For my 41st birthday, I went to the Beluga Whale interaction program at the Georgia Aquarium. Needless to say, I was ridiculously happy the whole time and just couldn't stop smiling. The water was about 56 degrees, which is balmy for them. As they say, as soon as a whale's in front of you, you don't care about the water temperature any more.
There was only one other participant that day, Marsha, who was treating herself (no special occasion) and was just as thrilled as I was. We got to pet them a whole lot and it was nice to see that they really seemed to like it. They are really curious animals and the interactions are part of the aquarium's enrichment program so their days don't lack variety. The youngest one (first in the pictures), Qinu (KEE-NU), really liked people (and/or the fish) and kept trying to take extra turns (she was my favorite and a real ham). She also really loved having her teeth and tongue rubbed!
There are only about 35 belugas in the US and we got to see four, which was fantastic. One of my favorite parts was getting squirted in the face after they had us splash the whale (classic!). We also got to see the Harbor Seals, which of course reminded me of Emily with those doe eyes. The one below is named Rose, and she sure was a looker!