Beluga Encounter



In case anyone reading this hasn’t figured it out by now, Jess is a HUGE animal lover, so consequently any chance we have to interact with some animal we jump at it.  Now Jess has already had the privilege of handling many different and exotic animals so trying to find and surprise her with something she hasn’t already done is sometimes a bit… shall we say challenging.  But sometimes we don’t need to look far for the chance to interact with an exotic animal, and in this case we only needed to go as far as downtown Chicago.  Specifically the Shedd Aquarium (one of our favorite places and one of the first places we went together when we started dating, but anyway I digress.)  Did you know that the Shedd has several “extraordinary experiences?”  Yep, you can sign up to have a Penguin encounter, be a trainer for a day, take a behind the scenes tour, and even a Beluga Whale encounter.  You read that right, Beluga Whales.  You can actually sign up to get in the water and pet a Beluga Whale, and since Jess had always wanted to do this and it was on her bucket list how could I not sign us up.

I booked up an encounter for a few months out as it has limited space and the Shedd only offers it a couple of days out of the week.  Gotta be honest, I was pretty excited too and just having to wait for the date to arrive almost drove Jessi crazy.  But soon enough we were in the car heading downtown.  Upon our arrival at the Shedd we got our wristbands (admission to everything the Shedd offers is included with the Beluga Encounter) and since we were early got to walk around a bit and check out the exhibits.  I don’t know if it was the high volume of screaming, running young kids on fieldtrips, or just the excitement of what we were about to do, but we walked around for a few, barely looking at the exhibits.  As soon as it was time we went back and met with our guide who took us and one other couple (told you there was limited space) to the Abbott Oceanarium then into a back room where we were fitted for our stylish waders.  After watching a short video introducing us to the seven Belugas they have there and telling us a little about each one and Belugas in general, it was finally time to strap on our waders and head out to the exhibit.  The encounter area is actually adjacent to the main exhibit area so walking through the main exhibit past other guests I have to admit I felt a bit privileged like I was walking into a VIP room or some other exclusive event while others look on with envy.

We entered the water (icy cold I might add) with the trainer, Jess and I on one side of him and the other couple on the other side of him.  As we waited for the Beluga Jess was almost giddy with excitement and to be honest so was I.  Finally we met Miki, whose name means “little” in the native language of the Inuit people. Miki was born at the Shedd in August of 2007, yet is already 10 feet long and weighs about 950 lbs!  The trainer taught us basic hand commands which we got to try out as Miki performed for use, waiving his flippers, chattering, and spinning in circles (and even pooping!) each time being rewarded with a fish – well not for the pooping part.

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Now I can’t explain it, but while the trainer was speaking to us Miki would just hang out, almost always directly in front of Jessi.  I was actually kinda funny because Miki often seemed to be looking at Jess almost exclusively.

 It seemed like Miki took an instant liking to Jess, as if he instinctively knew how much she loves animals.   I almost (but not really) felt bad for the other couple on the experience because we were definitely  up close and personal with Miki a whole lot more than they were.


After what seemed like too little time (but in reality was quite a while) it was time to say goodbye to Miki, but not before a personal photo op.  You could choose between a Beluga kiss on the cheek or have Miki spit water in your face.  As funny as it would have been, I just couldn’t bring myself to get soaked with Beluga spit, so we both chose the kiss on the cheek.


 Perfect way to end the encounter.  Now it’s time to look for the next one of a kind animal encounter!






  1. corinelli says:

    Great pictures!!

    I had always wanted to do that at the Shedd and the penguins after Jess told me about them. No surprise that the big guy liked her its like the animals sense your compassion. 😛


  2. Pingback: The Great Big Animal Bucket List | Berry Random

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