Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish
On an impromptu trip to the east coast to visit family, we had the chance to see the George Aquarium in Atlanta, one of the world's largest aquariums. I had always heard cool things so I was stoked to check it out. I only had my crappy little camera phone (see pic above). It was amazing. Don't forget your (flash-free) camera!
We checked out the coral reefs first (Tropical Diver). I think we spent 10 minutes at the first tank just staring in awe at the teeming numbers of angelfish, butterflyfish, and anthias swimming actively about the reef in the first tank. We spent a long time gazing at the garden eels, japenese spider crabs, jellyfish and seahorses before nearly having our minds blown by a giant aquarium covering the entire wall and ceiling of a stadium-sized room (aerated by waved action). The next 20 minutes were spent identifying several species of tangs, surgeonfish, groupers, sweetlips, anthias, and several other amazing species of Indo-Pacific reef fish impossible to keep in the average home aquarium (including the largest, fattest mandarinfish I've ever seen). The only reason we finally dragged ourselves from the room was there was lots more to see. In addition, we were all sort of dizzy from sensory overload and needed a breather.
The next exhibit didn't help with the dizziness. In the Ocean Voyager section, we encountered an aquarium the size of several football fields. An octet of scuba divers enjoyed the view from the inside of the tank. We were mezmerized by happy groups of sting rays, skates, and manta rays, somersaulting on the surface. A few hammerheads, razor sharks, and sand sharks swam about with huge, protruding fangs, sending shivers down my back. Four enormous whale sharks the size of two school buses side-by-side peacefully swam in lazy laps. My mouth hung open for so long that my jaw ached. We left with cricks in our necks, eyes glued upwards, as we exited on a moving sidewalk through a long tunnel where we could watch the gi-normous fish swim above.
Finally, we moved onto the Coldwater Quest were we were oohed and aahed by 4 large, yet very adoreable beluga whales from the arctic waters of Russia and Greenland. There smiling faces and social butterfly personalities reminded me of dolphins. I also delighted in the African penguins, frolicking in the water and cuddling and preening in mated pairs. Maybe true love does exist afterall. One woman shook her keys for the penguins, who delightedly swam in frantic zig-zags, chasing the shiny object. She put her keys away, only to have the penguins jump to the water's surface, squack, and flap their wings, splashing water to beg for the keys again. They were hysterically entertaining and unbelievably adoreable.
Be sure to visit if you're in the neighborhood!