Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Today started off fairly cool this morning at 27F (-2.8C) and a layer of frost on the grass, but at least the sun is shining and it supposed to get warmer as the day progresses.

After the chores were completed we headed out to Toronto to go to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, which is a place I have wanted to visit since it first opened to the public in October 2013.

With the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team playing today it took a while to find a parking spot as most of the closer parking lots were already filled. We were fortunate and finally found a parking lot south of the Aquarium that had a few spaces available.

While Ron got the tickets to enter Ripley's I enjoyed looking at the various kinds of goldfish they had in tanks at the waiting area.

Once inside we took our time to enjoy the nine different galleries into which the Aquarium is divided. One gallery flows into the next. They include:
Canadian Waters,
Rainbow Reef,
Dangerous Lagoon,
Discovery Centre,
The Gallery,
Planet Jellies,
Ray Bay,
Life Support Systems and the Shoreline Gallery.


In the Canadian Waters Gallery there is amazing range of fresh and salt water displays featuring Atlantic lobster in a wide range of colours, Pacific octopus, a vast array of game fish, a large, shimmering silver, school of alewife and an impressive display of a Pacific kelp reef.

This towering display tank has a ramp which starts at the main level and wraps itself around the tank allowing you to view the inhabitants from the top all the way to the base of the tank. Needless to say this was one of the displays where I walked back up the ramp to enjoy the wide variety of fish before returning to the bottom where Ron was patiently waiting for my return.

From there we entered the Rainbow Reef Gallery which is a stunning display of the colourful reef fish of the Indo-Pacific region. To dive in the reefs surrounding the Fiji Islands and visit Micronesia and dive the many WWII wreck in Truk Lagoon is on my wish list and after seeing the multitude of fish in this display makes me want to go sooner.

We had just missed the every other hour interactive dive show, which leaves something to look forward to enjoying on my next visit.

From there we entered the vast Dangerous Lagoon exhibit.

It starts out as a large tank and changes into a tunnel where you are surrounded by the underwater world and as you look up you can see a variety of sharks, reef fish and green sea turtles swimming overhead.

Seahorses I

This display features a moving sidewalk running alongside the main display area where you can watch the ever changing reef, or you can step off the sidewalk and stroll along beside it and observe the sharks and other sea life on the opposite side of the tunnel stopping whenever you please to enjoy the fish.

This was another display that I had to go through a couple of times. I took the sidewalk to the end which leads to the Discovery Centre where Ron decided to wait for me as he watched the people in the pop-up research submarine replica located within the waters of the Dangerous Lagoon.

When I joined him there after walking back to the beginning of the Lagoon and taking the sidewalk back again, he decided he would find a table at the far side of the Discovery Centre and pick up lunch for us while I went back through Dangerous Lagoon for the third time.

On my return I strolled through the Discovery Centre which is a wonderful place for children to view fish up close in the viewing bubbles as well as having the opportunity to touch horseshoe crabs; which are living fossils, unchanged since prehistoric times.

Seahorses II

After lunch we continued on our way through the Aquarium to The Gallery which is home to many of my favourite fish species from around the world and also houses an impressive display of propagated corals (grown in an off-site facility) showing the wide variety of types and colours in one amazing location.

Ron and I enjoyed watching the deadly beauty of red lionfish as they slowly glided about their tank. Their bold coloration of black, brown, or red and white stripes and showy pectoral fins, serve as a warning to potential predators that they have defenses such as being poisonous which is backed up by their venomous spiky fin rays.

We moved on to the tanks filled with my favourite family of marine fish Syngnathidae which includes seahorses, pipefish, leafy and weedy sea dragons. Ron at first didn't believe that the weedy sea dragons were real, since they look just like floating seaweed in the tank, but once he saw their eyes moving he was amazed at how well they were camouflaged.

The next Gallery is called Planet Jellies, which is an enthralling room filled with back lit and colour changing display tanks featuring five different species of jellyfish. Even the ceiling has a delightful display of aptly called translucent moon jellyfish.

Ray Bay is made up of two Galleries in one; the lower level features three species of stingrays and like the Rainbow Reef Gallery features daily interactive dive shows.

The upper level called the Shoreline Gallery, which has a small beach area and offers a two hour package called the Stingray Experience where you can have a closer, hands-on experience with the stingrays.

I have always considered rays to be the butterflies of the underwater world and have had many experiences with them as they gracefully glide through the water past us while diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean. We snorkeled with nurse sharks and rays when we visited Marinarium Park, in Cabeza de Toro, Dominican Republic and while in the Bahamas we spent an afternoon on Nassau Balmoral Island and had unlimited time in the sting ray pool feeding and swimming with the rays.

The last Gallery is probably the most important one to the well-being of the many wonderful animals at the Aquarium and is called Life Support Systems Gallery. It gives a behind the scenes look some of the massive life support and filtration equipment needed to maintain the water quality and conditions for the survival of the marine life. What you see there is only the equipment for the Dangerous Reef and Ray Bay and there is much more not being shown that is required to maintain the other Galleries.

I enjoyed my visit to the Aquarium and will return again in the not too distant future.