The Best of NJ: Adventure Aquarium
New Jersey isn’t really known as a hotspot for marine life. The animals that eke out a living in our polluted waters eventually succumb to our chemical runoff or get scooped out of the water and end up on a plate at the Red Lobster in East Brunswick. However, there is one place in the Armpit of America where our fishy friends can thrive – Adventure Aquarium.
Anyone who has been to New Jersey’s Adventure Aquarium would surely agree that it is one of the best things in the Armpit of America. Ironically, this “best thing” is located in the worst part of the state. You see, this wonderful aquarium is found in Camden. For those who don’t know, Camden is a shithole. Routinely ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the country, you normally don’t want to spend much time there. But, as long as you can dodge a few bullets as you drive through the city before ending up at the revitalized Camden waterfront, the trip will be well worth it.
Though there are bigger and better aquariums relatively close by (like those in Baltimore and Boston), us New Jerseyans should be very proud of this place. It offers a chance to see all kinds of marine life face to face (rather than the usually dead jellyfish and horseshoe crabs that wash up on the Jersey Shore). And, I think we all should be proud that such a bright spot can emerge in an otherwise disgusting city like Camden.
I went to adventure aquarium for the third time about two weeks ago. Though things haven’t changed much in my visits, I still find everything just as amazing. Then again, I have a fish fetish. But enough about me, onto the fish!
The main branch of the building hosts a variety of the standard fish you’d expect to see. While most of the tanks are small and built right into the wall, there are two rather large exhibits. Surprisingly, you could actually stick your hands into the water and take home a filet or two for dinner if you were so inclined.
All of these tanks surround the main draw of the aquarium, the Ocean Realm tank. Its 760,000 gallons of water support a bunch of sea turtles, sharks, rays, shark rays, and a lot of other fish. Every so often, a staff member of the aquarium will stand in front of the tank and give a little talk about the exhibit. Though the guy giving the presentation was kinda corny, I did learn something. Like those 760,000 gallons of water are actually Camden tap water. Who would think anything could survive in that???
After viewing the Ocean Realm exhibit, you are lead to the first of Adventure Aquarium’s touch tanks. This one contained baby leopard sharks. Though an aquarium employee was standing in front telling everyone to just touch the sharks with two fingers, one guy actually grabbed a shark and held it in place so his kids could touch it. I couldn’t help but think about how funny it would be if one of the daddy sharks did the same thing to him.
After getting my sharky fix, we went outside to see the seals and penguins. It was fucking cold.
The upper level of the aquarium contains a bunch of more unusual animals, like garden eels, upside down jelly fish, and poisonous frogs. It also has another two touch tanks, filled with starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and the like.
The best part of Adventure Aquarium, in my opinion, is the African River section. It has a bunch of different bird species, from little yellow birds to giant black birds. Though the scenery is very nice, any illusion of being on an actual African river didn’t last long. One of the poor birds swooped down to the floor to pick up a discarded candy wrapper.
Despite the above mentioned incident, the main attraction of the African River section, and the aquarium’s flagship exhibit, are two huge hippos. It’s not every day you get to go face to face with one of the largest animals on the planet. They literally swim right up to the glass and bob up and down right in front of you. So cute!
This exhibit then leads into the Jules Verne Gallery, which contains creatures of the deep ocean. This is probably my favorite part. With its dim lighting and weird animals viewed through porthole-like windows, you feel like you’re actually looking out of a submarine. With a few different kinds of jellyfish, giant spider crabs, and sea dragons, each tank is a winner.
The real winner though is the aquarium’s giant Pacific octopus. A lot of zoos and aquariums have one of these guys. But every time I’ve seen one, the thing is always hiding in the corner looking pissed off. Well this octopus was a fuckin star. It was moving around all over the place, letting everyone get a good look at its arms and suckers. It went so far as to spread itself out in front of the glass! I even made eye contact with it! Unfortunately, my camera phone couldn’t handle the darkness and the pictures of the octopus didn’t come out that well. But trust me, it was pretty amazing.
So to anyone who refuses to risk your life by driving to Camden, I hope my little adventure to Adventure Aquarium will change your mind! Where else in New Jersey can you see a bunch of crabs, slimy sharks, and beasts that are more than willing to spread their legs and suckers for you? Okay, I guess you can see these things anywhere in the Armpit of America. But not all of them have a gift shop!