Millions and millions of years ago, life first invaded deep within the ocean belt. The same vast water-bodies are still the home of numerous species portraying the flow of the lifeline through our very own planet, the Earth.
Since we are currently dwelling in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, we grabbed the opportunity of visiting “Sea Life Aquarium”at Darling Harbour last week to grasp a compact knowledge onto one of the most primitive and unexplored region of the world.. underneath the ocean.
I must tell you all in this regard, that Australia, particularly Sydney is a pretty expensive city to dwell around. The ticket price of the Aquarium was about to cost more than hundred bucks ($AUD) for two – but we were lucky enough to choose from some reasonable online offers. So one humble suggestion before booking, do check out the internet rates while visiting any place of interest in this continent!
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But when we stepped inside the aquarium and experienced its grandeur, we really exclaimed to each other, “This tour is undoubtedly most price worthy destination and of course, an essential one.” If you really do want to know about a place, it’s always better to start with all the inherited species. And since the first spark of life enlightened the aqua marine water bodies much before the lands were invaded, exploring the same must top your priority list. Always!
And what a welcome we received inside – splendid! The whole Aquarium slowly guides you to reach the bottom most point of the ocean through a spectacular glass tunnel. As if, we are locked up in a cave and all the seawater is rushing beyond your minute existence! It is actually segregated in a few sections to create the perfect ambience for all the sea creatures to fit in.
We started our journey with the sea horse, starfish, moon jelly fish, anemones and others in the primitive camp. Even a few varieties of South coast shipwrecks like zebra skinned Stripey, eastern rock blackfish, kelpfish were also spotted here. We even got the opportunity to meet the coolest fish, Marbled Rock Cod which only survives in less than zero degree environment! Even the penguins succumb in those extreme weather!
Next we entered the Jurassic age ocean block, where we caught hold of the glimpse of some ancient predators, some of whom are entitled Living Fossil based on their 500 million years prehistoric presence! Among them were Nautilus from the squid octopus and cuttlefish family; bright orangish giant Sydney Octopus which inherits inbuilt self amputation technology for self-defence; mourning cuttlefish which displays both the male female Colours while mating to woo the female and to hide the courtship from other male counterparts; hagfish with its keratin made teeth; lizard looking mudskippers who can hold oxygen to breath in land for a few moments; and so on! The list is actually endless with all their distinct interesting characteristics.
Another huge fish that we spotted in this section was a wrasse which was named ‘Natalie’ during its juvenile stage but was renamed ‘Napoleon’ once it reached its maturity. Actually, a wrasse can transform its gender from a female to a male when it presumes a dearth of its male mates to avoid extinction! Imagine, if other endangered creatures could also generate this hermaphrodite quality, probably they themselves can spin their life cycle to a far more favourable side even today. I am sure scientists are spending quality time to research on the same!
Next thing we could have done in this fun filled extravaganza was ‘Finding Nemo’. To put it in a very honest note, before visiting this place I really had no idea of Nemo being a real life cutie pie! Nemo, or the Clown Anemone fish is a must looked out creature in the coral reef section. The junior Nemo creates an affinity and immunity on Sea Anemones where they have been gifted with the spirit of life. But the same can be cut off within a hour long separation only! And we keep on judging our long distance relationships! So uncool!
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This Coral reef and the Great Barrier Reef section is the living room of so many little wonders of the ocean. The regal Blue tang fish, surgeon fish, yellow tang fish, clown trigger fish, big nose unicorn fish, tusk fish etc craft the reefs in varied vibrant hues and shades. The decaying Great Barrier reef of Australia is even house of certain very primitive fishes like Giant Trevally, Golden Trevally, Queensland Groper, Black Cod, Diamond Trevally (resembling an uncut diamond) and similar community fishes. With the extinction of this bed, we may actually lose a whole generation of vastly varying fishes. See, what Global warming and pollution are costing us?
But the same ocean is the house of some typical venomous creatures – be prepared to encounter them as well in this half day journey! Estuarine Stonefish ranks number one in this genre on this whole planet. To capture its prey, it lies motionless on the ocean bed, camouflaging with its muddy brown shades. It is typically found within the tropical reefs of Australia. Even the Lionfish with its mane of lion shaped venomous spines or Crown of Thorns sea star with its biblical poisonous thorny structures, have the capacity to kill a huge shoal in minutes. Red rock cod or scorpion fish can also arrange for a surprise attack on its preys by camouflaging with the rich red rock bases underneath.. Beware! A few seconds are enough to kiss your death if exploring carelessly!
Well, enough of exploring the fishes and lobsters and invertebrates. It’s now time to meet the Lady of the Sea, Dugong. During the colonial reign, the tired and exhausted sea travellers and sailors often used to report spotting sea mermaids near Australian coastal areas. It has now been concluded though, the tender and smooth tails of Dugong or the Sea Cow generated such fairy tale concept among them. Dugongs are basically huge sea animals who feed on sea grasses and weeds. They hardly resemble the slim glowing mermaids seen on various fantasy book covers, apart from their smoothness. In a way, they can be related to cows, or rather, more appropriately, elephants. These friendly creatures even wave their fins in appreciation! Their cute and positive smile is so innocent, it will surely cleanse one’s soul! Unfortunately, as the sea grass beds are diminishing very fast due to global warming and pollution, the chances of losing these species has now increased manifold. Though the sea life protection society are trying to replicate their exact environment by feeding them loads of Lettuce, we have to wait for an ultimate solution very shortly to save them. (The menu card at the Dugong restaurant can give you a hint of the Lettuce diet!)
Now comes the most vital question, are you afraid of sharks? If no, then keep moving deep within the ocean. If yes, you must take this chance to meet these apparently harmless creatures. It’s the projection of the Hollywood movies that had given these mostly endangered bunches a vamp reputation! Most of them actually feed upon squid, octopus, crabs and lobsters. Among all the varieties of sharks, the Gray nurse and the Lemon sharks are already on the verge of extinction due to overfishing. Black, white and gray reef sharks form the majority of the community, while the Wobbegong or the patterned shark have whiskers around their mouth – hence the name.
In this particular section, one even gets the opportunity to meet Sawfish and stingrays. A sharp saw like structure called rostrum is used by this fish to catch its prey. These saws are so sharpened, they may cut through a boat! Due to poor eyesight, this animal though mainly depends upon this rostrum for signal! The Giant Shovelnose ray, shark ray and eagle ray with its distinct wing like structures are also some of the important members in this tunnel which are bound to be noticed.
Wait wait, a final boost is still waiting before we start navigating towards land my humble friends! The major attraction of this travelogue is yet to be discovered.
All of a sudden, the ocean glass tunnel through which we were experiencing these spectacular views, marked an abrupt end and we were asked to get ready to experience the Antarctic chillness through our spines! An eight-seater boat made its way through a small tunnel amidst some snowfall after which all of a sudden we recognized the suited heroes of Antarctica – – penguins! The waddle and the raft were enjoying their man made new habitat with cherished amusement and shared duties – the king looking after his clan, kids playing and swimming, teenagers helping the juniors to learn life tidbits, women laying eggs! It was such an eye candy, for a few moments, we all became kids and pleaded to the captain of the created ‘expedition’ to halt the voyage so that we can spend some more time with these cuddles! He was probably fully aware of our enthusiasm and exclaimed, “Oh! The weather seems pretty bad today! Time to bid you bye for now!”
Good Bye.. Bidding farewell has never been so tough ever. Yet this underwater expedition is something from which one can never expect to resign.. ever! It’s only a matter of time before we again pack our bags to dive into the azure!