After our pre-baby trips to Ikea had been concluded, husband and I discovered that the largest aquarium in the world is in Atlanta. It took some self-control, but we managed to wait until Christmas break to drive back and see it.
I was initially a little scared of what the trip might entail, seeing as it’s about 6.5 hours of driving each way and a lot of city driving in the middle. But Camilla slept about 3/4 of the time in the car and, apart from some pretty spectacular poo blowouts, was good as gold while she was awake.
We decided to spend two evenings in Atlanta so we didn’t have to rush the aquarium. Thanks to Camilla’s early-rising habits, we went not long after it opened in the morning and the timing was perfect — the baby alternated naps and happiness and there weren’t too many people for the first hour or two. If you are planning to go, I suggest doing the same: arrive between 8:00 and 8:45 and leave by noon…by the time we left, the smaller exhibits were getting quite crowded and the parking garage was a zoo. (Or should I say, an overstuffed aquarium?)
One of the main attractions at the Georgia Aquarium is the Ocean Voyager exhibit, which has the single largest fish tank in the world.
It’s so big that it’s split into two main sections with an underwater tunnel in between. As you walk slowly down the tunnel, all manner of fish swim over your head.
We never saw the hammerhead sharks, but we did see the other two main attractions: whale sharks and manta rays.
That big guy at the top is a whale shark and the one underneath is a regular small shark. It’s hard to tell because of the perspective, but a whale shark is BIG. Very big. These are the only ones in the US, and I think there’s only one or two other aquariums in Asia that have them. They shipped them to Georgia by UPS…I guess they have better luck with the delivery guy than I do. At least, I’m imagining that the package wasn’t left outside the front door.
You might think that the wonders of a bunch of fish might be lost on a 6 month old, but you’d be surprised how interested she was.
The movement and colors made for a pretty spectacular show, even by baby standards.
And when she tired of the stroller, there was always mum or dah to give her a little lift.
(See the whale shark in the background?)
While the tunnel was great, the big viewing room really took the cake. It has one of the biggest pieces of acrylic in the world as a window…you would not believe how huge it is and how much you can see.
Since the big crowds hadn’t arrived yet, we stood there for ages just watching those giants swim by.
When Camilla saw something particularly exciting, she would flap her arms like a little bird.
She has also started making a little bob-bob-bob sound where she puffs her cheeks that I like to think is fish-inspired.
My photos don’t do justice to the manta rays. One of them liked to swim up to the glass and do a flip, showing us his strange smiling underbelly. He did this over and over and over, like a circus performer. I like to think that he knew he had an appreciative audience.
Ocean Voyager isn’t the only exhibit, of course. There is also a coldwater section with some really awesome Japanese spiny crabs.
I don’t remember what these were, but they had really big mouths.
We also discovered Australian sea dragons, which are considerably more colorful and interesting than sea horses.
(Sorry sea horse fans, but it’s true. Can you believe how weird and amazing these things are?)
We had really been looking forward to the beluga whales, but the exhibit was under some sort of maintenance and they weren’t there. Which begs the question, where do you put the beluga whales when they’re not swimming in their gigantic tank? It’s not like one of the employees can take them home for the weekend.
After the Ocean Voyager exhibit, I think that the Amazon River one was my favorite. Considering that the Amazon is a really muddy and kind of gross looking river, the fish are spectacular. I think they look like living jewels.
There was even a tank full of those super-colorful, super-poisonous Amazonian frogs.
And some really weird looking electric things. I think this is a catfish of some kind.
And these are electric eels. (I start humming a variation of “Electric Feel” by MGMT whenever I think about them.)
Oh, and let’s not forget the tank of pirhanas. I don’t know why anyone would go swimming in the Amazon unless they absolutely had to.
I didn’t get very many good photos from the coral reef section since there were a lot more people by that time. Plus, it’s always a trade-off between trying to experience the exhibit and get a good photo and I’m not always very good at doing both at once. This is one of the giant reef tanks.
And this was another.
Fortunately, it was a little easier to get close to the jellyfish.
We had been really looking forward to seeing this exhibit and were not at all disappointed.
(I can’t wait until Camilla is big enough to put her hands on the glass like that!)
The jellies are so mesmerizing, with their strange blue ballet.
There was also a pretty amazing tank of lionfish.
The final exhibit featured species native to Georgia, including this friendly turtle.
Some of the lumpiest, ugliest catfish I’ve ever seen turned out to live in the Mississippi River. Ugh. I guess you don’t need to be beautiful if no one can see what you look like. These silver guys live in the Atlantic and are much more attractive.
So, that’s a little taste of our visit to the Georgia Aquarium. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Monterey Bay and Seattle Aquariums, but this one had some of the most spectacular underwater views that I’ve ever seen. I took a lot of photos because I want Camilla to “remember” what her first visit was like, but I look forward to taking her back as often as we can afford to.
(Plus, it will give me a good excuse to buy one of those adorable little plush whale shark toys. I just couldn’t justify it this time around, but I think that next year mommy Camilla will want one.)