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By Sally Torbey

Sleeping with the fish

Uploaded: Mar 8, 2016

I doubt there is a better sleep aide than watching fish float in kelp swaying gently to and fro, unless it is studying an amorphous cluster of hundreds of anchovies swirling in the water. I recently chaperoned a high school sleep over at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and was lulled to sleep by the sight of the kelp and the sardines, and the crashing of the waves of the coastal beach exhibit. I awoke in the early morning to see shafts of sunlight streaming through the kelp forest.

For a few precious hours that evening, and the next morning, we had the kelp forest tank and surrounding exhibits to ourselves. With no crowds to maneuver around, it was possible to peacefully observe and enjoy all the mesmerizing sights of the underwater world.

During the day, the octopuses are often hard to spot, camouflaged by color and texture to perfectly match their environment, but at night they are more active. An enormous octopus with a basketball-sized head moved briskly around his tank in full view, stretching out his long tentacles and displaying rows and rows of suction cups on the glass surface of the tank. He watched us intently and with as much interest as we watched him!

The bat rays in the touch tank often stay tantalizingly just out of reach during regular viewing hours, but in the evening they swam right over to us. We gently stroked their velvety backs as they glided through the shallow water.

In the morning we were able to view the rosy red sunrise from the aquarium terrace overlooking Monterey Bay. In the distance was a huge school of dolphins, and a dozen sea otters bobbed in the kelp. Just offshore, a mother and baby otter tumbled by, periodically disappearing under water, and then emerging moments later with a crab or a clam to munch. Watching the pair of otters feed and frolic was incredible, as was watching the teenagers’ unabashed excitement at all the wonders of nature around us.