The aquarium is one of those places you first go to as a school field trip, and then find yourself returning to during the beginning of a relationship. For the former it is to learn, for the latter, it is an activity that keeps a new couple entertained. There are plenty of conversation starters to take in as a pair explores the space. We aren’t a new couple, and are able to go through lengthy periods of silence in comfort, but my partner has never been and with a new exhibit, we found ourselves here this Saturday.
Located within Stanley Park the parking is plentiful, but not cheap. With no change given back and preset hours, we found ourselves spending over $11 for a two our stay.
The entrance to the aquarium was lined with local artists wanting your money for an on the spot portrait. A water fountain set with a killer whale sculpture greets your admission.
Adults tickets are $31 each, whereas youth and seniors pay $22, kids 4-12 are $16, and under 3 is free. Then there were annual memberships, but at my age I don’t feel the need to come back often, or even again for a long while, so passed. But I can see this as a great hot spot for young families. There were plenty of pay dates here today.
The honorary money grab stopped you from entering right away. A green screen and the option for you to stand in front of it for a photo momento. We passed.
The aquarium is divided into several sections. We took the time to explore each one. The photos are of what I thought was note, worthy and some of the straight forward and quotes my partner laid down.
A new feature for me was the orange and blue glowing jelly fish tank. It was built to dimensions that made it the perfect size to use as wallpaper for your selfie. They had better chances of getting people to pose for a souvenir photo and pay for it in front of this. There was even a line to get close. We waited as everyone took their turn turning their backs to it, where as the intention was to stare forward. The jellyfish were hypnotizing with their slow moving, flapping parts. They had a magical iridescent glow worthy of getting lost in.
There were more jelly fish in the “Pacific Canada” section, if you didn’t want to wait or be in someone’s background.
The first area we explored was the “Pacific Canada, treasures of the BC coast” section. I remembered visiting the aquarium and deeming this part my least favourite, but after now having visited each of the areas in person, I appreciated it more.
To see what is under water, inches from where we have stood. Everything became interesting as I recalled memories from each place. And the scenes that we saw when we went.
When I wanted to take a closer look at the neon algae, coral, and starfish; my partner exclaimed that he was here to see big things, and not use a magnifying glass.
Therefore he was immensely pleased with the tank all the way at the back. This dissolution featured a shark, a giant sea turtle and a large manta ray, amongst other sea life.
His first thought was that there was no way the shark could eat the turtle. And it wasn’t because of its size or its hard shell, but because he believed that the turtle was so old and had so much respect from the other marine animals that no one messed with him.
The “Tropic Zone” with its warmer temperature was my favourite area. I loved how they the air got thicker and the humidity muggier. As soon as you pulled the glass door open it hits you and you know you aren’t exploring the Pacific coast anymore.
Although I was sad to see that the Amazon tank no longer had its giant fish swimming within the flooded forest, and that the sloth no longer called the court yard its home.
I enjoyed the foliage of the area the most. The way they used it in detail displays, and how authentic and realistic it made each enclosure feel. Especially in the courtyard where you can reach out and touch it and were forced to move out of its way. You ducked and weaved between the branches that jutted out, and avoiding the birds that flew from right to left.
The path that led though the space made for a great interactive experience. The birds and wild life were not held behind glass. They weren’t open for touching, or for you to get close to; but gave you just enough nearness to make you feel like this was a more immersive experience.
Pools of water separated by banisters were home to black rays with white spots and grey fish. On land was a family of turtles huddled by a heat lamp for warmth.
We took a pause to watch the parrots shimmy along their poles, crunching on apple wedges, and grooming one another with their beaks.
My partner’s excitement for the crocodile didn’t last after he saw it keep still. “It’s not doing much, looks like it’s on heavy mode”.
The bats were holed up in a dark room. They fluttered around aiming for one of the two strung up feeders of fruit. According to my partner, for them it was, “fly, fly, eat, shit, repeat”.
I appreciated the colour that the poisonous frogs developed to warn predators.
The “BC Wild Coast” exhibit was outside and it was home to the larger marine life. We came in time to catch the tail end of their dolphin show. An announcer broadcasted facts while trainers and dolphins put on the actual show.
They gave a performance that included high flying jumps and splashes of fins. The dolphins took commands in exchange for whole fish from a cooler. There are also other shows that similarly draw crowds at specific times. Groups gather to see the seals, penguins, and belugas performing.
After the show and the groups of people dissipated, the dolphins returned to their holding areas free for everyone to gawk at from overhead, on a wooden walkway.
We watched to see if they would jump and chirp without a command and the promise of being fed. Instead we saw the beluga do laps and the “splash zone” barren.
The sea lions however barked for attention. One did so just so he could poop in plain view and make us his unwilling audience. It was not a graceful thing, a spray of brown and a scent to match.
The Penguins were a newer exhibit. They were all huddled in a corner, almost hiding in shade and from the watchful eyes and cameras passing by their enclosure.
I was starting to feel bad for all the animals. Their tanks were left empty to give their audiences an unobstructed view. Like having an all white empty bedroom. There was no where they could be alone, no where to hide.
There was even an underground viewing area where you could see the beluga in his tank underwater. A 125 degree look with rows of benches for lengthier stays.
Our last stop was their new heavily advertised exhibit. The one where you could pet actual rays. You begin by washing your hands with soap. And claiming a perch around the room sized shallow pool.
Our host walked everyone through the process. You just place your hand flat and still in the water and the rays come to you. They seem to enjoy the touch and actually pet themselves using your palm. Fun, but like ice skating, after a few laps you are good and ready to move on.
In regular tourist fashion, the exit is through the gift shop. If you can walk past their stuffed animals, glass figurines, and stationary without being tempted, you get to leave.
We expected more and that we would take more than two hours to go through it all. But even with this being my partner’s first time, we kept the visit fairly short. I blame technology and our need to constantly being engaging in something new and different.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
To be honest, I don’t think it necessary to return any time soon. We saw it all and we took it all in. As great as seeing all these animals was, it was nothing compared to encountering them in the wild. I see this attraction as one being more for families with yearly passes, and couples going on dates just something to do. They even have evening entry for adults on select days. And during that time you can sip cocktails and explore all of the aquarium without children.
845 Avison Way, Vancouver BC, V6G 3E2