I have been very lucky to attend some truly amazing, even iconic, I would say, events during my life, in different parts of the world, so these days I find myself more impressed by a unique, original place, concept and setting for an event, than by glitz, glamour and the celebrity factor.
At the end of this April, I had the opportunity to witness just that kind of event, as I attended a private reception at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (http://www.montereybayaquarium.org), which certainly lives up to its reputation as the best aquarium in the world, from its dramatic, modern structure that emerges right from the bay’s splashing waters, to its extensive educational programming, to the number of exhibitions (200) that contain about 35,000 creatures, which represent a diverse aquatic family of about 600 different marine species, from sharks to sardines to scorpios to sea turtles. Many of the animals in the aquarium’s tanks were rescued, and those that survive may eventually be returned to the wild. All the exhibits contain only local sea life.
This truly was a unique and top-notch (in every way) dining experience, as it took place in the evening and there was no natural light, so every exhibit, every tank, and every chef table was strategically and artificially lit for the most dramatic, awe-inspiring effects, while creating an overall atmosphere that was intimate, classy, cozy. And somehow soothingly surreal.
You cannot miss or forget the living, breathing “Kelp Forest”, that resembles the kelp beds outside in the bay. Between the swaying strands of kelp, leopard sharks glide over the aquarium floor, anchovies coalesce in silver clouds, warty sea cucumbers and starfish adorn rocks. Visitors are able to inspect the creatures of the kelp forest at several levels in the building. It was designed as the centerpiece of the aquarium, and was the first exhibit in the world to include a living kelp forest, in which grow eighty species of seaweeds. The “Open Sea” exhibit features one of the world’s largest single-paned windows, inside which hammerhead sharks sweep the bottom, and giant bluefin tuna cruise by. The “Wild About Otters” and penguin exhibits are more adorable and friendlier alternatives, while the “Jellies Experience” illuminates delicate crystal jellies and the comet-like lion’s mane jellyfish, and “Tentacles” stars Pacific squids, cuttlefish and octopi, and includes multimedia interactive exhibits that dramatize the features that set these animals apart.
I felt privileged and grateful to be able to enjoy the wonders of this non-profit public establishment at my own pace and time length, without crowds or waiting time, while sampling delicious shrimp cocktail and duck sliders. I am a huge fan of sea life, and have visited countless aquariums before, but none has even come close to this one, and I hope the photos I took and included here manage to capture the awesomeness of this mind-blowing place…