If you are a city dweller or have young children with you, then a trip to the underwater world of Barcelona Aquarium is a must for you. It is not the biggest aquarium in Europe, but it certainly offers some of the best shark exhibitions of any aquarium. In any case, kids love to watch fish because they are active creatures, unlike many zoo animals that laze about all day because they have nothing to keep them occupied.
The aquarium is famed for its shark displays, and makes a serious attempt to educate the public in these fascinating but feared creatures through its ‘Diving with Sharks‘ program. This course costing 300 Euros is designed for qualified divers, and is in three parts, the first of which is a theoretical class on sharks, their habits and their habitat.
The second part involves a tour of the aquarium, presumable with particular reference to sharks and the way the aquarium presents them, and finally an Oceanarium dive of four people to visit the sharks close up. The tank contains 15 million liters of water and over 15 sharks living in the same environment as other marine creatures, including moray eels, groupers and rays - a total of 5000 other organisms. This is a fascinating and popular course for both professional and amateur divers.
Its more traditional exhibits include large tanks displaying 14 different Mediterranean communities, such as the cave and crevice community, red coral community and benthos (sea bottom) life. Each of these fascinating tanks both educates and entertains, and is suitable for children and adults of all ages.
Of special interest to many children (and adults) are the small tanks, or ‘mini aquaria‘ as they are referred to, that show the environment and way of life of creatures such as the nautilus and the sea cucumber, the strange creatures that live within meadows of Neptune grass, and the fantastic woody sea-dragon and big-bellied seahorse. This is a marvelous opportunity to meet these wonderful creatures for the first time and learn a bit about what struggles they have to survive in order just to stay alive.
The ‘Explora‘ exhibitions have been designed specifically for children, and offer more than 50 interactive exhibits that enable children to explore life in a wide range of marine habitats. The Oceanarium is a tank 35 metres in diameter and 5 metres deep, containing tiger and sandbar shark, sunfish, rays, moray eels and many more that can be viewed from an 80 m long transparent tunnel crossing the bottom of the tank. For some, this is the highlight of the Barcelona aquarium, but for children there is a lot more to come.
The children can spend a night here ‘Sleeping with Sharks’ (currently available in Spanish and Catalan only), and also have birthday parties. Planeta Aqua teaches them the importance of water to the planet, and explains marine life from the glacial cold of the arctic to the warmth of tropical waters to life in the dark abyss where natural chemistry enables sea creatures to create their own personal torches. All of this is fascinating to children, and a far cry from the boring tank exhibits of their parents’ days.
Barcelona Aquarium might not be as large as that in London, but it is nevertheless one of the largest in Europe, and certainly offers one of the best range of exhibits in modern settings that you are likely to come across. The fish and other species are not shown simply for you to gawk at, but in a way that educates you in the way of life and the fight for survival that these creatures have to experience every single day in their own natural environments.
These environments are recreated as accurately as possible in what, after all, is an aquarium that has been artificially created to house them. It seems that Barcelona Aquarium has achieved that extremely well, and while it might not be of interest to everybody, it certainly will be to anybody with the slightest interest in how fish, sea molluscs and other animal life survive in the hostile environment that we know as ‘the sea’.
The aquarium is owned by the Aspro Group that runs more than 35 marine theme parks and exhibitions throughout Europe, including the Blue Reef and Blue Planet aquaria in England, Deep Sea World in Scotland, and Aqualand in Spain, France and Portugal, and they can call upon all of their experience to offer you what are among the best marine exhibitions in the world.
This is an experience not to be missed, and if you have children this is an absolute must, but if you want to take advantage of any of the special courses or features of Barcelona Aquarium then you have to book in advance at the number provided below.
The aquarium is open all year round from 9.30 A.M., closing from 9 P.M. onwards depending on time of year. Call 93 221 7474 for details or to make bookings for any of the special events or exhibitions.
It is situated at Moll d’Espanya del Port Vell, and a large number of buses travel here, namely routes 14, 17, 19, 36, 38, 40, 45, 57, 59, 64, 91 and 157. You can use the Blue South route of the Bus Turístic, and the metro on L3 and L4. It is not difficult to find.