Eight reasons to visit the California Academy of Sciences (Part 1)

california academy of sciences entrance
Eight reasons to visit the California Academy of Sciences – a normal looking entrance – with all sorts of ecosystems growing inside. Cool.

If there was a museum you had to visit while in San Francisco, it would have to be the California Academy of Sciences.

It may sound like a geeky sort of museum, but it’s actually a pretty cool attraction, for people of all ages and interests. I wouldn’t consider myself a big science fan, but the California Academy of Sciences has attractions that really appealed to me. My favourite was the life specimens of plants and animals they had on site.

For the average person (non-science lovers) the California Academy of Sciences may not sound like an alluring proposition. But it certainly did blew my mind, (even if that mind was particularly fogged our by a cold and a mild fever).

Located in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the largest natural history museums in the word, according to Wikipedia, which sourced this fact from the Academy’s website. It houses more than 26 million specimens and was completely rebuilt in 2008.

1. Explore the rain forest, in air-con

california academy of sciences osher rainforest lizard
Looks like a chameleon, but probably not, as its skin colour does not resemble the tree branch.

If you survive best in cool temperate weathers averaging 25 deg cel, but are still enchanted by the mysteries of the rain forest, Calacad is the place for you, with its Osher Rainforest exhibit four-storeys high. According to Calacad’s site, more than 1,600 live animals reside in the rainforest dome, including 250 free-flying birds and butterflies and close to 100 exotic reptiles and amphibians.

california academy of sciences osher rainforest
Ferns take nutrients away from trees – but the long green ones look really good.
california academy of sciences osher rainforest lizard
Who’s hiding at the corner? One of the many reasons to visit the California Academy of Sciences.
california academy of sciences osher rainforest toad
A silver toad?
california academy of sciences osher rainforest dome
Dome for natural lighting to enter.
california academy of sciences osher rainforest tree snake
Watch out for something between the leaves – I was surprised they allow the snakes to run free. It’s probably harmless.
california academy of sciences osher rainforest camouflage
See it? : )
california academy of sciences osher rainforest yellow bird
What a beautiful bird!

Each level forms a unique ecosystem. As you ascend, you’ll meet the Bornean forest floor, a Madagascan mid-story, and at the top, the canopy of a Costa Rican forest. From the canopy, take the elevator four stories down for a beneath-the-surface view of an Amazonian flooded forest. The pictures don’t do as much justice to the exhibit, as some of the curious creatures are behind the reflective panes of glass exhibits.

california academy of sciences osher rainforest amazon flooded trails
Peeping from the flooded trails of the Amazon.
california academy of sciences osher rainforest amazon flooded trails
That’s a huge meaty catfish?
california academy of sciences osher rainforest amazon flooded trails
Specks of blue in the distance.

2. Calacad is home to one of the world’s deepest coral reef exhibits

california academy of sciences coral reefs
Was taken back by the number of species of fish.

For Singaporeans who thought that the SEA aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa was big, Calacad’s coral reef exhibit certainly packs a larger punch. I saw huge fishes which I’d never seen in my life, and certainly grotesque looking fish – think bulging eyes, thick lips and splinter-like needs protruding from its skin. It was ugly, but intriguing at the same time.

california academy of sciences coral reefs
A Grotesque looking fish, but rather intriguing at the same time. One of the reasons to visit the California Academy of Sciences.
california academy of sciences coral reefs
Look at the eyes..
california academy of sciences coral reefs sharks
Sharks..
california academy of sciences coral reefs fish
That’s a huge ugly fish.
california academy of sciences coral reefs jelly fish
Jelly Fish!
california academy of sciences california academy of sciences amazon
A really great shot – credits: Friend S. Beautiful water insect.

3. Great documentaries at the Planetarium

california academy of sciences planetarium
Watching Habitat Earth

Similar to the Omni-theatre in Singapore, the Calacad has a Planetarium – essentially a dome-shaped theatre which is built primarily for presenting educational shows about astronomy and the night sky, according to Wikipedia. I must say you should watch your balance while entering the theatre, because unlike the rectangular screen found in cinemas, the screen was the ceiling of the auditorium, and that makes you lose your balance at times.

My biggest regret was nodding off in the middle of Habitat Earth, the only documentary which was screened at the Planetarium. I was nursing a cold and was feeling really lethargic and disoriented, given the theatre’s quirky configuration. Essentially, I would say that the documentary is really well made. I eventually caught the film on YouTube – it’s nice, but nothing beats watch the film at the theatre, coming into so close a contact with the trees, fishes and soil, complemented by an awe-inspiring soundtrack. I have included a trailer of Habitat Earth below:

There’s a second documentary showing, called Fragile Planet. For more information, visit the Calacad site.

 * * *

Now you must be pretty impressed by these exhibits, but that’s not all. Stay tuned for the next post – ‘Eight reasons to visit the California Academy of Sciences (Part 2)’.

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