Thursday, September 10, 2015

Birthday at Vancouver Aquarium: After Hours

Turning another year older usually doesn't mean big celebrations... Unless, you decide to go to the aquarium at night time. That is what we did for my friend's birthday, and let me tell you, it was hot (literally!) Here are the things that lurk in the dark when you're not seeing them. Come and take a look.

The perfect way to celebrate your birthday

August 20, 2015

I haven't seen Hasiyna practically all summer long, she's been busy juggling school and work this season... And that will lead to more work and school this coming semester. We've known each other for more than three years, but it doesn't feel like it's been that long. From Mandarin class to endless clubbing nights, this was quite the game changer, and I was on board the moment I saw the word 'aquarium' in the text message she sent me.

Perhaps I don't remember experiencing these things when I was young, but I am always fond of amusements that are more family-oriented, because now I get to relive a childhood that I can't recall. The place has significantly changed, with the entrance redirected in a different location. It has become more modern, but all of the excitement was still there.

The aquarium was about to close from its regular hours, preparing for the adults only entertainment. There were a few people at the entrance, and we decided to wait in line when there were about four people en queue; within ten minutes, the line up basically went around the water fountain. What I did notice based on the lineup was that the majority of people who attend after hours were couples - Hasiyna was one of them. She brought her boyfriend, Cole, and her friend Colin along for the festivities.

The logo of the aquarium - it's miraculous

From left: Colin, myself, and Hasiyna

The only one that looks good here is Hasiyna

Once 6:45PM came rolling, the gates were opened, and off we were into the aquarium. We first had to get tickets for the interactive segment, as it was limited availability. Fortunately, we got the first session, getting that out of the way (phew). Upon entering the aquarium, you are greeted by these little guys:

The stunning jellyfish

There were so many type surrounding the entrance, you can't just focus on one thing. Whether it was the dark water tank, the skeletons of the sea monsters, or even feeding off of people's genuine interest, this couldn't be a dull night. I don't remember the entrance with the globe and stairway, but there was a small piece of the exhibit, Sea Monsters:

Thresher Shark

It's genius that someone thought of preserving an animal and dissecting it to see what they look like inside, gives you a wonderful insight. While walking towards the interactive room, I stumbled upon these variety of jellyfish, and look at that colour:

Beautifully deadly

Usually, the interactive room is only open to elementary school children, and when the opportunity came along, I was thrilled to see what was available. The procedures seem straightforward, wash your hands, and take off any watches or bracelets. Volunteers at the center are filled with joy, filling everyone up with knowledge of the animals in the water. It's amazing how they look dangerous, but they are quite gelatinous:

Sea Cucumber, with 'spikes'

There may have been no sea stars (my favourite!), but there were sea anemones, sea urchins, all sorts of animals that have an effect once you touch them. One of the volunteers was describing this particular animal, how it can detach itself and regrow in a whole new location. It's spectacular, because you would have never know how it gets there - and now I do:

Regrowth at its finest

One of the most fascinating animals would have to be the crab, just a baby, with such vibrant hues. I haven't seen a crab with such bumps, but was too interested touching it to ask further questions about the little one:

Beautiful bumps, it has

The volunteer at the station pointed out that when fully grown, the crab will look like this - so beware when approaching this one, those bumps turn into spikes:

Wah, it's incredible

We then watched the 4D show, which was certainly an experience not to forget. It's a 3D movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat, assuming you're able to remain seated. There are pokes and water sprays that jump out when least expected - you think it'll happen at one point, only to find out that it comes when you think nothing will occur. It was funny because Cole nearly jumped out of his seat when something poked at the back (it was definitely a highlight of the show).

Next, we watched the beluga show, which was pretty full, meaning that we had to sit in the splash zone - oh joy. Don't know what it is about the sound in the whistle, but every time the whale hears it, they know what to do, just like well-trained pet... Some times, I want to work in an aquarium to get that kind of interaction:

Getting rewarded for its behaviour

Then they came closer to the audience, performing one trick to amaze people. Beluga whales are quite large, and I can't believe how high they can jump. The photo may not be top quality, but this is just a perspective of how high:

Practically jumping out of the water

...and now waiting for her treat

With such amusement (and still dry), we took a break and got ourselves some drinks and dinner. Hasiyna and Cole got a Caesar while Colin and I got beers. This was then followed by food, with a steal of a deal. None of us read the sign, but the burger was actually a combo, whereas I bought a sandwich and fries separately, turning out to be more expensive than their burgers, fries, and a drink (so dumb). On another note: the boy at the counter serving food was very pleasing on the eyes ^^

Once we were full, we took a gander into the feature this season: Sea Monsters. It was quite dark, and I didn't know what to expect, but it was nonetheless still exciting. There's such a variety in the ocean, some more common looking than others, yet they still look eerie:

Would you be shocked at the sight of this?

In the center of the exhibit was this gigantic creature, and it looks like a child's drawing (you know, the fish that everyone can draw?) I wondered if it had scales, and how different it would have appeared, as its skin has been preserved for many years:

Ocean Fish Mola Mola

The insides of the Mola Mola

Eaten fish, ore babies?

So many sea monsters out there, it makes you second question whether you still want to go in the water. Although they may look different on the outside, their insides make them look harmless. After all, they are fish, right? Take a look:

Simply a hollow core

Bewares of the Porcupinefish

The veins of a stingray

Blotched Fantail Ray

Cartilaginous Skeleton Sand Tiger Shark

Two-Tusk Narwhal

All muscle

A pretty impressive feature, I must say, despite not having read every card inside. Exiting the Sea Monsters, we stumbled upon the amazon display, but unfortunately, no sloths today (they were already asleep). So we decided to see the frogs, and to be honest, I'm not sure how they work with the aquarium. They are still animals, and can't tell if they're sleeping, or just sitting around:

Look at their eye - can you see them?

How about now?

Frogs are simply strange animals - they sit around, do nothing, and yet, they still capture the hearts of aquarium goers. This one was simply awesome, submerged in water, lying around - doing what they do best, you know:

Just like the rest of the rocks

Finally, we saw these little ones, which took some time finding them until we noticed that they're just sticking on the window. I didn't know my camera would be able to capture this, but they glow with the flash on:

Like they're neon

Their little webbed toes are everything

So much to see, but so little time. We didn't get to see the dolphin nor porpoise show, but we hung around the sea lions and catch glimpses of the dolphin swimming around in the night time - they're still active even when the show is over.

We managed to stay for most of the night, but even then we felt quite tired after an evening with the fishes.


Because there was a deal going on, Hasiyna, Colin, and I all got an annual membership to the aquarium! So we will definitely be able to catch the shows again, and hopefully very soon:

Ah, dolphins

A little bit warm, but overall an enjoyable experience. It's definitely different without children, but more comfortable just to lounge around and see all of your favourite animals in one place. Here's to an excellent birthday choice, and hopefully more like this to come.

From left: Cole, Hasiyna, Colin, and myself

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