The weekend we arrived on the island, it was an American holiday weekend, so we went to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium that Monday with our friends KayCee, Jake, and Kaylee. They hadn't been there yet, so it was a great exploration for all of us. We thought since it was still a work day for Japan, it wouldn't be busy, but I felt like every person on the island was there! Even so, we were still able to see a ton of things and take some great pictures, and I know we all want to go back!
The aquarium is one of the largest in the world, one of the few that have multiple whale sharks in captivity, and the first aquarium to successfully reproduce manta rays. It's definitely one of the main attractions on the island, and after being here once, we know why. We ended up buying season passes, which pays for itself in 2 visits, and it's a good thing we did. I don't think we were able to see even half of the exhibits on this day, and it's just over an hour away, so we'll be able to come a lot.
There is more than just an aquarium here, it's a whole park/village. You park above everything which overlooks the ocean, and as you walk down 23909 (or so) flights of stairs, there are beautiful gardens and flower displays everywhere! Literally walls and walls of flowers and plants.
Ocean themed plant displays!
But it wasn't just flower and plant displays. They have a dolphin theater (we caught the end of a show, you'll see below), Sea Turtle pools, Manatee pools, Arboretums, Oceanic Culture Museum, restaurants, and more.
Walls and walls of orchids everywhere!
Once you actually make it to the Aquarium, which takes quite a while going down all the levels, looking at all the flowers, and taking pictures, there are even more photo ops and activities you can participate in before actually paying.
After we got our photos taken for our annual passes, we headed straight in and pet some starfish and other safe-to-handle creatures. I think Aaron really liked this part. I took his picture and walked away, and when I turned around, he was still petting things.
So...if you don't know why it's so awesome that we saw a whale shark here it's because they are fucking enormous. They are the largest known fish, and only around 15 or so are in captivity in the world. They average 30 feet in length and weigh about 9 tons. There isn't a whole lot known about them yet, no one has every seen a whale shark mate or give birth (they can carry 300 pups at once!), so having them in captivity is a pretty big deal.
In the same tank (which is so large you can barely call it a tank), they have giant manta rays, which are beautiful. The 'wing span' on these are around 20 feet wide, and it was amazing to see them swim along the glass.
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