The Aquarium of the Pacific has launched virtual tours as a way to both engage guests and bring in money while patrons are unable to visit because of coronavirus restrictions.
The aquarium held its first virtual tour last month, with viewers watching as tour guides moved from exhibit to exhibit discussing the animals and the ocean.
Now, people can sign up for multiple types of tours: The aquarium hosts seal and sea lion tours at 11:15 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday, and sea otter ones at 2 p.m. every Thursday and Sunday.
The aquarium also has limited tours set for this weekend.
There is a virtual tour of the Northern Pacific Gallery from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16. A tour of the Tropical Pacific Gallery is set from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17.
Tickets for each tour are $10 per household, though folks must reserve their spots 48 hours ahead of time.
The virtual exhibits have come in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The aquarium, like many other businesses during the pandemic, has been closed to the public since early 2020 to prevent large crowds from gathering. Outdoor exhibits did reopen briefly during the late summer and early fall, before a surge in coronavirus cases led to a tightening of restrictions in an effort to step the virus’s spread.
But keeping the aquarium running, even when its closed, is expensive.
It costs $1.8 million a month to cover all the bills, including $750,000 a month to feed all the fish, seals, sharks and other animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Since mid-March, aquarium officials said in December, the popular attraction hasn’t brought in more than $1.2 million in any month — and it only hit that mark during the brief reopening of outdoor exhibits.
Besides the virtual events, the aquarium has also been fundraising in an effort to stay afloat until the pandemic wanes and it can reopen to the public.
“We just need to get through this period,” CEO Peter Kareiva said via email in December. “We know we’re appreciated, and we’ll get back on track when we can open again. Right now, we’re hoping people will help us buy a little time.”
Not all of the programs the aquarium currently offers make money, however.
The educational opportunities are free.
The aquarium hosts virtual classes for children — with lessons on the ocean and various animals for the younger ones, and marine biology, environmental science and conservation for the older ones — from 9 to 9:30 a.m. and 10 to 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Classes in Spanish take place at 10 a.m. each Wednesday.
Staff writer Harry Saltzgaver contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register