|Day 18 of 31 at TWT!|
The new sea lion exhibit was our last stop on Tuesday after she finally decided the zoo was fun. It's right near the exit, so I figured we'd swing by quickly on our way back to the car. Since it was built during COVID, I had no idea how much I'd underestimated it, and I wasn't even sure it would be open. At this point of the year, a lot of animals are still just in their back areas until it gets warmer.
35 minutes after I planned to leave, we were heading in the opposite direction from the car, backtracking to the kids' gift shop to buy a toy sea lion to commemorate our newest love. Yes, all three of us were in absolute love.
Hidden around the corner from a snack shop, the exhibit didn't seem like much at first. We came to one full-length glass window with the waterline halfway up it. I peered through the hazy blue depths but only saw some sort of long, floating string for the seals to play with. They're probably not out yet, I thought, and I was about to turn towards the car when Sweetie screeched, "I see something!!!"
"You do?" I squinted again. She probably sees that string thingy...
"Yes! Yes!" she squealed, and I caught a flash of dark movement out of the corner of my eye.
We rounded the corner to find a much bigger window going downhill farther under the water, opening onto a lengthy path that wound still farther down. Oh, this is waaaaaay bigger than I thought!
In the fake-rock stucco beside this larger window, I saw a little sign: "Children's Bubble Window." "Look! You can go in here and it will be like you're in the water with them!" Sweetie scrambled in immediately, and Rainbow Girl started wriggling in her stroller seat, asking if she could go in too.
Almost as soon as their little hands hit the glass (ugh, we'd avoided touching things all afternoon... but we have lots of anti-bacterial wipes), another dark shadow zipped by. Then a dark submarine shape started heading straight towards us, turning gracefully to show off its flippers just before it got to the bubble.
"THAT?!" Rainbow Girl exclaimed.
"That's a seal!" (A docent later informed us that these were all sea lions. There are also seals, but they weren't out.)
After a few minutes, another family came up behind us, so we gave them a turn in the bubble and continued down the path... to discover the most enormous, farthest-underwater window yet! Now we could see several seal lions shooting through the water like torpedos, rolling and gliding around the rocks. As we watched, giggling and calling out "Look! There's one! Look at that one!", it became clear that different sea lions each had their own favorite paths through the exhibit.
Sweetie perched herself up on the curb, pressed against the glass, chattering about every detail to nobody in particular. Rainbow, who I'd put back in the stroller, leaned forward against her straps, craning her neck to try to catch one coming around a corner. "'Nother one?!" she kept clamoring.
"Can we go back in the Bubble?" Sweetie implored.
The other family had moved on and no one was in sight, so back up to the bubble we scampered. Then back to the big window. Then, we saw the door at the end of the path. We'd so far avoided any indoor enclosures, but this was obviously special, and when the automatic doors welcomed us in, there was only one small family way farther up the tunnel. Because yes, there was a tunnel, like at some of those giant aquariums Husband and I had been to before we had kids. And it wasn't very long, so we could be outside again in just a few minutes, and we had good masks on. It'll be ok. We'll just walk through quickly.
The sparkly, blue-bubbled-glass-like blend of mottled sunshine and water glittered above our heads as the sea lions gracefully soared around us. "There's even water under us!" Sweetie shrieked.
"You can walk on the water!" Rainbow echoed.
|Do you see the glass floor with water under it that Sweetie's about to step onto?|
It was beautiful, but also exciting enough to walk in that both girls moved through pretty quickly, to my relief. Back outside, in safer air, we discovered a metal ramp leading to an overhead viewing area, which the sisters scampered up almost faster than I could keep up, pounding their feet against the metal in delight.
An employee at the top tried to answer my questions about the sea lions while Rainbow Girl twirled around like she was on a giant stage and Sweetie romped from one end of the fence to another. "Look! One came up for air!" I tried to call their attention to the sea lions, but the overlook itself was apparently more exciting than trying to peer down at the mostly-underwater creatures.
Until, hearing a keeper in their back area, several of them jumped up onto a platform! "They're showing off for us!"
|They look so different on land!|
Suddenly, we heard a loud bellow. "THAT?!" Rainbow inquired.
"That's the sea lion! He's saying hi to you!" I can't believe we got to hear them make their noise!
"Do you want to go back down to peek in the water again?"
"Yeah! To the Bubble!" We scurried back down and thankfully, nobody else was there, so the girls pressed themselves in for the third time. Little hands reached out, trying to grab and pat them through the glass.
"Here they come!" The seal whose favorite path shoots him straight at the bubble was already rocketing towards us.
"Look, the water's all around! I wish I was in it! I want to be inside with them! I wish they would flop themselves onto the bubble! They're humongous! Seals, I love you!" Sweetie jabbered happily, with her little sister giggling, echoing and adding on.
"Can I have them? Hi seals! Seals, I love you!" Flapping hands, wiggly bodies.
Then, another bellow echoed from beside us.
"THAT?! What's THAT?!"
"The seal's saying hi again! Let's go see!"
Just around the corner from the bubble, the most gigantic seal was upright in the water with his face poking above the surface, giant mouth open. He spun, flippers sending a hurricane of splashes out in all directions. Flopping back down under the water, he swam up to the corner window, and opened his mouth fiercely at his reflection. Then he shot upright again as a keeper tossed a fish at him.
"She's feeding him! That's why he's so excited! He wants his food!"
He let out another thunderous bellow.
"THAT?! That 'ehhh' sound?!" Rainbow exclaimed as if she didn't just hear it and get an explanation a minute ago.
"That's the sea lion! He's making his sound! He's saying hi!"
"AUHHHHHH!" Sweetie imitated him as we all watched him splash and frolic, catching thrown fish mid-air in his mouth.
|Mouth open, asking for another fish!|
We were supposed to already be home by now, but I couldn't drag myself away, let alone them. Finally, we decided to peek in the Bubble one more time and then head home.
But first, we just had to head to that gift shop to bring home a stuffed sea lion friend!
I remember learning that manatees are probably what sailors thought were mermaids, but after seeing these beautiful sea lions flip and glide up close, I think they just might be the closest thing. When I ask Sweetie what song she thinks I just pair with this story, she chooses Laurie's "A Mermaid Song" without hesitation.