No seaside town worth its salt would dream of not celebrating its maritime roots, and Bournemouth certainly didn’t miss a trick with its popular Oceanarium – a dazzling aquarium situated right on Pier Approach. This underwater world is home to species from all around the globe including sharks, giant sea turtles, friendly otters and the latest addition, a colony of penguins!! Explore the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, Key West and the Amazon populated by their native species and marvel at scores of exotic depth dwellers you’d be glad to hear will never wash up in our stretch of the English Channel! With daily talks and feeds, a kids playzone and a thrilling underwater tunnel, Bournemouth’s Oceanarium is a splashing day out any weather. Keep an eye out for regular offers for locals with BH, DT or SO postcodes.
Your first underwater encounter is in the Amazon – as soon as you step through the door you face a deep, circular tank filled with fascinating creatures tempting you upstairs to further explore their world. The Amazon is home to a collection of fascinating fish and reptiles including piranhas, African mud turtles and green iguanas in an environment which mimics their native home.
Next, head to the Otter Oasis, where a family of five Oriental small clawed otters reside in a lush bamboo forest, with rocky pools and flowing streams to explore. Then onto the Great Barrier Reef – home to whirling moray eel, green sea turtles and six timid, yet formidable black tip reef sharks in a 350,000 litre tank.
You then head to the Ganges, home to Bob, a curious pig-nosed turtle and a collection of Chinese water dragons, who live in the branches above the water. Then to the Oceanarium’s newest – and most talked about – exhibit, its 10-strong colony of playful Humboldt penguins and white moustached Inca Terns from Peru and Chile in the Penguin Beach Encounter.
The marine research laboratory is a place of study and education, and home to fascinating species including lionfish, seahorses and clownfish (a striking fish which found global fame thanks to the movie “Finding Nemo.”)
Careful as you pass into Crocodile Rocks with its African dwarf crocodiles before heading to one of the attraction’s most iconic features – the Virtual Interactive Dive Cage and Underwater Tunnel, which lets you walk right through the Great Barrier Reef exhibit. Watch in wonder as “Friday” the 25-30 year old Green Sea Turtle swirls around you before coming face-to-face with other fascinating aquatic creatures usually tucked safely away deep in the Southern Hemisphere.
After emerging from the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, your tour catches up again with the Penguin Beach Encounter – this time from the depths of their tank. It’s so entertaining and strangely calming watching the penguins dive and play deep below the water’s surface.
You are then met by an intriguing bloom of jellyfish – moon jellyfish to be exact. These bell-shaped, colourless beasts are actually non-stinging and therefore quite comfortable in an exhibit right to the Kids’ Play Zone!
Your course continues into the Abyss! This murky hollow is home to some mightily strange creatures like the curious Nautilus – dubbed the “living fossil” – and the common and spiny lobster, before Global Meltdown, where you will discover exotic lionfish and bright blue and yellow Regal Tangs (think “Dory.”)
The underwater adventure ends in Key West, with the seabed-dwelling Southern Stingray. The Oceanarium has run a successful breeding programme of this species, with many rehomed in other aquaria.
If your underwater adventure has made you a little peckish, the Oceanarium is home to the popular Offshore Café, which is open to aquarium visitors and members of the public. This beachside retreat serves a range of hot and cold snacks, coffees, ice creams, cakes and sandwiches. For something a little more refined, why not check out the aquarium’s own Bay View Terrace, where you can enjoy views into the penguin tank on one side and beautiful Bournemouth beach on the other, with a range of refreshments and light bites for Oceanarium visitors only.