Two more touch tanks amused the club members for the remainder of our opening act, but soon it was time to move on to more exciting aquariums.
Continuing onward, an overhead "river" aquarium was found above for the rest of the exhibit, allowing an interesting vantage point for viewing gars, sturgeon, carp, and other freshwater fish. Winding our way through freshwater tanks, we enjoyed views of rare rainbowfish and tetras, and also saw a large pirahna community tank. Albino alligators were also present in a large aquarium, all the while the overhead river surrounding us with water on four sides.
River Scout was capped off with a display containing a "raft" of Asian Small-Clawed River Otters. Small and playful, we all enjoyed watching their antics for a few minutes before moving on to the next section.
There was also a coldwater touch tank and a colony of African penguins with a crawl-through, allowing everyone to get up close to the endearing birds.
The most impressive aquarium in the Tropical Diver exhibit came at the very end, a full scale Pacific Barrier Reef aquarium teeming with life and color. A concave acrylic wall allowed full immersal and up-close viewing, and natural sunlight and a wave simulator brought the reef to life. Living Montipora and Acropora colonies were among the most impressive aspects to this beautiful system, but the constant motion and colorful variety of fish species was stunning. A popular oddball fish pointed out by most of the club members was the Bird Wrasse (Gomphosus varius), which stood apart due to its large green "proboscis" and unique swimming motion. Naso, Achilles, and Yellow Tangs dominated the display, alongside what seemed like hundreds of anthias. The sheer multitude of colorful fishes and invertebrates was breathtaking, making this a repeated favorite as club members returned throughout the day to gaze once again into the vibrant motion of the coral reef.
The Ocean Voyager exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium is the largest single aquarium in the United States (at 6.3 million gallons!), and entertained us with views of Manta Rays, Giant Groupers, Bowhead Guitarfish, and Green Sawfish, not to mention the instant classic Whale Sharks. Spotted Eagle Rays were also present in abundance, and the time we spent outside the massive acrylic wall gazing at the enormous tank brought on a feeling of wonder.
After viewing the Ocean Voyager from the perspective of guests, we were then privileged to a behind the scenes tour that brought us to the top of OV, and let us witness feedings of the manta rays and whale sharks. A truly incredible and educational day was capped off with a tremendous new appreciation for what makes this incredible public aquarium so successful. Stay tuned for more UMAC happenings over the summer, as well as announcements regarding details for our plans for an awesome Fall 2014!