Penguins and Sharks and Seals…Oh My!

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Yesterday we woke up to a forecast of 90% chance of rain and a high of 55 degrees…a little to chilly for a beach day, even for Tyler and Ozzie!

So we decided to head 15 minutes north to Point Pleasant Beach.

In researching fun things to do in the area I stumbled across another blogger’s review of Jenkinson’s Aquarium, located right along the boardwalk of Point Pleasant beach. The cost was very reasonable, the reviews were great, and since all my kids love any experience involving animals or wildlife we thought it would be a fun, (warm) way to spend the day.

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And we weren’t disappointed!

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This privately owned aquarium was smaller than what you would see associated with a larger zoo or what you might find in a big city, but it was beautifully and skillfully put together. The displays were arranged artfully, making the most of the small space they had to work with. It was amazing the amount there was to see but the tanks were arranged in a way that it didn’t feel crowded or sterile. The entire building was really a feast for the eyes and so well done.

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We arrived at 11:00 am, just as the African penguins were being fed. They were such a kick to watch with their bigger than life personalities. The trainer was feeding them a bucket of small fish which they swarmed around her to receive. Then she pulled a small squid out of the bucket and it was like watching a momma try to feed her toddlers broccoli. They would run up to her, beaks open, eager for a bite…until they saw the squid. Then they would shake their heads with a firm “no” and run away from her. It was quite comical to watch. In the end she couldn’t convince any of the penguins to give the squid a try and it ended up back in her bucket.

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Each of the penguins were sporting fancy bracelets, like the ones we used to make with plastic cord and pony beads in middle school. The trainer explained they were for identification so visitors could learn each penguin’s name and a little about them. Hanging beside the exhibit was a tv screen, flashing pictures and bracelet codes for each penguin. I thought this was a fun tool for visitor interaction.

On the first floor were the large tanks, housing the bigger fish. There was a large freshwater tank, a shark tank, and a smaller saltwater fish tank. All the tanks had seating in front of them, allowing visitors to just sit and observe. We could have all sat and watched the fish for hours, but were maneuvering around 200 kindergarteners who were all there for an end of the year school trip. The benefit to shadowing these dozens of groups, however, was the great informative information we could glean from the tour guides by listening in.

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All the kids were enthralled, but none more than Tyler who LOVES fish. Today he is with Toby on a special father/son deep sea charter fishing excursion, so yesterday his question, as we walked through the aquarium, was “So, do you think we will see one of those, Dad?”

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One of our favorite characters in the big tank was this silly puffer fish that could not get enough of Miss Grace. He kept circling back around to swim past Gracie’s head and when he did he would press against the glass like a little kid smooshing their face against a window trying to get a better look. It was so funny and it was hard to walk away! We could have watched him for hours.

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In the center of the first floor sat a pirate ship and a surrounding pier that was home to small tanks of fish and a running stream to house various turtles. It was such a beautiful exhibit to walk through and the kids had fun watching the turtles swim.

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The second floor of the aquarium was where the smaller tanks were located.

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It was here that Molly found a tank of her favorite sea creatures…jellyfish!

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And we had the unique experience of watching Nautilus being fed. Although a relative to the octopus, these animals are unlike any other I have ever seen. They basically float around, moving in reverse, and seem to struggle seeking out the food the trainer drops in the tank because she hand fed each critter. It was fascinating to watch as I have never seen these guys up close before.

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It was up on the second floor that we found the touch tank. Although after seeing “Finding Dory” I find myself looking at touch tanks in a whole new way, as I remember  that humorous scene from the movie when all the animals retreated in fear as little fingers moved in from above.

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In this touch tank we were able to touch a sea star, sea urchins, sea snails, horseshoe crabs and sting rays.

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Ozzie found it fascinating to learn a bit more about horseshoe crabs like the one  we saw at the beach.

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And of course the sting rays are always the biggest hit in any touch tank with their outgoing personalities and cheerful waves as they swim by.

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We ended our day at Jenkinson’s Aquarium with the seal feeding. At this aquarium they have one seal by the name of LuSeal, who was rescued after being injured off the coast. It is unknown whether her injuries were sustained by a passing motor boat or a shark but after rehabilitation her remaining injury is blindness in both eyes, which is why she lives at the aquarium rather than being released back into the wild.

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For feeding time LuSeal showed off her “tricks” for the crowd as the trainer explained the work they do with LuSeal. She explained that every “trick” LuSeal is taught are behaviors natural to seals and beneficial for her care by the trainers or the vet that cares for her. She is never trained to do anything that she wouldn’t do in the wild. (For example: balance a ball on her nose)

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We were amazed at how well LuSeal maneuvers around, using only her whiskers for spatial reference and the sound of the trainer’s voice as cues.

At the end of her meal she opened wide for her daily teeth brushing, something they do after each meal to prevent gum disease. I couldn’t help but point out to Tyler how willingly and happily she gets her teeth brushed without fighting…hmm!

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We had so much fun at Jenkinson’s aquarium and highly recommend it to anyone in the Jersey area. It is small but beautifully done and well worth the price…

especially on a cold, grey day.

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Molly, Grace, Rusty and Toby…Can you spot him?

Jenkinson’s Aquarium, thanks for the fun day!

 

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