Twenty years ago, during the World Expo in Lisbon, the area of Parque das Nações received an overwhelming redevelopment to accommodate the event, and in that a lot of it’s now famous attractions were built, but none more notorious than the Oceanarium. The Lisbon Oceanarium is truly magical. At the time it was built it was one of the largest in Europe, and it still maintains that position. It is easily recognizable, having the main building located in the river (much like an island). It’s architectural prowess garnered many awards and it shows. But it’s what is inside that really counts.
Lisbon Oceanarium building, and it's mascot Vasco.
The Oceanarium followed a main idea when designing it’s exhibit: Just like the Ocean, let it all just be ONE big tank. And so it is! There are smaller aquariums that you’ll see, mostly to hold more fragile creatures that wouldn’t fare well in the crowded tank, like jellyfish, octopi, or sea-horses, but most of what you can see here all takes place in one enormous tank, expertly divided by fake coral and rock formations and drastic chances in the water’s temperature, that’s why you’ll be able to see small tropical fish, playful penguins and otters and big, toothy sharks swim in the same water without conflict.
In the first floor of the Oceanarium you’ll be greeted by the main area of the tank, a large, almost, cylindrical body of water that holds the greatest variety of life in the whole site, from rays to sharks, shoal fish to moray eels, to even the strange sunfish, this part is dedicated to the Atlantic Ocean. All of the areas on the first floor are dedicated to all the four oceans and their wildlife and plantlife, not only fish but birds, like penguins and puffins, and mammals like the adorably playful otters. On the ground floor you’ll get the real scope of really how the main tank works, like seeing the hidden parts of a machine, and you can also find aquariums containing amphibians, invertebrates and curious fish like flounders and archer fish, and, interestingly enough, there is an aquarium just for a shoal of sardines, a typical portuguese delicacy and arguably the most known fish in the country. You will also find many different algae and plant life along the way, besides the coral and anemones that house the fish.
Besides the animals and the pretty ambience, the Oceanarium also aims to show you their work on sea life preservation and what you can do to contribute (besides the ticket price). There are many debates and discussions on the subject matter in their auditorium, and if you’re visiting with family, the organization has many activities for children that are all really interesting and didactic. Finally, if you’re staying for some time and really love what this amazing space as to offer, consider the membership card, for around 30€ you can visit the Oceanarium all year (instead of the usual 15€ for adults).
Be sure to visit these great hosts! And for more on the Oceanarium go ahead to my next article.
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