Earlier this month I was invited to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to preview the new Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefish exhibit before it opened to the public. This exhibit is the largest open exhibit of the cephalopod family anywhere in the world AND is the first of its kind. It took the Monterey Bay Aquarium more than two years to develop it. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to be one of the first to see it!
Octopuses, squid and cuttlefishes have fascinated people for thousands of years. You’re reminded of the human fascination with cephalopods as you walk into the exhibit and presented with ancient artwork and pottery featuring none other than members of the cephalopod family. Honestly, I was amazed to see some of the creatures in the exhibit and how closely they resembled made-up alien life forms we see in movies today. The cephalopod family has definitely made its mark on people and in Hollywood.
As you enter the exhibit the first thing you see is a 12-foot-long window that allows you to peer into a school of nearly foot-long bigfin reef squid. Turning a corner, they’ll enter a grotto housing two giant Pacific octopuses. Throughout the area you’ll find seldom-seen species like cuttlefish, chambered nautilus, Wunderpus and two-spot octopus.
From time to time there may also be displays of never-before-exhibited deep-sea squid and octopuses collected in collaboration with the aquarium’s sister organization, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. If you’re able to see the Flapjack octopus, you’re in for a sight – it’s one of the first to bee seen in the world. The Flapjack octopus is red and might look a little familiar and for good reason, it was the inspiration for the animated character Pearl in Finding Nemo. I tried to capture a photo of the Flapjack octopus but it’s rather difficult since its natural environment is the deep, dark sea; it’s very light sensitive. In order for people to see it and not hurt the octopus, the Monterey Bay Aquarium uses a red light. The octopus can’t see red light, so it thinks it’s in the darkness of the deep sea.
The exhibit did a great job integrating interactive multimedia stations throughout the exhibit that dramatize the animals’ ability to change color and shape, and swim with jet propulsion. These are fun ways to help visitors understand the history these animals have played in our lives while also educating them on their uniqueness. One interactive exhibit lets people transform themselves in ways that mimic the color-shifting skills that help squid, octopuses and cuttlefishes ambush their prey, hide from predators, or communicate with potential mates. You can then share your “cephalopod selfies” by email or through social media channels. Here’s mine. 😉
Tentacles Isn’t The Only Reason to Visit The Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Tentacles Exhibit is only one of the reasons to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are so many other great exhibits to see. If you’re going with kids, you must hit the kids exploration area. There are so many shows, touch and feel opportunities and games for kids to play. If you’re not going with kids, this area can be a little chaotic.
I also recommend trying to get to the aquarium for the daily Open Sea feeding at 11am – regardless of if you have kids or not. It’s incredible! I was able to capture a short video to give you a feel but it really doesn’t do it justice. Essentially, different animals are released into the area during the 15 minute feeding time and each are fed separately. One of the most amazing sights was when the sardines were released. Their movement in the water was like dancers, they just needed music to synch up to. Simply amazing.
I have to admit, I LOVED the jellyfish exhibit and spent a lot of time mesmerized in here. Not only was it spectacularly beautiful but I had never seen so many different kind of jellies in one place. This exhibit may have helped me conquer my fear of jellies, we’ll see this summer at the beach. If anything, it gave me a new perspective and respect for jellies.
During my visit I was also provided a behind the scenes tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium to get a feel for more of the research and animal care involved on a daily basis. It was very interesting to get more insights and I highly encourage you to do this if you have a chance – especially with your kids. My kids are fascinated with sea life (thanks to Ariel the Mermaid) and showing them this would not only feed their interest and education BUT give them a taste of what people do for a career when they’re adults. (Yes, I’m setting my kids up for college and careers already. When they hit 18 they better be in college and have a job because I’m on a plane to somewhere.)
Things to know before you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Tentacles exhibit officially opened April 12, 2014 and will remain open until Labor Day 2016, I was told that it may be extended…but I wouldn’t wait to go see it.
Admission: Adult: $39.95 / Child $24.95 (Ages 3-12, under 3 free) / Student $34.95 (Ages 13-17 or college ID) / Senior $34.95(Ages 65+)
Before you go, check to see if you can purchase your tickets through your hotel directly as you may be able to score two day tickets from the price of one day passes.
Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
The best times to go to avoid the crowds are between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (School groups have left and little ones are typically napping.)
Location: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
Food and Drinks: There is a cafe inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium where you can grab lunch and a Pete’s coffee or latte.
Have you been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium? Have you seen the new Tentacles exhibit? What did you think?
Make sure to check out our Guide for Things to do in Monterey CA.
DISCLAIMER: My visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium was part of a trip sponsored by the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All opinions are my own.