In the last couple of weeks I’ve been to two different aquariums in two different continents (yes, I am indeed bragging). The first was in Lisbon, Portugal, and the second in Monterey, America. As I was walking around the second yesterday and observing how packed it was, I began to wonder about aquariums as tourist destinations and thought I’d write a post and share some photos.
Firstly, I’m a big animal lover – I have never eaten meat or fish and when I picture my future I picture a cat and not a partner or family. As a result, for me a zoo or aquarium in this day and age has to be about conservation and not money. These boxes are ticked with these two aquariums:
“The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.” And Lisbon’s website says that “As a modern aquarium, it is committed to continuously developing educational activities aimed at encouraging people to learn more about the oceans and marine species. The Oceanário also focuses on its mission and seeks to draw people’s attention to current environmental issues. In this sense, it collaborates with several institutions with a view to promoting ocean sustainability, by supporting scientific research and marine biodiversity conservation projects.”
Essentially, they do good work for conservation and education and remind people who have watched finding nemo that these are great living things to look out for, and not to look at in a tiny bowl on our side tables. Rant and moral speech over. Onto the tourism side and some pretty photos!
So, are they worth going to on your days of leisure and on your travels? Well, seemingly many of us believe so. Like I said in the opening, they always seem to be packed! According to Wikipedia Monterey has an average attendance of 1.8 million a year and Lisbon has a million. These are big numbers- for example the iconic stone henge apparently gets around 1.3m a year! But anyway, yes, why are they nice visits?
Well, for one thing, they’re inside. So whilst the fish are wet, you can remain dry on a rainy day. Like the final day budgie al and I were in Lisbon – it was raining heavily and this contributed to our decision to go and visit the indoor aquarium instead – incidentally, this is apparently the biggest indoor aquarium in Europe.
And, as for seeing the fish, there are so damn many of them. Again returning to Wikipedia, Monterey aquarium apparently has 35,000 animals and over 500 species, whilst Lisbon has 16,000 and 450.
This isn’t limited just to fish, however. There are all sorts of water based critters to see, including mammals (like sea otters) and reptiles (like sea turtles).
And, whilst some of the animals are viewed in the way we perhaps more picture zoos and the like with a single viewing space looking at one type of interesting critter like this
for me, the main attraction of aquariums are the larger tanks with multiple viewing sections and a plethora of different things to look at. At the best aquariums these tanks are huge and you can spend an age gazing into them. At Monterey aquarium the largest tank of such a type is their ‘open sea’ exhibit which has a huge 90 foot window and a raised seating area so you can just sit and watch the sea go by. In the tank are majestic turtles, the dumbly evolved looking sunfish, stingrays and lots lots more.
Meanwhile, the Oceanário de Lisboa is centred around their huge central tank which the other sections lead off of. This 5 million litre tank has around 100 species in and can be viewed from all sorts of different windows – both large scale and individual little views and from different heights allowing you to see those that prefer to laze on the floor, those who sore high and then those who think the middle is just right. A particular favourite of mine in this tank are the sharks, including the Sandbank and the sand tiger, and when these starts swimming straight at you you can’t help but hear the jaws music in your head.
Monterey’s website has a few live cameras on offer so you check out for yourself what I am on about. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals-and-experiences/live-web-cams/open-sea-cam
Yes. Well, as it’s off hours as I’m writing this it played me a prerecorded video instead which reminded me of a negative of Monterey aquarium: the bloody music!! It’s on a constant loop with each area having a different annoying bad instrumental track going on and on and on and on and on. Whenever I go alone I will always have headphones in. Even if I’m not actually playing anything. So far anyone who sees me and judges, I am not being a dick walking around listening to music and not taking in the place, I am simply attempting to block out the constant annoyance of the music!
And as we are talking negatives here, a biggy is the vast numbers who go. For one thing this means the prices can be pretty steep – why charge less when people are willing to pay? But secondly, it means that there’s a chance you won’t get to see everything in the zenful manner you may wish with children running around and people bumping into you as they try and push to the front of the window or elbow you as they take a selfie. Though this can offer some entertainment. For instance I once watched a gentleman with an expensive camera and VERY expensive lens lean forward and zoom in to take a photo of a jellyfish and smash his lens and then his face into the glass because he was so focussed on his photo he forgot where the glass was. That was fun. But yes, overall, like with pretty much everything in life, the people make the experience worse.
But ignoring them and focusing on the animals and the zenful calmness of the water and the peacefully moving critters I fully recommend everyone to visit an aquarium at least once in their life and I am very pleased to have gone to the lisbon one with Al as it was his first time. It’s always good to pop Al’s cherry on a trip and widen his eyes.
Anyway, here are a few more photos. I hope you have enjoyed the post and will come back soon to read more of our stuff :).
Take care, Matt.