HOUSTON — If you're looking for something fun to do this holiday weekend, Friday will be a special day at the Houston Zoo.
Its new Galápagos Islands exhibit will open to the public offering visitors a chance to experience some of the magic of one of the world's most unique places.
The $70 million, six-year project is "the first major exhibit of its kind to showcase the remarkable wildlife of the legendary island chain," according to the zoo.
The volcanic islands of the Galápagos off the Pacific coast of Ecuador are home to many animals and plants found nowhere else in the world.
"No place on our planet better exemplifies the wonders of unique species, the delicate balance of ecosystems, or the pressing need for conservation action more than the Galápagos," the zoo said.
They're hoping the exhibit will inspire visitors to take better care of our planet, including its oceans and wildlife.
“With this new exhibit, our more than two million annual guests will learn how our shared ocean connects us to species in the Galápagos, and how our conservation actions here in Houston will lead to healthier oceans worldwide," Houston Zoo president and CEO Lee Ehmke explained.
"You protect what you love. I think it’s going to help everyone fall in love with all the animals here and therefore want to protect the ocean," Krista Weeber, supervisor of the sea lions and penguins exhibit, explained.
Tunnels provide underwater views of the sea life and some of them, like the very curious sea lions, will be doing some people-watching of their own.
"They are getting a big kick out of all you guys as you go through the tunnel," Weeber told special guests who got an early look at the exhibit Thursday. “You get to be submerged in their environment.”
The exhibit's 270,000-gallon One Ocean aquarium will be home to black-tip reef sharks, bonnethead sharks, giant sea horses, colorful sea stars and sea cucumbers.
The exhibit will also feature giant tortoises, iguanas and penguins.
The consul general of Ecuador and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner were also on hand.
"When you go through this exhibit you can literally say that you've experienced some of the beauty that exists in Ecuador right here in the city of Houston," the mayor said.