You might say aquaria are not the natural habitat of fish species and plants and I will absolutely agree with you. Well, yes, ocean and sea animals need to live in their natural environment, not in artificial acrylic plastic fish tanks. Nowadays modern aquariums do offer quite natural conditions for living to sea and ocean animals and plants. From this point of view, we ought to accept the existence of aquariums to some extent as well as regard them as a place for “meeting” the representatives of the sea world in real. Aquaria could also be considered places for getting acquainted with sea-life and of course, for killing some time at weekends. I myself have visited several aquariums and oceanariums in Europe. Let’s start with the biggest and the most eye-catching ones for me.
L’Aquàrium de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain): It is situated at the port of the city and its spacious building could be easily recognized from a distance. It’s considered the biggest and largest Mediterranean-themed aqua-park in the world consisting of 14 aquaria. Two protected areas of the Spanish coastline are presented there (i.e. Ebro Delta and the Medes Islands). The marine life is extremely diverse and it’s easily enjoyed by visitors when they start their walk along the 80-metre underwater tunnel. I can assure you it’s the best feeling ever – to move along the tunnel and see sharks and piranhas around you and “swim” with them.
Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal): Now let us move to the west a little bit, to Lisbon. The city is proud of possessing the largest indoor aquarium on the Old Continent. It is located in Expo 98’ exhibition grounds in Parque das Nações. The exhibits of ocean fish species and plants there are really amazing and unforgettable. There are also numerous educational activities both for children and adults for conservation of nature and ocean world, in particular.
The Oceanogràfico (Valencia, Spain): If Oceanário de Lisboa is the largest indoor aquarium on the Old Continent, I will say that the Oceanogràfic of Valencia is the largest both indoor and outdoor underwater city in Europe because it gives home to about 45 000 animals and specimens and about 500 marine species. Visiting this place, actually, you pay a visit to the main seas and oceans of the planet. The Oceanarium of Valencia is divided in several sections (tropical, Arctic, etc.) plus a dolphinarium where its inhabitants live peacefully and you can “talk” to them. For sure, the seals, belugas, penguins and sea lions there will “answer” you. If it’s not enough for you, take a walk along the 70-metre Ocean Tunnel (similar to this of L’Aquàrium de Barcelona) where sharks, rays and sunfish will say “Hi” to you.
If you’re Italian you will “choose” your either giant spider crab, lobster or favourite fish species and imagine it being well cooked for your dinner tonight. 😀 As far as the dolphinarium is concerned, it is the largest one in Europe. It possesses 5 grand pools. The main one, i.e. the exhibition one, is 11 metres deep and is equal to two Olympic pools. This is, actually, the place where the Oceanogràfic dolphins stage their daily performances and sea spectacles in front of the eyes of 2000 people (this is the number of the seats at the dolpinarium). The rest four have other purposes – training functions, reproduction and medical care. So, this is simply a must place where you should go to and enjoy the plays of the about thirty dolphins.
It’s located in a shopping centre in Bayrampaşa and it’s home to about 15000 sea species that inhabit about 47 tanks.
There are 6 other aquaria in other European cities that aren’t that big but they are a nice place to have a stop at after a long stroll. And here they are.
Acuario de Sevilla (Seville, Spain): If you pass by La Plaza de América de Sevilla with its enchanting atmosphere in Seville, go straight to the small complex along the river. After a nice five-minute walk you will reach the Aquarium of Seville.
It is a new one and is placed in a small building for an aquarium. It will take you about an hour to say Hi to all fish species there. The diversity is not that great but fish will look at you curiously behind the aquarium acrylic tank. You will walk through tunnels with acrylic ceilings and walls. There are also some tiny open aquariums where you will see very interesting fish species.
Acquario civico di Milano (Milan, Italy): If you have already felt the atmosphere of the House of Sforzaof Milan and if you have already had a nice walk in Parco Sempione that is adjacent to the Sforza Castle, why don’t you dive into the sea world for a while? The small aquarium of Milan is placed at one of the ends of the park and it offers you a short sea journey in the heart of the cosmopolitan city. Its fish tanks are several in number as well as the fish species but for sure, it will give you much pleasure getting acquainted with the sea life.
Hydro-biological Station of Rhodes (Rhodes, Hellas): Before diving into the world of the Knights TemplarsI suggest you have a nice walk along the promenade in the city of Rhodes and make a short stop at the Aquarium of Rhodes. Actually, it combines a research centre, aquarium and museum. It was constructed by the Italians during the 30s of the last century under the name of“Reale Istituto di Ricerce Biologiche di Rodi” (or“Royal Biological Research Institute of Rhodes”). After the end of their rule it was renamed as“Hellenic Hydrobiological Institute”. Nowadays it is simply known as the “Hydrobiological Station of Rhodes” where research on the oceanography of the Dodecanese is carried out. The aquarium and the adjacent museum are too small. The aquarium is like a cave with winding tunnels and there are fish tanks embedded in the walls on both sides. The adjacent museum is full of “statues” of artificial sea animals like sharks, turtles and different sea shells and sea flora and fauna as well as maps of the island and the region and there is one open fish tank where visitors can see a big lobster and some smaller fishes swimming happily.
Cretaquarium (Crete, Hellas): Another Hellenic aquarium is that on the island of Crete. It was opened in 2005 on the site of a former military base American Base (USAF Iraklion Air Station) in Gournes. The original idea of its construction came from the ex-IMBC (the Institute of Marine Biology of Crete) and it aimed at building the first large public aquarium in Hellas and one of the largest in Europe. Nowadays the Cretan sea world houses 60 tanks and “water tunnels” inhabited by more than 250 species and it’s a lovely recreation and education park for children and adults alike.
The Deep (Kingston Upon Hull, England, United Kingdom): Last but not least is the Aquarium of Kingston upon Hullsituated in the city centre. It’s thought to be one of the most awe-inspiring aquaria in Europe and in the world. It is home to around 3500 fish (sharks, green sawfish, etc.) as well as there is one really very spectacular fact about this aquarium. It’s a habitat of a colony of penguins.
Varna Aquarium (Varna, Bulgaria): Unlike the other European acqua worlds, the Varna Aquarium is very tiny and miniature. It houses few tanks with fish species and fauna from the Black Sea, the World Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and fresh-water rivers, placed in three halls. The building itself was built in 1912 but the aquarium itself was inaugurated much later, in 1932, because the edifice used to house naval and army units during the wars. Once again I am saying that our one and only maritime biological station is not enormous at all. It doesn’t possess tank-tunnels with swimming sharks from everywhere (like it is in bigger European aquariums) but the tiny tanks with almost decorative fish species give the feeling of coziness and home warmth. And above all, it’s our, Bulgarian aquarium.
Festa Dolphinarium (Varna, Bulgaria): The marine capital of Bulgaria has another marine park which is really unique. When the Sun is at its peak on a hot summer day you might find out a shelter in the spacious and cool building of the Festa Dolphinarium in Varna. The dolphin home was opened in August 1984 and since then, people have been able to have fun with the most intelligent creatures in the world, i.e. dolphins. Nowadays the permanent residents of the Dolphinarium are 5 in number and stage shows every day except on Mondays. They are three gentlemen and two ladies. And who are the inmates exactly? They are a brother (Bimbo-boy) and a sister (Yoanna-girl) that were born there and are the youngest dolphins. Then come Kimbo and the lady of his heart – Dolly. They are from the Land of Eternal Spring. And the last, 5th dolphin is Poppy. Actually, this male dolphin has been an inmate of the Dolphinarium since my childhood and respectively, it’s the oldest resident there.
I can assure you that dolphin daily shows are more than amazing. And it’s because you face dolphin’s natural intellect during the various performances. First of all, these sweet creatures talk to one another in their own language but they do establish and love the contact with people at the same time. They play various roles starting from sports (they are athletes, footballers, volleyball players and figure skaters), going through art (they sing and dance) and ending with their water games with randomly chosen spectators. Soooo … if I have to make a recap, I will only tell you not to miss the visit at the Dolpinarium in Varna as it’s an amazing place for fun with the divine, beautiful, intelligent and a little bit mysterious dolphins.