A thornback ray glides over for a cuddle.
I do believe I've committed a first in Friday Animal Blogging. How often do you see rays—those flat fish-like creatures commonly (and erroneously) known as stingrays—on Friday blog posts? Not often, I'd guess.
And if I told you that we got to pet those rays—actually touch them—you'd probably be impressed.
That's exactly what we did at the Nausicaa Aquarium in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, this week. It seems to be a popular feature in French aquariums to have "touching pools", where visitors can get their hands wet and actually touch various kinds of fish. At the aquarium in Cherbourg where we visited several years ago, there was a hands-on exhibit that invited you to touch the fish, but there were no rays available for touching. (We did, however, have an equally amazing adventure, which I wrote about here. You can see why French aquariums are such tourist hotspots.)
These rays were surprisingly soft and warm. I could see keeping one for a pet, just to have an opportunity to pet it. And they obviously doted on the attention. They came gliding over, then stuck their cute little faces up to show us how friendly they were. One particularly grceful ray delighted in twirling about in the water like a ballerina.
I fell in love, needless to say. I also developed warm feelings for the sea lions, despite the dripping cold rain in their outside enclosure. And the penquins—oh, be still my heart!
As an extra bonus, I'm including some Friday Penguin Video Blogging. But be warned, you'll want to tunnel to France right away—or fly, if that's more convenient—and rescue these poignant creatures, longing for the beach:
Poignant penguins at the Nausicaa Aquarium.
If you want to visit the Nausicaa Aquarium, first you'll have to get to France, which is quite easy via the Eurotunnel. It's easily a day trip from here, with the Folkestone terminal a mere hour and a half away. Boulogne-sur-Mer is 18 miles from Calais--take exit 32 from the A16, and follow the signs to Nausicaa, where you'll find plenty of free parking.
And give my regards to Ray.