Field Trip: Georgia Aquarium

We’ve been studying marine animals in our biology study, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, so when friends offered us discount coupons to the Georgia Aquarium, we enthusiastically accepted! They are doing the same biology study in their own homeschool, so we invited them to come along, too! Another fun aspect of the day: the dads came along, too! (So you actually see me in some of these photos since Ken had his camera!)

Because it was a weekday, and because we arrived as soon as the aquarium opened for the day, it wasn’t crowded at all, and we were able to see all the exhibits in a relatively short period of time. We started with the area where you can touch stingrays and small bonnet sharks. The stingrays have had their barbs trimmed, which does not hurt them because it is made of the same material as our fingernails. Here, I’m touching a cownose ray. After much pondering, I decided its skin feels like a cooked mushroom.

After everyone had a chance to touch several rays and sharks, we tore ourselves away and moved to another exhibit where we were able to touch sea urchins and starfish, among other things. Then onto another exhibit with horseshoe crabs and big shrimp — neither of which I could bring myself to touch. The horseshoe crabs were mating, and one pair had flipped over, and looked entirely too much like roach bugs for me to even consider touching them.

Beluga whales are probably my favorites. They have so much personality. The girls all love them, too. The biggest one, seen in this photo, is an 18-year-old male named Beethoven.

And then there are the sea otters! I adore them. We were able to watch a feeding, and the trainer had them do a few tricks for us, including this one, where she told the otters to “go make friends!”

The South African penquins were fun, and chased our hands like they were chasing a fish. They especially loved Kathryn’s hot pink flip-flops, and kept trying to eat them through the glass!

More amazing creatures included…
weedy sea dragons

moon jellyfish

whale shark

humphead wrasse and a grouper
Did you know that grouper start life as female, and then when they reach a certain age and size, and have laid all the eggs they will ever lay, they become male? How completely weird is that?

Lindsey and Kathryn got up close with a tiger shark:
GeorgiaAquarium-4Georgia Aquarium

We ventured through the other exhibits, and eventually made one last stop back by the petting area for the stingrays and sharks. For some reason, this southern stingray really seemed to like us; he’d come by to let us pet him, and then turn around to face us and come partly out of the water. Very cool but kind of disconcerting. (In fact, Lindsey screamed the first time he did it!) These rays can reach nearly 300 pounds!

Just before we left, we watched a feeding for the bonnet sharks (related to hammerheads). All hands must be out of the pool at feeding time because the sharks get into a bit of a feeding frenzy, which I found interesting to watch — and funny when we got splashed by the overexcited sharks!

This was a great trip, and really brought to life some of what we’ve been learning. I think it made it more personal for us. I know that as we learn more about the animals in our biology study, these particular ones we saw at the aquarium will be vivid in our memories.