Behind-the-scenes tours, sailing, SCUBA offer in-depth ocean experiences
At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, special activities offer great ways for adults, children and families to experience the wonders of the ocean. Visitors can go behind-the-scenes with aquarium experts, take part in a sailing excursion aboard a 65-foot research vessel, put their kids in SCUBA gear for a diver’s-eye view of marine life, feed an abalone or a sea urchin, scoop plankton from the bay using the same tools as scientists, and discover where “Doc” Ricketts set up his laboratory on Cannery Row.
New in 2009, the public can now attend a “Family Seashore Sleepover” on three summer nights: Friday, June 12, Saturday, July 11, and Saturday, Aug 29. Aquarium fans can sleep under their favorite exhibits and experience the aquarium after hours. Special presentations, feeding opportunities, a midnight snack and continental breakfast are all part of this exclusive evening. Space is limited, so interested visitors will need to book early. “Youth Group Seashore Sleepovers” are available for youth groups on seven other nights from April to November.
Behind-the-scenes tours, offered several times daily throughout the year, give visitors an inside look at the nation’s No. 1 aquarium. Each 50-minute tour is different, depending on what’s happening that day. All tours will show what it takes to care for animals and exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and will occasionally include an opportunity to feed the fish. Headsets provide additional information during the dynamic tour. Tour times vary daily and cost $12 for the general public, $10 for members, plus aquarium admission.
“Sailing Adventures” expeditions return early again this year, on May 9, for some spring sailing aboard the eco-friendly Derek M. Baylis, a 65-foot research sailboat. Visitors can choose among three distinct Sailing Adventures.
During “Day Sails” visitors work alongside aquarium naturalists gathering plankton, observe seafloor animals and learn about the intricate Monterey Bay ecosystem. Each participant will take a turn at the helm, steering the boat and learning about navigation and sailing, while fellow sailors keep an eye out for migrating whales, rafts of otters and pods of dolphins. A great way to enjoy Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 10 is a Day Sail adventure where moms ride free with two paying participants. To celebrate World Ocean Day, all participants for Day Sails on Saturday and Sunday June 6 and 7 will receive a reusable grocery tote as well as information about how to become an ocean steward.
On summer evenings, “Sunset Sails” participants will relax on the elegant ship while sipping wine, enjoying hors d’oeuvres and watching the bay come to life as evening approaches. Seals, sea lions, otters, dolphins and whales are common in Monterey Bay. Sunset Sails begin on May 9 and cost $45 for aquarium members and $55 for the general public.
For a custom adventure, visitors can charter the Derek M. Baylis and its captain for a three-hour sailing adventure with up to 20 friends. “Charter Sails” cost $1,180 and are by appointment only.
The popular “Underwater Explorers” surface SCUBA experience for kids 8 to 13 resumes in mid-June and continues through early September. “Morning Rounds” behind-the-scenes feeding tours and “Fishing for History” Cannery Row walking tours happen on select days year round.
Extended hours return this summer with more time to enjoy the aquarium on summer weekends during “Evenings by the Bay.” Each Saturday and Sunday from July 4 through September 6, visitors will have two additional hours – until 8 p.m. – to commune with their favorite exhibits, including the new special exhibition “The Secret Lives of Seahorses.” The evenings include live music and an opportunity for dinner in the ocean-view Portola Restaurant.
Most Aquarium Adventures programs run May through September; some are offered year-round. Costs vary per program; aquarium members receive a discount. Visit www.montereybayaquarium.org/adventures for program details and previews. (A detailed list of Aquarium Adventures is included below.) Advance registration is recommended; register by calling 866-963-9645 or stop by the Aquarium Adventures Desk or Member Desk in the main lobby of the aquarium.