February 6, 2010

Mary's Birthday (as Narrated by Jesse)

So, Mary's birthday was February 1st and she had school all day long, so we decided to go to the Dallas Aquarium! We started out the day by going to Mimi's Cafe and enjoying some delicious breakfast (around 10:30 AM). The day before I had been shopping and my debit card was not working, so we were relieved to be able to use it when we payed for breakfast. Our next stop was going to be Massage Envy for some R&R - so I called and asked what they had open. The lady told me that they had opening starting at 1:30 (it was around 12:00) so I decided to go ahead and go get Mary her presents I had been planning to get the day prior but couldn't (stupid debit card). We went to Ulta in Southlake and she picked out another ultra-absorbent hair towel to use while her other is in the wash. She also got some make-up that was "organic" but not USDA certified (it's better than not organic at all I suppose). We go to pay out and I try to use my debit card only to be told that it could not be run - it was being declined. Mary ended up paying for her stuff (which I DID repay afterwards) and so we made our way to the Chase ATM to make sure we could still go to the Aquarium. My card started working again and I got some money out to use for the days festivities and off we went to the Aquarium. We pull up to the parking area and start looking around for an attendant to pay for parking only to find a large metal box with slots for you to put your money in. It says $5 but we see people walking right past it and just going straight to the building. I decide to put a couple bucks in just to make sure we were safe and we started heading up to the entrance. As we walk up this long and winding walkway (which was winding for the sake of being winding, not for any real purpose) we see some birds in a netted area not making any noise, just sitting there. As we get closer to the paying area the birds started making some sort of a weird noise that we thought could have been the people walking up behind us...very odd. In any case, we pay for admittance and start heading in looking around, heads on swivels. We see some more birds walking around, some foliage, and then we notice running water. We looked to see one of my favorite animals of all time, a penguin!
It wasn't really doing anything, just hanging out on a rock but it was still cool. As we continued, we saw more and more animals. Mary was the designated camera person and she got a TON of pictures, but I will spare you from ALL of them and just put some of the cool ones. So as we continued on, we got to see some cool looking toucans (see below),an anteater, and even a SLOTH just hanging around in his tree. We heard the sound of a waterfall and smelled salt water so we knew we were starting to get close to the water. We rounded a bend while still checking out all of the cool little exhibits and things. As we got out into the main room we saw a large area of salt water with an island in the middle. There were all sorts of things swimming around in the water and we noticed two specifically from about 3 stories up. One was a large gray creature that we had NO idea what it was...
We also saw something large and red going around in circles along with the large gray matter. We started getting excited about what it could actually be! As we continued down the path, we checked out some more little exhibits with birds, and frogs, etc and started wondering, isn't this an AQUARIUM not a ZOO? But nevertheless, it was still pretty cool. As we rounded another bendy area in the path we saw a Big Daddy Croc just hanging out back in his own area. The signs also said piranhas were in the same area as the croc and I wondered, who has to take care of this tank, pobrecito!?

We continued along the path checking out some more little side exhibits and saw some cool stuff. One of the better pictures of the bunch was of a poisonous tree frog that had lots of cool yellow spots on it. It was hanging on the glass and we thought the flash might mess up the picture but it came about perfectly!

We kept walking around the bend and it came back out near the waterfall etc. so we took a look again for the gray matter to see if we could tell what it was as we got closer. Unfortunately, still no clue at this point.
So, we continued on our journey, with each level bringing us closer and closer to the large area of water. All of a sudden, the twist went inward a bit and we saw a dark area with some exhibits. This was the "creepy crawly" area. They had some snakes, spiders (which we never really got to see except one tarantula) and bats. Mary tried to get a picture of the bats but the dark lights didn't turn out real well on the camera. This picture is only to remind her of those darn bats that she was freaked out about! :)
Then, we came out of the dark area and saw a little kid with his face practically pressed against the glass of another exhibit. He also kept sticking his hand up and over a little testing whatever animal this was. His parents warned him and he stopped but it piqued my interest and we approached it. It was a BABY Croc.
We then saw that the exhibits were starting to become more and more fishy! The next area had a bunch of cool things...some eels and a worm looking eel thing...it was really gross looking.

We then came up on an area that had a BUNCH of rays as well as some ducks floating around above them. I made sure to go over and bend down to about eye level with some of these rays and it was really cool to see them flutter up and down on their edges to move around. It was also really cool to see the "eyes" of the ray (spots that look like eyes that is).
So,There was also an area with a bunch of turtles. We witnessed one trying to climb up onto the sandy shore looking spot and then I notice a whole lot of them all bundled together under a heat lamp. It was kinda cool watching them all fit on each other and on the rocks.
The path then winded out again so that we were seeing the waterfall and such again. We looked for the gray matter and finally came to the conclusion that it had to be a manatee! Mary made sure to get a good zoom picture when it surfaced and opened its nostrils - it was really cool and BIG!

There were also some ducks that were floating on the surface of the water and we kept checking them out and the next thing we knew, well - the picture tells it all! HAHA!
This picture is specifically to show the SIZE of the gray matter (manatee) in comparison to the ducks on top of the water.
We continued on to see some random birds and a couple owls (the head turning thing creeps me out a little bit). We thought we were done and started wondering AGAIN why is it an aquarium if most of the exhibits aren't water creatures. Then we saw an opening to actually go down below the water level and check things out down there. When we came down it was a huge glass wall (reminiscent of the movie "Closer") where we finally got to see up close the gray matter. It turned out there were two of them and they WERE manatees. One was active and floating (the one we saw) and the other was sleeping maybe? Though I swear I saw his eyes open and he did float to the surface and then come back down...There were also some large turtles in there too.

There were a bunch of other exhibits along the way including a "Dori" (from Finding Nemo), a sea dragon (similar to a sea horse but on steroids and camouflaged), and Jellyfish! The picture doesn't do them justice - they were really cool looking - glowing and all!

The next area had some coral and such - it was pretty sweet and I think it was one of Mary's favorite parts...funny we come to a aquarium and see all sorts of oddities and cool things and she loves the coral...that's my chica! Also, there's a picture of an octopus' tentacles peeking out of a hidden cove...

So, after that we were pretty sure it was over and we went by a gift store that had signs saying exit. We asked the cashier where the "Shark feeding" was because it said it started at 2:30 (it was about 2:15) - and he then directed us to yet another area. This one had a bunch of exhibits of things from around the world. We checked those out and saw some people inquiring about doing a wedding there and it definitely brought up some ideas with us. :)
We then came upon an enclosed tunnel with some sitting room on either side. We saw lots of rays floating by and then SHARKS! We sat down about 5-10 minutes before the feeding was supposed to start and pretty soon the corridor had several groups in it. The time came and we were all pretty confused at what exactly the sharks were being fed and then we saw pieces of squid splashing above us and floating around in the water. It was soon followed up by shrimp halves and half fish! Mary was totally grossed out by all of this. Here are the pictures we got of the sharks:

So, we thought we had seen it all and walked toward the way that said exit and sure enough there was ANOTHER area...although this one didn't have a lot of stuff going on. We got to see Baby Jaguar's mommy (any Diego fans out there?) as well as Mary's FAVORITE ANIMAL - Flamingos!!!! They were honking at each other and nipping and ruffling their large pink feathers...Mary loved every minute of it too. It kind of sounded like the sound sturdy bendy straws make when you blow through them...In anycase, here are those pictures:

We had also passed the otter exhibit earlier and had not seen otters in it. Well, 3:00 they let the otters out and we got to see them splash and play and nip and jump and swim - it was pretty cool.
And that was our day at the Zoo/aquarium!!!!
We're still working on the massage part because after all of that, we were kinda pooped. Hope you enjoyed this adventure with us as much as we enjoyed it!!!

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