EXPLORING EXPLORIS AQUARIUM
The island of Ireland is such a beautiful place to live or visit. The extensive 1970 mile coastline of rugged cliffs, rocky outlets and stunning beaches is thriving with wildlife; from waterfowl and scallops to colourful reefs and seals, it really is an amazing place to visit.
It’s often difficult getting up close and personal when it comes to wildlife, so having Exploris Aquarium right on our doorstep is handy. Marine life, reptiles and a fantastic outside viewing area where you can see the short-clawed otters as well as the seal rehabilitation area, Exploris Aquarium has them all and more.
The Callaghan Possy visited Exploris Aquarium on a damp day (when is it anything other in Northern Ireland) to keep Lily-Belle and Matilda occupied during the half term break. Parking is available in the public car park which is adjacent, but beware, spaces are limited. We had to queue for a short while for entry, and the ‘meet and greet’ employee advised us this was because the touch tanks are close to the entrance and the area can get busy.
DON’T TOUCH UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT TO
Reception was a quick and pleasant enough experience, pricing explained and a colourful map provided along with a brief explanation of where to go. Once inside there was a young lady (employee) at the touch tanks, she was explaining about the different species within and gave the children an opportunity to hold starfish, clams and sea urchins, plus the chance to touch (not hold) crabs…Lily-Belle and Matilda enjoyed this quite a lot, and Matilda got squirted with water by the clam….quite amusing. The only downside for me was that it was very noisy, lots of children shouting and screaming, paying no attention whatsoever, so unless you were stood right next to the person speaking, you couldn’t hear her, maybe the use of a megaphone or microphone/speaker system would help. We ended up moving beside her so we could hear her better.
FINDING NEMO WAS EASY PEASY
After a while, we move on to the next area which had tanks filled with lots of different species of fish; including clown fish and blue tang fish aka Nemo and Dory, this area proved quite popular with our children, especially Matilda, Finding Nemo and Finding Dory are her two favourite movies at the moment. There’s a beautiful curved glass tank with moray eels, and although rather shy in the ocean, they were very active in the tank that they shared with rays.
NOT YOUR EVERYDAY WOLF
The Ocean Tank, with a large sloped glass viewing area, was great for getting a fish-eye view of the sharks. There are lots of other marine species within the ocean tank, including the rather odd looking Atlantic Wolffish, I wouldn’t want to meet it on a night dive that’s for sure.
IT WAS DEFINITELY GETTING ‘OTTER’ OUTSIDE
There was a break in the weather and the temperature was on the rise, you could say it was getting ‘otter’ outside. We took this as an opportunity to go outside and see the seals in their new enclosure. Great area and the seals performed graceful acrobats in the pool area. Two of the seals ventured over to the glass where they happily posed for photos with Lily-Belle and Spotty.
RESCUE, RECOVER AND RELEASE
Outside there is a seal hospital, a place where sick and injured seals get to rest and recover before being released back into the wild, what I liked most was that there is one way glass so you can see the seals but they cannot see nor hear you, this gives them complete privacy to rest and recuperate. There is a wall board beside the sanctuary with the names of all the seals Exploris Aquarium had Rescued and Released over the years, which we thought was a nice touch. To date a total of 388 seals have been successfully released, amazing work.
WHEN IS A HORSE NOT A HORSE
The aquarium has different names for each area such as Smugglers Cove, Pirates Cave, Under the Lough and a few more, a full detailed Explore and Tour plan is available on the Exploris Aquarium website. One fish you should definitely visit is the seahorse, watching them flutter their fins and glide effortlessly through the water is spectacular, such a delicate little creature and truly unique.
fascinating fact: did you now, seahorses are among the only animal species on Earth in which the male bears the unborn young…no, me neither…consider yourself educated.
IN A WHILE CROCODILE
Each of us had different areas that we enjoyed, for the girls it was the Kids Touch Zone where they got to hold rays, aptly named Ray Ray and Roy Ray, and they also loved the seals. I have always had an interest in Herpetology, so I particularly enjoyed the small Rainforest area where you got to see a beautiful python, a gorgeous corn snake and a rather angry looking Nile crocodile. For Lynne it was the otters, they were so skittish yet very playful. We were extremely privileged to see the new baby otter playing close to the entrance of it’s den, especially as several of the staff hadn’t seen the otter for themselves, he was a little cutie.
TIME TO FEED OUR OWN LITTLE MONKEYS
There is a cafe on site with detailed hand-painted murals on the walls, each inspired by the aquarium itself. The cafe was staffed well, 6 on duty that we counted, so we didn’t have to wait long to get served. A decent menu with local produce and plenty to choose from. Lynne and I had paninis, and the girls had the ‘Under the Sea’ kids meal of Captain Peg Leg sausages. The food was lovely and very reasonably priced. A bigger selection of buns/tray bakes would have been appreciated, it was a busy day so maybe we were just a little late.
The gift shop is very well stocked and has something for every child’s budget; small ocean toys at four for £1 and large teddy sea creatures at £20; with much more in between.
We had a fantastic day out at Exploris, very engaging and lots of animal-child interaction available. We would happily recommend this venue to others.
tip: if you are still at Exploris Aquarium at the end of the day, walk back on yourself as the tanks are very quiet towards closing time, perfect opportunity for taking photos.
Tel: (0044) 028 4272 8062
Send a message: Exploris Aquarium contact page
Opening hours: Mon to Sun from 10:00 until 17:00, last admission 16:00
Price: £29.50 (at the door) or £24.50 (online + fast track entry) for 2 adults and 2 children, there are other pricing options available, to view click Exploris Aquarium Pricing
Car Park: there is a public car park adjacent to Exploris Aquarium, limited spaces available
information, currency and prices are correct at time of post
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All views, opinions and experiences are that of The Callaghan Possy and are correct at time of publication. Photos taken by Andrew Callaghan for use and distribution by Around The world In 18 Years.