the national aquarium in baltimore

Thursday, December 19:  The sign on the counter at Baltimore’s National Aquarium features The Great Salmon Run 4D Experience.  At the bottom of the sign is the price: $5.  I ask the ticket saleswoman, “How late does the aquarium stay open?  What time does this film start?” as I pull out my wallet.  She says that film isn’t playing any more today; the only showing remaining today is Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas 4D at 4:15, and the aquarium closes at 5:30, with 4:00 the last entrance time; it’s 3:30 at this time.  I guess I’m not listening very well, because I’m thinking I’m going to pay for the Salmon film. I pull out my wallet.

Baltimore's National Aquarium
Baltimore’s National Aquarium

I take out the remaining cash in my wallet after having spent most of what I had at the Christmas market.  I carefully count out five ones, leaving me $3.  I say, “I guess I’m cleaned out for today!” after showing her my three remaining ones.  I put the remaining bits away, satisfied that I had enough to pay for the aquarium.

The woman looks at me, holding my five ones in her hand.  She says calmly, “That’ll be $34.95.”

What???

“The $5 only covers the cost of the film.  The entrance fee to the aquarium is $34.95.”

Oh. I better rethink this, I tell her, and I walk outside to contemplate.

Baltimore's National Aquarium ~ contemplating: should I or shouldn't I?
Baltimore’s National Aquarium ~ contemplating: should I or shouldn’t I?

I walk out along the front of the aquarium, looking out over the Inner Harbor.  I’ve been here before but it’s been years.  Should I bother again?  $34.95??!!  As I walk along the walkway in front of the aquarium, I see a mother and daughter exiting the building.  I ask, “Do you mind me asking, is it worth it?  I was going to go in but when I found out the price, I had to rethink.”

The woman says, “Well, there are some really amazing things to see in there.  I know the price is high, but I think it’s worth it.”

I pace a little more back and forth.  And then I take the plunge, going back in to the same ticket lady and handing over my debit card.  “I guess I’m in after all,” I tell her.  “I was just shocked because I’m used to Washington’s free museums.”

She says, “Sorry.  This one ain’t free.”

Later, this incident cracks me up.  When I think about so earnestly pulling out my $5 and handing it to the ticket lady; she must have thought I was crazy, and deluded!

I go in and find the dolphin training session in progress, which honestly isn’t very exciting and is quite warm and humid.  The training session is short, and afterwards I head to the small Jellies Invasion exhibit, with its amazing jellyfish.

Welcome to the Jellies Invasion
Welcome to the Jellies Invasion

Translucent jellies live in every ocean, thrive in coastal and open waters, and even live in fresh water. Because of recent changes to jellies populations including massive swarms, voracious eating habits, and habitat invasions, jellies are changing the balance of the Earth’s aquatic ecosystems.

Moon jellies are translucent white with a saucer-shaped bell.

Jellies Invasion – Moon Jellies

Giant northern sea nettles can have tentacles as long as 10 feet.

Jellyfish at Jellies Invasion
Northern Sea Nettles at Jellies Invasion

Next stop: Animal Planet Australia, depicting a typical northern Australia river gorge. Here, I find freshwater crocodiles, turtles, fishes, snakes, lizards, free-flying birds, and flying foxes. Many of these unique and unusual animals are found only in Australia.

reflections: Animal Planet Australia
reflections: Animal Planet Australia

According the Carol of The Eternal Traveller, who’s from Australia, the pink and grey bird shown below is a galah (pronounced ga-lar, with a short vowel sound in the first syllable and the emphasis on the second syllable). Carol loves galahs: “They are very cheeky and their colours are beautiful. They live in large flocks and are infamous for eating farmers’ grain crops.”

bird in Animal Planet Australia
galah in Animal Planet Australia
Turtles in Animal Planet Australia
Turtles in Animal Planet Australia

Stop three, Blacktip Reef: This coral-filled exhibit, replicating Indo-Pacific reefs, is active with life that guests can experience from many vantage points, including a new floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that allows guests to virtually come face-to-face with the animals.

Honeycomb Stingray in Blacktip Reef
Honeycomb Stingray in Blacktip Reef
Blacktip Reef Sharks?
Blacktip Reef Sharks
sharks in Blacktip Reef
sharks in Blacktip Reef

The North Atlantic to Pacific exhibit is quite extensive, with a plethora of feasts for the eye.  I’m glad I’m here on a weekday so I can enjoy the exhibits without crowds.

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slideshow.

Finally, I head to the Amazon River Forest, which portrays an Amazon tributary at the beginning stage of its seasonal flooding into the surrounding forest. One-third of the world’s animal species call the Amazon Basin home, including the emerald tree boa, hungry piranha, and dwarf caiman. Two small displays portray identical slices of the river forest: one in the rainy season, and the other in the dry season.

Amazon River Forest
Amazon River Forest
Turtles in the Amazon River Forest
Turtles in the Amazon River Forest
turtles and fish
turtles and fish
polka dot skate with a turtle friend
polka dot skate with a turtle friend

As I’m departing the aquarium, I find a cool display as you go down the escalator; the view changes as I go down.

escalator down
escalator down
changing views on the escalator
changing views on the escalator
a world of amazing sights
a world of amazing sights

Last, I circle around and around Shark Alley.  Sharks of varying sizes and species slowly encircle visitors inside this 225,000-gallon, ring-shaped exhibit.  It’s hard to get pictures as it’s very dark and the sharks are speedy swimmers.

coral reef and shark
sand tiger shark and coral reef

I loved this shark exhibit with its moody music, taking me on a walk of serenity, almost as if walking a labyrinth.

So, was the aquarium worth the $34.95?  Yes, it most definitely was.  It was one of the most serene experiences I’ve had in a long time. 🙂

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