It would be disingenuous to call the Parque Oceanografico an aquarium.
Shielding your eyes from the reflections all you see above ground is the
wonderful, wavy white roof of the entrance building, designed by Felix Candela and the Wetlands dome and pools where the penguins and seals entertain the crowds by eating fish thrown by the park staff.
This would disguise the fact that visitors are taken on an underwater voyage
around the world’s main marine ecosystems, which can last the whole day if
the visitor sees the dolphins, seals, and penguins. This voyage takes place
mainly underground, which can be a blessing in the late summer when the
temperatures hit the high 30s and the blue skies are never ending.
The ecosystems range from the Red Sea to the Arctic and from the Tropics to
Antarctica. There are many different sections you can reach from the entrance
building. A map is essential to ensure you don’t miss something you wish to
see; a pen would be useful to mark the areas you have visited although with
over 45,000 inhabitants from around 500 different species you won’t see
everything, nor should you try.
The highlights for me were the following:
1) The Oceans section: a dumbbell shaped area, whose highlight is the tunnel
between the two main viewing areas. This whole section contains 7 million
liters of water, but in the tunnel you feel incredibly close to the sharks,
rays, and the amazing sawfish as they swim and glide inches above your head.
2) The seal diving pool: a floor to ceiling glass window where you can see the
seals follow their exercise routines, or so it seemed to me. With a slight
arch of their bodies they dive down to the lowest part of the pool where there
is a wall of rock right by the window. Just before the wall they turn over,
touch the wall with their tail, place their flippers across their chest, and
head back to the surface in an arrow-straight line at a faster pace than they
descended. The effortlessness and gracefulness was breathtaking as was the
look of contentment on their faces.
3) The Arctic section where the belugas and walruses live. The walrus was doing a similar circuit to the seals with an amazing athleticism that was beautiful to behold.
After being underground for a few hours it’s quite liberating to visit the
above ground Wetlands area where, under a 26-meter high dome, the visitor can
learn to appreciate the flora and fauna of the American mangrove swamp and
Mediterranean marshlands. The latter should be of particular interest if you
are intending to visit La Albufera lagoon seven miles south of the city.
Birds such as spoonbills and scarlet ibises fly overhead to add a hint of
authenticity to the experience.