I went to the Georgia Aquarium the first month it was open in 2005, then again on Mom’s Christmas outing that December. But I had never been back. One thing I had been wondering about was the tropical reef which they had said back then would get better every year as the corals actually grew and created a real reef. Also the whale sharks should be getting bigger except that the two biggest ones died.
At work we have been taking one furlough day without pay each month because of the budget shortage and it always seemed like it would be good to go to the aquarium on a furlough day. During the week it should be less crowded, plus state employees get a 10% discount. So I figured I would go yesterday, before most of the schools let out, but maybe too late in the year for a field trip. I found out about a great deal for Friday nights where you can get a ticket for $15 ($16.25 after a fee) instead of $26, but the ticket time is restricted to Friday from 5 to 8 PM (the aquarium stays open until 10PM for jazz nights). I’m not a fan of jazz, but nothing is more relaxing than saving money, so I bought a 5 PM ticket.
I think it was a good call. There were still a lot of people there, but it was pretty reasonable. Security wasn’t as tight. The first time I went I had to hide my keychain knife, but this time they were just checking bags and I didn’t even have to take anything out of my pockets (I remembered to leave my knife at home though). The biggest new thing there (literally) is this enormous manta ray named Nandi that the aquarium got from South Africa. She has to be 10 or 12 feet across, and is the only manta ray on display in the US (except that apparently there is another one there too). The groupers in that tank are still big and I didn’t count how many whale sharks they have now. There didn’t seem to be as many smaller fish in the giant tank anymore. I wonder if they have been getting eaten?
I couldn’t see much difference with the tropical reef exhibit, though I’d like to know if it is growing like they said.
One good thing is there seems to be a lot more information about the all the different creatures now. I remember when I first went they didn’t tell you that much. Also they seem to be emphasizing conservation and education more whereas before I think Bernie Marcus just wanted a place you could go see fish.
They are working on a new wing for dolphins and I guess as part of that they had part of the Cold Water exhibit closed which featured sea lions, penguins, and sea otters. There were two beluga whales there on display though. I updated Wikipedia’s article so they had the turnover in Belugas correct. The three remaining Atlanta belugas had been transferred to San Antonio during construction where one of them died, leaving two females. They brought one of the females back with a San Antonio male and left the other female in Texas.
Friday night jazz kind of copies Fernbank’s martini nights I think, but whereas Fernbank is smaller and there have been fairly young people dressed up, this was more of a casual crowd and still a lot of families and tourists. It was cool jazz, but they didn’t seem to be playing all the time. I was gone by 7:00 so maybe they hadn’t really gotten started yet.
At the beginning they took a picture of me in front of a blue screen. I was not actually standing in the big tank with fish swimming in front of me.