Off and on rain followed us from Bay of Islands to Auckland where the weather continues to display low clouds and some rain with temperatures in the 70s now. At least the temperature has moderated since Samoa and Fiji but the humidity stays with us as do the showers.
Despite the cold that, hopefully, seems to be moderating, and the rain I decided to go on the excursion I signed up and paid for in advance. The title is: Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium and Sky Tower. Our tour went to the Sky Tower first. It is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 1,072 feet and has an observation deck at the 51st floor and a few floors up a revolving restaurant and more windows. Takes a little over a half minute to get to the top with an ear-popping ascent. About half way up the structure opens and you can look out from the elevator and if that is not exciting enough then just look down as the floor has a window that allows you to see the entire shaft as the bottom quickly drops away. I’ve attached a look up at the tower from the ground.
The main observation deck has a 360-degree view over Auckland. We walked out of the elevator expecting to see this beauty and, instead, saw – you guessed it – clouds. We were in the clouds and looking out all you saw was 360-degrees of mist. Even looking down (the observation deck has windows in the floor as well as the sides) you mostly saw mist though sometimes the top of a building or two would appear as the cloud we were in moved and thinned some. We had an hour to visit; nobody stayed that long. Many of us went down and explored the rest of the complex where you will find shops, restaurants, and a full casino. I found an overlook that gave me a small view of part of the casino and took a picture there (attached) as when I got to the top of the escalator the guard there gave me a clear “no photos here” look. So, I can’t show you the whole casino but it looked as big as many in Reno or other Nevada spots with the smaller casinos.
So, while I was not able to experience the full panorama I did get to take photos of the displays that showed what you should have seen and identified the various landmarks and sights. Plus, I get to say I was there without, of course, giving any details. 🙂 There was some grumbling on the bus about going there first instead of the Sea Life exhibit but coming back from that you could not even see the tower so we had the benefit of at least seeing it.
A drive around the harbor brought us to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium. Kelly is a local legend who was interested in the sea and displaying the various denizens of the deep. What makes his display particularly famous is that he is the one who invented the walk-through aquarium. You’ve probably seen aquariums where you walk or are carried on a moving walkway through a tube of air in the middle of a large display of fish swimming and other sea creatures doing their thing. All of those copied Kelly’s design; he was the first. His aquarium also gives you an opportunity to see New Zealand’s only sub-Antarctic penguins in an authentic icy habitat and to glimpse a replica of Captain Scott’s expedition hut of 1911.
Kelly’s is a sad story. He designed and built his aquarium with financial support that qualified the support saying that he had to get at least 100,000 visitors in the first year. He did such a good job building the aquarium that its fame spread and he got to the 100K mark in the first two months. He greeted and shook hands with every visitor. The night he shook hands with the 100,000th visitor he went home and passed away in his 40s. One has to wonder what he might have accomplished. 🙁
The 1.5 hour visit to the aquarium was the highlight of the day. It truly is a unique experience. You’ll have to come to the UVTO Photo Club in July to see the photos but I’ve included a couple of teasers with this post: one of the penguin photos and a shot of a fish that all the kids would point at and yell “Nemo Fish, Nemo Fish.” Disney would be proud to know that his movie caused a clown fish to be renamed. 🙂