Diversity

Who knew the world's largest aquarium was in my backyard?

FIRST STOP: SYDNEY AQUARIUM
Mom & I had a tough time getting a clear view of platypi at Carnarvon National Park so I was pleased the aquarium had an exhibit for us to see one up close. The busy platypus never held still long enough for me to snap a decent photograph, but Mom thought it was so interesting we stayed for 30 minutes just observing as the other visitors moved on.
There was a 20 foot oceanarium that depicted The Great Barrier Reef & had suspended walkways so people could view the sea floor below and endless waves above. There was always a lot of action going on at once -- I don't think I saw half of the fish that resided in the massive tank. Nonetheless, Mom & I were captivated. We watched the marine animals and plants carry on uninterrupted in their simulated natural environment.

I really respect the Sydney Aquarium's approach to housing the larger animals. Those creatures were kept in 3 ocean-like venues submerged in Darling Harbour. The tanks were separated from the main building so Mom & I crossed the wooden-plank walkway into, seemingly, another world. All 3 exhibits contained above-water and underwater viewing areas to immerse the visitor in the experience.

The first tank housed the endangered Dugongs -- the majority of which live in the northern waters of Oz. Only five are on public display throughout the world & The Sydney Aquarium housed two! I caught one napping with a smile on its face. I did not know if it was truly an emotion or the anatomical makeup of its mouth, yet both Dugongs looked complacent.
The other two worlds had a much different vibe. The tanks were filled with aggressive sharks, enormous turtle and lengthy stingrays. Every time a stingray glided above me I was held in awe by its wingspan that blocked all overhead light and oddly positioned mouth. I envied the way they moved so smoothly.

In addition, I was impressed that the sharks coexisted so harmoniously with the other animals in the tank. Still, their eyeballs creeped me out and the irrational part of my brain wondered how thick the glass was between us?Back inside, the aquarium was packed with various windows of dark water holding foreign marine creatures. Finally, the Lungish. Yes, a "fish" that actually breathed air I had to see with my own eyes! Furthermore, only Australian Lungfish have one lung (having just one lung is a rarity in the animal kingdom).The aquarium continued to maintain my curiosity. I was amazed by the flourescent coral. In Puerto Rico I had heard about the famed bioluminescent bays. Here, I had no clue something living a few fathors below the water's surface could produce such brilliant light! Also, I was captivated by the Moon Jellyfish but for exactly the opposite reason. Colorless, respiratory-less and formless, they moved not in the same manner as stingrays, but with the same fluidness. The tinted light projected from above that passed through their transparent bodies was beautiful against the void background.I hoped to see live Box Jellyfish & Irukandji since their infamous reputation preceded them. However, I only viewed a specimen of the Box Jellyfish & photos of its deadly defenses. Equally toxic & in front of me was a Blue-Ringed Octopus (its rings actually glow blue when distressed) and a Stonefish who won the award for both Best Camoflauge and Most Photogenic. That left only the poisonous Irukandji and Scorpionfish for me seek later in my time abroad.
A big hit with the kids were the Fairy Penguins as they were playful and energetic. I tried for a significant amount of time to photograph a Clownfish hiding in the anemones. Like clockwork, every time the fish swam by, a child would exclaim "There's Nemo!" (ah, the ubiquitousness of Disney).
Since aquarium was so alluring, the sun was setting when Mom & I emerged (remember, it was the middle of winter so the sun set at 5:30 PM).

SECOND STOP: WORLD SQUARE SHOPPING CENTRE
Always in search of our next delectable meal, Mom & I were drawn to a style we had not yet sampled. The advertisement worked its magic: "The world's tastiest dumplings!" For only $25 AUD we feasted on authentic pork dumplings, pork buns, vegetable wonton soup and fried rice. The flavors brought me back to San Francisco, where I used to eat genuine asian cuisine regularly.

THIRD STOP: SYDNEY OPERA HOUSETrying to burn off the calories from dinner, Mom & I walked back to Circular Quay (pronounced "kee") to the iconic Sydney Opera House for a 7:00 PM performance. We had center seats for the 20th Australian International Music Festival. The festival began with a Chinese tribute with native musical instruments. The feature band hailed from Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.A. There was an eclectic mixture of genres, solo artists, bands and choirs. My favorite sound was the resonating French Horn and the deep Cello.
Mom & I lollygagged back to the hotel in the late night as the city shifted from its relaxed, tourist-filled weekend routine to Sunday evening, ready-for-work-in-the-morning vibe. We were both utterly exhausted, but in a good way. I was thankful for a busy day because it kept my mind off Monday/tomorrow: the day Mom had to return to the United States.

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