Saturday, October 03, 2009

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Aquariums tend to serve a similar function to scuba divers, as porn movies to an aging Casanova. They remind you of things past, or provide ideas for future endeavors, but hardly match the real thing. That was, until today.

We visited the Churaumi Aquarium near Nago, Okinawa. A truly mind-blowing experience. The first time I found myself at an aquarium thinking: "I might spend the rest of the day here, and not get bored for a minute, nor cry over not diving today."

Yes, it has the large pools that other aquariums feature with turtles, humphead wrasses, etc. But then, there is the main pool. Ten meters deep, and about 25 meters by 25 wide. The main window is 8 meters high, and 22 meters wide, in one single pane. It's like watching Odyssey 2001 on a really large screen, only its for real.

Inside, the pool features three whale sharks of about 8 meters length, several large manta rays, schools of yellow fin tuna, eagle and cow rays, smaller sharks, and who knows what else. Absolutely mind-blowing. Like a lava lamp, there is always something going on, reconfiguring, and changing yet again. And you cannot stop watching.

The rest of the aquarium features sea turtles, dugongs, and a dolphin show (of which I don't quite approve). Still very nice, but nothing can compare with the main tank.

So anytime in Asia, make sure you make the trip.