eggs at the Aquarium. You can get super-close to the birds in the aviary, but they are just going about their business, not paying any attention to the people watching them.
All in all, we saw Sandbar sharks, Leopard sharks, Hammerhead sharks, Sevengill sharks, several kinds of tuna, Giant Sea Bass, Giant Pacific Octopus, a Leatherback Sea Turtle, Sturgeon, a dozen types of seahorses, a dozen types of jellyfish, Wolf and Moray eels, giant Lobsters, Puffins, Penguins, Snowy Plovers, a Laysan Albatross, White Sturgeon, Bat Rays, and many other animals. It was a great experience, except for all the screaming children. My ears certainly took a beating and I fought a headache most of the time that I was there. But I did enjoy my visit.
After we left the Aquarium, we walked back up to the hotel through Cannery Row. It is a strip of touristy gift shops and high end boutiques. We stopped and had a late lunch at the Ambrosia Indian Cafe, with Basmati Rice, Butter Chicken, Tofu Masala. It was quick and delicious and really hit the spot after our hours at the Aquarium.
The best part of the walk back to the hotel was along the marina. There we spotted about a dozen harbor seals sunning themselves on the rocks in the shallow waters close to shore. They are very cute – they balance themselves on the rocks – heads and tails held up! It looks like they are planking – what I wouldn’t give to have core muscles like that (without the blubber of course)! We also saw a couple of sea otters, but unfortunately they were a bit far away to get a good photo.
I really loved my visit to the Aquarium and walking along the boardwalk enjoying the sunshine with Jon. And the day wasn’t even finished!