Nieve checking in on the bat rays at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The MBA is one of Ronan and Nieve's most requested places to visit, so much so that the two of them can navigate their way through the large aquarium without instruction from Mom or me (especially Ronan).
Nieve found Nemo, and quite a few relatives in a Splash Zone tank
Our little pearls, happy as their giant clam
Both kids also have their 'must visit' list of exhibits. For Nieve it's Splash Zone, an area dedicated to young children that lets them play as children do (creatively, noisily, and interactively), yet fosters a strong connection to the oceans. Besides dressing up as a bat ray and making bookmarks, Nieve loved watching the little clown fish swim among the anemone tentacles.
Sardines, as seen by lying on the floor and looking up at the entrance of the Open Ocean exhibit
Ronan relaxing in a concave window, watching Common Murres swim swiftly by
Ronan requested a visit to the Ocean Open exhibit; he wanted to watch the tuna (both yellowfin and bluefin), large stingrays and hammerhead sharks glide gracefully through the seemingly enormous tank. There is even a fun and fascinating Mola that always makes Ronan smile. Feeding time should not be missed - it's delightful to watch the pelagic fish feed and the sardines try to stay out of their way.
A remarkable creature with movements that are fascinating to watch
Children seemed to appreciate the octopus as much as (or more than) the adults
One animal that we had not seen moving during our previous visits was the Giant Pacific Octopus. We had a change of luck as the beautiful and mesmerizing cephalopod made a few trips across it's habitat in front of us and a few a dozen other excited visitors.
Ronan leading the 'spot the bay ray we want to touch' effort
Nieve reviewing proper petting protocol at the touch pool
I suppose a drawback to our frequent visits is that both Ronan and Nieve seem to take it upon themselves to serve as docents. At the Open Ocean exhibit Ronan was telling whomever would listen that the Dolphin Fish was called 'Dorado' because, "it looks gold when it's happy, and dorado means gold in Spanish." Nieve cajoled a timid child into touching an urchin at one of the touch pools. When the child finally got up the nerve, she reminded him in her most teacherly voice, "Only two finger touch. Urchins are purple, but they can still poke."
Nieve covers an eye, hoping to reduce her fear of a crashing wave
Mom and Nieve are both scaredy-pants - the Wave Crash Tunnel is as thrilling to them as a roller coaster
The Wave Crash Tunnel is always fun when you experience it with Nieve (here's a video of her a couple of years ago); she's frightened at the anticipation of gushing water but that fear turns to delight once the water is released.
The wave is about to break and...
The whole family enjoys the Wave Crash Tunnel
In the tunnel Ronan is less visibly concerned than Nieve, but he still showed a hint of apprehension while waiting for the wave to break. He lured Auntie G into experiencing it with him - the two of them were all smiles once the water had passed.
"Oooh... jellies... sooo pretty"
Ronan wanted to do a quick run-through of the jellies exhibit, which is the perfect way to take a child's tempo down a notch. The dark rooms, soft music, and well-lit tanks put visitors in trance-like states. Watching Ronan has become my favorite part of the jellies exhibit; his ensorcelled (Bewitched? Enchanted?) mind is visually manifested in the funny faces he makes.
Ronan made a new feathered friend
On our way out, Ronan asked about birds that, "fly underwater" so we stopped and watched the puffins and murres zip about in the water. Ronan stood in front of the glass, attentively watching the busy seabirds do their routine. Eventually a Tufted Puffin swam up to where Ronan was standing and pressed his prominent beak to the glass. Ronan responded in kind and the two of them held the nose-to-beak pose long enough for me to get a camera out of my backpack and take a picture.
Beak-to-nose with a tufted puffin
That was a perfect way to end a fantastic visit to the aquarium. I'm certain that it won't be long before Ronan and Nieve ask to make another trip down to Monterey to explore more of the ocean exhibits.