ATLANTA -- Melissa Long's latest One Tank Trip transports visitors to the cold waters of the North Pacific -- without traveling farther than the Georgia Aquarium.
The aquarium's new Sea Otter Encounter allows guests to see the adorable creatures up close.
Before bonding over breakfast with the otters, the behind-the-scenes program includes the basics: hand sanitizer and introductions. The otters are accustomed to posing for pictures. They also like to eat.
Emmy Wood, an animal care and training specialist, knows their voracious appetites well.
"If I were to eat what (sea otter) Brighton eats every day, proportionally, I would have to eat 150 Quarter Pounders," she said.
Unlike children, young otters are encouraged to play with their food. It's part of an enrichment program.
The Georgia Aquarium's three female and two male otters range in age from 3 to 16 and have distinct personalities. Cruz, the youngest, is the most curious. Brighton is a little more accustomed to human touch.
In addition to personal interaction, the 40-minute Sea Otter Encounter including an educational presentation led by Bryan Martin. He teaches visitors that a sea otter has one of the thickest coats on the planet to keep him warm in the harsh elements.
"A sea otter's fur is their most important asset. It's what keeps them alive," he said. "They don't have blubber or fat layer."
In addition to a fun experience, trainers also want visitors to come away with an understanding about why otters are so essential to the ecosystem. Currently, there are only 100,000 sea otters in the wild; fur trade, pollution and diseases all play a role in their population numbers.
The Sea Otter Encounter is $54.95 in addition to the aquarium's regular admission fee.
MORE ONE TANK TRIPS
* River City Rush
* Historic Banning Mills
* Consolidated Mine