Sydney Aquarium, Darling Harbour, Australia

Set in beautiful Darling Harbour in the heart of Sydney, the Sydney Aquarium showcases over 12,000 aquatic animals from 650 species in spectacular habitat displays, including the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit and spectacular underwater viewing tunnels. Frequently listed as one of the world’s top aquariums, the Sydney Aquarium houses one of the world’s largest and most impressive collections of sharks, dugongs, platypuses, seahorses, tropical fish, stingrays, and crabs, many of which I had never seen before.

I had some time to kill during our recent trip to Sydney, so for AUD 35, I spent a couple of leisurely hours here photographing as many of these amazing creatures as I could. It was dark and all the animals were behind glass (obviously and thankfully), so the photos didn’t come out as well as I had hoped. Below are a few of the better images. There were LOTS more though so if you think the animals pictured here are cool, then you should definitely go see them for yourself if you ever find yourself with a few hours to spare in Sydney. 😉

Soon as you enter the lobby, you’re greeted by this giant lego statue of Poseidon.

PlatypusOrnithorhynchus anatinus – How cute! My first time seeing a platypus, I tried to get better photos but the room was just way too dark to get any sharp images of this very fast-moving animal.

A semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, the platypus, together with the four species of echidna, is one of only five existing species of monotremes, mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. If the concept of an egg-laying mammal isn’t unusual enough, the platypus is also duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed, and venomous, with the males capable of delivering a painful venom via a spur on its hind foot. Awesomely bizarre indeed!

Upside Down JellyfishCassiopea andromeda – So named for its habit of resting on the bottom, bell side down, to get more light to its tentacles. Their tentacles have algae which provides food for the jellyfish through photosynthesis.

The upside down jellyfish’s stings cause red, rash-like skin irritations that are notorious for being extraordinarily itchy. This jellyfish is sometimes picked up by the urchin crab and carried on its back as a defense against possible predators.

Weedy or Common Sea DragonPhyllopteryx taeniolatus – Stunningly beautiful, this relative of the seahorse is a specialist feeder on tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called mysids. Unlike seahorses, males brood eggs on their tail, rather than in a brood pouch.

Giant CuttlefishSepia apama – The world’s largest cuttlefish species, the giant cuttlefish can grow to an adult mantle length of 50 cm and over 10.5 kg in weight.

Magnificent Tree FrogLitoria splendida – A close relative of the green tree frog, the magnificent tree frog (aka splendid tree frog) is often found in caves in Australia’s tropical Kimberley region, feeding on small bats.

Sea anemone with clownfish

L: Glow in the dark coral R: Some unknown, tiny yellow fish chilling on the front pane of his tank.

Lego scuba diver

This underwater observation tunnel was way cool, complete with ambient music to enhance the experience.

The Sydney Aquarium is home to several species of sharks. Not sure what these were though.

If I’m not mistaken, this was a lemon shark.

Giant Shovelnose RayRhinobatos typus

Not sure what type of stingray this was, but it was massive and strangely without much of a tail.

Say “cheese”!

This short section of tunnel had views all around – the walls, ceiling and floor. That little kid was having a blast stomping on the glass with his bare feet.

Smalltooth SawfishPristis pectinata – One of Australia’s rarest animals, the smalltooth sawfish is listed as critically endangered worldwide by the IUCN. They live in shallow water around river mouths and freshwater systems, moving between freshwater and saltwater. Relatives of sharks and stingrays, they can grow to an adult length of over 6 meters.

Its most distinctive feature is its “saw”, which it uses to swing at prey by flicking its head from side to side. This stuns or kills small schooling fishes or prawns which it then feeds on.

The Sydney Aquarium is home to four of these rare beauties.

Red LionfishPterois volitans – Those venomous mane-like spikes say “Don’t eat me.”

As much as I enjoyed this experience, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed for not having seen the two dugongs Pig and Wuru. The Mermaid Lagoon was being renovated and won’t be reopened until September 2012, so the dugongs were temporarily taken off display. Apparently, Pig and Wuru are only two of five long-term captive dugongs in the world.

Though I can’t help but be a little sad to see some animals in captivity, it’s comforting to learn that Pig and Wuru were rescued after being found washed up on different beaches in Queensland, Australia. Pig, a 12 year old male, and Wuru, a 6 year old female, were both orphaned and separated from their mothers at early ages.

Pig was released back into the wild after a period of rehabilitation, but was found washed up again soon after and so a decision was made not to release him again for fears he wouldn’t survive in the wild. They now reside here at Sydney Aquarium in a large, soon-to-open exhibit called Mermaid Lagoon where visitors can come face-to-face with them in the underwater viewing tunnels.

Even without the dugongs however, there’s a lot to see and enjoy here so don’t let their absence stop you. As mentioned up top, the adult entrance fee is AUD 35, but you can get discounts either by booking your tickets early or getting combo passes through their website. You can also reach them by phone – +61 2 8251 7800, or by emailing them via email.

More on Sydney

Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia
Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia
Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia
Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney, Australia
Birthday Bush Tucker Dinner at Wolfies, Sydney, Australia
Sydney Fish Market, Australia
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
Oporto, Sydney, Australia

Ay kay Layo ng Lamayo!

You’ve probably heard of Cebuano danggit, that delicious crisp breakfast fish that’s butterflied, completely sun-dried then fried, but have you heard of the Palawan version known as danggit lamayo? Neither Ren nor I are seasoned danggit eaters so we didn’t know any better, but my mom who frequently enjoys this dried fish for breakfast was pleasantly surprised to come across this version for the first time during our recent trip to Coron, Palawan.

Also known locally as samaral, taragbago, kitang, or tabago, danggit is a type of fish called Spinefoot or Rabbitfish in English. The term lamayo refers to a method of preparation where the fish, in this case danggit, is butterflied, marinated in vinegar with herbs and spices, then only partially sun-dried before being packed and frozen.

Crisp, meaty and very flavorful especially when dipped in chili vinegar, it’s fantastic when fried and paired with sinangag (garlic fried rice) and eggs scrambled with onions and tomatoes. Ren even tops the rice with a few pieces of toasted garlic bits for added crunch. Absolutely dee-licious!

Too bad we had to go all the way to Coron to get some though. Had I known they’d be this good, I would have brought home at least two more kilos! Grrr… 👿

*Ay kay layo ng lamayo! roughly translates to “lamayo is so far away!”, meaning we have to go so far to get it.

So I surmise the official term for this beautiful plate of food is lamsilog? Lamayo-sinangag-itlog? Considering that this version of lamayo was made with danggit though, I think D’ lamsilog sounds even cooler.

Without a hint of fishiness, these butterflied, vinegar-soaked, then fried pieces of rabbitfish make for some irresistible breakfast fare.

Again, shots like this make me wish for a scratch n’ sniff screen.

If you’re ever in Coron, Palawan and want to bring home some of this delectable lamayo, stop by Santino’s Grill and look for Emil. He sells them for PHP 300 a kilo, dividing them into 2 half-kilo packs with each pack containing roughly 10 pcs of fish. He’ll even deliver them to your hotel all packaged up and ready for the plane ride home. 😉

More on Palawan

Underground River, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Palawan Mangrove Forest
Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa
Tamilok, the World’s Longest Oyster
The Edge of the World
Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan