I spent a fun-filled morning with my family as guests of the Vancouver Aquarium where the kids enjoyed interactive displays and learning about marine life around the world.
When I was little we spent school field trips perched on the edges of our bleacher seats watching the majestic orcas perform stunts for handycam-toting crowds. Nowadays the orcas are gone, their large pool has been transformed into more of a learning and research zone and the home of four Pacific White-Sided Dolphins.
Next to them you’ll find the otters (who are totally internet-famous), sea lions, and the beluga habitat.
Since there was a baby beluga born June 10th they are limiting the amount of foot-traffic passing through the underwater viewing area so the line ups are long. They begin at 10:15 so it’s best to show up early if you’d like to catch a glimpse of the little one, however you can still view the tank from above water (and there’s also the beluga cam online).
Inside the aquarium there are several exhibits that showcase everything from exotic frogs to creatures and plant life of the Pacific Coast.
Known to my niece and nephews as, “the stinky area,” the rainforest portion is almost just as I remembered it from childhood, complete with things flying at your head that you hope are simply butterflies.
The gift shop seems to have branched downstairs as well as outside alongside the snack bar leaving stroller navigation to be a somewhat difficult task when the throngs of families, AquaCampers and school groups appear. But whatever the Aquarium lacks in space it makes up for in education.
There is a kids zone with interactive displays and live shows daily, computer screens to touch, puzzles to solve, wheels to crank, and portholes to look through. Each display is accompanied by a photo and a write up featuring information about the animal and its natural habitat.
The dolphin shows are also rather brief, which is nice to see, and they do not simply make them do tricks to entertain (although they do love to show off). In about 10 minutes we learned all about dolphin markings, habits, traits, and the Ocean Wise program for sustainable seafood choices.
A day at the Aquarium for the family may not be on my “cheap things to do” list however if you live in Metro Vancouver the annual family pass is definitely a cost-saver (two adults and three kids for $125/year).
Nothing will compare to the experience John and I had on Salt Spring Island when we spotted a Pacific Dolphin circling the water around us while we were perched on a rock at the opening of a bay. However, when it comes to education and ‘reaching the masses’ the Vancouver Aquarium is doing the best it can to heighten awareness and conservation with regards to our fragile oceans and ecosystems.