Whales, Sharks, & Whale Sharks at the Georgia Aquarium

This past week I spent laziest Christmas ever in Georgia, which consisted of endless eating, lounging, sleeping, and board game-playing. The one day I actually did get up and do something I went to see Atlanta’s biggest attraction, the Georgia Aquarium. I knew beforehand that is was one of the biggest in the world and that it had some whale sharks, but aside from that I knew nothing. I should have known better than to pay good money to an aquarium before doing my fair share of research.

After seeing The Cove and Blackfish I have been a pretty staunch opposer of keeping whales and dolphins in tanks. I live in San Diego and have never set foot inside Sea World and strongly advise anyone I know to at least see these movies before they make a decision about going themselves. So now I am kicking myself for giving my monetary support for this aquarium.

Just having been to Monterey Bay Aquarium where there are no large animals whatsoever, it didn’t even cross my mind that there would be whales or dolphins at the Georgia Aquarium. Once inside, suddenly staring into the tank of 3 snowy white Beluga Whales, I desperately wanted to go Free Willy on the place. They were swimming in the same repetitive circles, a sure sign of severe boredom if not something worse. After watching them do about 10 of the same exact loops through their relatively small tank, I had enough. It was just incredibly sad… and then came the whale sharks.

The whale sharks are in the huge ocean tank with other sharks and rays including Mantas, which are my favorite. Seeing wild Manta Rays in Palau was one of the highlights of all my travels. I’ve never seen a whale shark in person, but in videos they are always in the open ocean with their huge mouths feasting on plankton. Seeing them in this tank was like watching giant goldfish in a glass bowl. The last straw was finding out there was a dolphin show. You have to pay extra for this so we obviously did not see it.

After doing my research I found that 2 whale sharks have died at the Georgia Aquarium already, as well as 2 Beluga Whales. Despite all the backlash from the orca-related deaths and all the current attention surrounding these animals, the Georgia Aquarium is still trying to purchase more Belugas from Russia. Thankfully they have been blocked by NOAA, but are still pushing to allow the import of these whales. I desperately hope this does not happen. It’s my New Year’s wish. If you have not seen The Cove or Blackfish, I highly recommend them.

Here are some pictures of these amazing creatures– the divers in the bottom give a good size comparison. These were baby whale sharks too!

IMG_3281

Georgia Aquarium Whale Sharks

 

DSC02929

Georgia Aquarium Manta Ray

Cocos Island, Guam

Cocos Island is a tiny little uninhabited island off the southern coast of Guam. I had the pleasure of living on Guam for 2 years while I was in the Navy and one of the little day trips everyone did was a visit to Cocos. During the day this island is used as a Japanese-style Club Med and there are about a million tourists all hanging out on the same crappy beach. So instead of trying to relax while someone was screaming in Japanese over a loud-speaker I decided to walk around the island, even though it was against the rules. Apparently there is some toxic chemical all over the island from an old Coast Guard station. I tried not to touch anything and so far have no mutations, knock on wood. I was imagining some type of Chernobyl horror movie situation. It ended up being quite a beautiful little place, but eerie in its emptiness. The ferry ride over was the best part; the water was insanely blue and we passed sea turtles and rays in the water. I just dug up these pictures and thought I would share.

Guam Water

There was tons of abandoned machinery.

IMG_6184IMG_6150 Cocos Island Guam

Some crazy kind of wood that looks like packing material.

IMG_6157 IMG_6161

Palm Springs

This past week Joe and I drove to Palm Springs for a mid-week vacation and it was super fantastic. Palm Springs is one of those little trips that I have somehow held off on. After being here in SoCal for 2 years I am now punching myself for it! It was so great. We just missed the Coachella and Stagecoach crowd which we are very thankful for. Since it was so wonderful we plan to go back every few months or so to relax and get some sun since it’s only a 2 hour drive from San Diego.

We stayed at the Ace Hotel and loved it although I didn’t initially. When we first walked in I thought to myself that it seemed like the center of the hipster universe. I think we were the only non-tattooed people in the whole place, and Joe was definitely the only non-bearded man. After spending the first day there I reversed my judgement. This place has a really chill vibe and everything you really need. The staff were super nice and we really did not have a single issue with anything. And we got to bring Jerri to the very dog-friendly pool! She even got her own lounge chair and bowl of doggie water.

photo 5

Aside from the canines, another great part of Palm Springs was the food. For dinner the first night we ate at the Purple Palm in the Colony Palms Hotel and then Jake’s the second night. Both are moderately pricey but we enjoyed them immensely. The Purple Palm was romantic and quiet while Jake’s was much more energetic and had killer desserts. OpenTable.com seems to have reliable reviews for the area and makes it easy to reserve which is a must, even for a weekday. There seem to be about a million exceptional restaurants in the valley so hopefully we will get to try a bunch of them over the next few years.

For breakfast we were told to go to 2 places, Cheeky’s and Sherman’s Deli. We did not make it to the deli because we ate at the Ace’s diner instead, but we will hit it up next time. Cheeky’s certainly lived up to it’s expectations.  A bacon flight is a great way to start your breakfast, and the rest of the food was even tastier. Cheeky’s is also attached to a really cool looking smaller boutique hotel which I am keeping in mind for next time.

photo 4 photo 3

The Ace is pretty big and apparently it gets busy/crazy on the weekends. During the week it’s very relaxed and there were plenty of lounge chairs for everybody. Another reason why a weekday trip here is the best. I don’t think I will ever come here on the weekends because the weekdays mean no traffic, plenty of pool space, and way cheaper room rates. The rooms at the Ace have all the amenities and one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. I pride myself on having a supremely comfortable mattress, but this was unreal. As for nightlife other than sleeping, the bar attached to the lobby has karaoke on Wednesdays which seemed to be overtaken by regulars who were not very enthusiastic, but I still managed to embarrass myself well enough. My rendition of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” never disappoints.  Joe says I need to pick easier songs but I think the worse I sound, the less pressure I feel. So naturally I pick Cher or Whitney Houston every time.

photo 2 photo 1 image-6 image-5

13 miles west of town there are some huge, creepy dinosaurs that cannot be missed. Right next to the Burger King!

image-4

Some hotels I have my eye on for next time are Korakia Pensione, the Riviera, the Alcazar and the Colony Palms. And we will definitely have to get off our lazy bums and do some hiking or at least some tram riding next time.