Reviews

The time my toddler ate a jellyfish… A Review of Jelly Invasion at the Aquarium

jellyWhat could be more mesmerizing that a bloom of jellies? They just float by on the current, endlessly circling and pulsing like a lava-lamp of the sea. An eerie other-worldly animal that both entrances our minds and strikes fear in our tingling skin. Don’t you just want to pluck one from the sea and take a bite? No? Well, we did…

Monita and I are no strangers to the Vancouver Aquarium. I used to wow audiences from inside the shark exhibit back in the hey-day of my career in “edutainment”, while Monita was suitably impressed when she visited for the opening of the Sharks and Rays exhibit a few months ago. We discovered that as a member, you can essentially have unlimited visits to the Aquarium for $5 / month. (Take a look at my previous post about the Aquarium to find out more.) Last week, we were on site as a Mom-and-baby journalist duo for the media launch of Jelly Invasion, the newest theme to take over the Aquarium’s halls.

tropical entranceThe entrance to the tropical zone is now a massive jelly swarm that brightly dances and swirls in the darkened gallery (ahem… they aren’t actually fish so no more calling them jellyfish, please). There are some truly gorgeous jellies with glowing orange stripes and cute “baby” jellies just out of that awkward larval stage near the entrance. Every time I visit I seem to find something that makes me squeal with delight. Last time it was the shark egg cases. This time it was the upside-down jellies. Monita and I crawled right into the viewing dome in the middle of the exhibit to get a great look. They photosynthesize, so their bell works like a sucker to expose the tentacles with helpful algae. Adorable! Though perhaps it’s the kind a face only a Marine Biologist would love…

jelly bloom - narrowmonita and mum in jellies

lisa eats jellies

Lisa devours an invertebrate

Three times a day, the public has a chance to sample the animals. Not exactly what you expect from an aquarium or zoo, right? As part of the media tour, Lee Humphries and Rob Wong, two OceanWise chefs,  expertly prepared several jelly-themed dishes. Cooked jellies have the look and consistency of rice noodles and taste mainly like the sauce they are prepared in. Thanks to the expert combinations of sesame oil, mushrooms, and other seafood tasties, the jellies were completely delicious. If you visit and would like to try them for yourself, you won’t have a chef carefully preparing a dish for you, but you can volunteer to be a jelly taste-tester during shows several times a day.

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Monita moments after the jelly bite (Photo: Lisa Corriveau)

Although she was skeptical, I was able to convince Monita to sample a bit of jelly from the end of my fork. Fellow Mom-blogger Lisa, who writes The Sprog, snapped a great picture of her reaction and posted it on Instagram. Monita does not look impressed after gobbling up all the tasty chicken morsels and getting what she thought was a very chewy “noo-dah” (noodle), but the cameras didn’t capture her asking for more after that bite was done. I’ve had a tough time getting her to request anything besides blueberries and breastmilk. Maybe jellies are the answer?

That's one tasty soup!

The mushrooms looked like baby floating jellies… a nice touch!

I must admit, the inclusion of a feature animal is a pretty clever move on the Vancouver Aquarium’s part. With a few quick changes here and there, they are able to highlight something cool and new while leaving the rest of the Aquarium untouched for business as usual. It’s a concept that makes membership particularly attractive to us, since you can come to see the feature, then stop by your favourites for a reassuring glance –yes, dear, the penguins are still there– without spending all day. Even though we just had a long visit in February as a family, we really enjoyed spending time with different animals this time. As Monita gets older, I think she’ll start to clue into what she’s seeing. I don’t think she always gets that she’s looking at an animal unless it roars at her. Thankfully, the sea lion was happy to oblige. We set an easy pace, s0 I also got a nice rest and a chance to chat while she endlessly watched the belugas. I am eternally gratefully to those blubbery mammals for “babysitting” for me in that stolen moment of Mom-time.

Thank you, belugas.

A captivated child…  Thank you, belugas.

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