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The Top 10 Things I Love About the National Aquarium in Baltimore

by TFH Magazine on February 1, 2010 at 7:40 am

By Shari Horowitz

photographs courtesy of the National Aquarium in Baltimore

10. Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes Exhibit

In starting with this one I have to admit I’m rather biased. I studied for several months in Australia and I love the country. So if something has anything to do with Australia I usually get pretty excited. One of the most interesting parts for me (outside of having the animals roam freely) was actually seeing barramundi—before visiting Australia I had never heard of barramundi, and once I was there it was on every menu but I still didn’t know anything about the fish. I always prefer seeing fish in the water rather than on a plate.

9. Interactive Programs

As a diver I love to go to different (mostly tropical) places and get up close and personal with wildlife. However, on any given dive you probably will see less than a quarter of the diversity found in one tank at the National Aquarium. For fellow divers, this can be an opportunity to get closer to wildlife you might not see in the wild. For non-divers (those my mom would call “normal people”) there are also programs such as Sleepover with the Sharks and Dolphin Encounter that are sure to provide an unparalleled wildlife experience.

A diver feeding a stingray in the Wings in the Water exhibit at the National Aquarium.

8. Amazonian Rainforest

This is one of the most unique exhibits I have ever visited in an indoor setting. When you enter you realize how special the exhibit is, with warmer temperatures, bright sunlight, and the sound of birds chirping away. Look closely in the trees and you might even see a sloth or some small monkeys!

7.  Sharks

These large predators never fail to impress. From the large sand tiger sharks that patrol the exhibit to the tamer nurse sharks that stay still long enough to get a close look, kids and adults alike will enjoy watching one of the ocean’s fiercest animals.

A shark patrols the Ocean Realm exhibit.

A shark patrols the Ocean Realm exhibit.

6. Conservation Theme

Besides marveling at the unique aquatic creatures on display, it is important to have a better sense of where they come from and what they do in the wild. The National Aquarium has this information at virtually every exhibit and offers tips on how you can help the wildlife in their native habitat. The National Aquarium also participates in conservation efforts worldwide and you can help them with their mission.

5. The Baltimore Inner Harbor

Okay, so this one might be considered cheating since it’s not technically in the aquarium. However Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a gorgeous location where you can choose to do everything from touring historical boats to renting a peddle boat and exploring the harbor for yourself, or go shopping and then enjoy great seafood. And of course, while you’re there, check out the aquarium!

4. Enrichment Activities

An important part of animal husbandry is making sure the animals never get bored and lose their natural behaviors. To that end the aquarium provides a host of enrichment activities tailored towards the animals. Whether it’s offering crickets for the archerfish to spit at, providing plenty of hiding places, or allowing an octopus to disassemble a toy to get food, there are plenty of opportunities to watch enrichment in action.

A staff member provides an octopus with a toy to practice its natural hunting behavior.

A staff member provides an octopus with a toy to practice its natural hunting behavior.

3. A Local Focus

For those outside of the tropics, we often don’t appreciate the local flora and fauna. The National Aquarium dedicates an entire level to Maryland’s endemic species, drawing attention to these often ignored and quite cool aquatic animals.

2. Wings in the Water

Rays are among the most beautiful and graceful creatures on Earth, so where better to observe them than in the National Aquarium, with one of the largest collection of stingrays in the country. The unique exhibit design, with the public able to look into an open water pool, allows the rays to perform many natural behaviors. If you’re taking your kids it may be a good idea to watch them closely… when I was little I kept trying to jump in!

The Wings in the Water exhibit.

The Wings in the Water exhibit.

1. DOLPHINS!

Need I say more?

Dolphins entertaining visitors at the Our Ocean Planet dolphin show.

Dolphins entertaining visitors at the Our Ocean Planet dolphin show.

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Posted in Shari Horowitz and TFH Extras by TFH Magazine on February 1st, 2010 at 7:40 am.

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