Sunday, 8 May 2011

Encounter with a Whale Shark

With the much anticipated arrival of our son David and his girlfriend Cara it was time to hit the town to show them some of the many tourist attractions that Osaka has to offer. Some we had seen already, but others we had just read about and were yet to investigate. One such place is the famed Osaka Aquarium. Everyone we have met who had been here for a while claimed that it was really quite something to see, so it was definitely on our list. Now, my memories of aquariums are not good, as they are somewhat tainted by visions of the long since demolished Adelaide Aquarium. As a kid I remember visiting and looking through small windows into a very cloudy oversized swimming pool to see the occasional Tommy Ruff swim by. The Osaka Aquarium is quite a contrast, being one of the largest in the world holding over 10 million litres of crystal clear water. Upon our arrival we headed to the eighth floor to begin the gentle walk downwards through a Japanese rainforest, which is the first of 15 habitats that we would visit during our descent (including Antarctica, Monterey Bay and more familiarly The Great Barrier Reef). Each environment depicts not just the marine life, but also the interaction that animals such as penguins, otters and seals have with the ocean. However, the central and biggest area is devoted to the ‘Pacific Ocean’ where the large-scale fish and stingrays swim comfortably in a three-storey tank and can be viewed through floor to ceiling windows. Of course the undisputed star of the show here is the giant Whale Shark, which is one of only a few in captivity and at 16 foot long, it swims lazily past the panoramic windows to the amazement of the crowd. As it swims it is followed by a range of assorted smaller fish that seem to be basking in the attention that is naturally directed toward the big guy. It’s highly unlikely that we will ever have a chance to swim with one of these marvellous creatures or let alone see one in the wild, so seeing it this close is truly a unique experience. Equally fascinating was viewing some of the smaller creatures from the depths of the ocean floor, which are often rarely seen. Delicate floating Jelly Fish and Japanese Spider Crabs appear like aliens from another world and gauging by the amount of cameras in use, the encounter was just as important as viewing the larger scale creatures of the deep.

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