For me, the majority of the coastline of France is either so overrun by tourists as to be indistinct, or where I have fond memories, regrettably not recommendable as they were due to occasion rather than location. One exception to this rule, and a great venue to have in the bag as a pre-ferry or tunnel activity, is the Nausicaa - perched upon the seafront of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
The Nausicaa should not be compared to the aquariums found in many towns in Britain - it's a larger, more immersive experience which communicates mans ongoing relationship with the sea. More than just tanks of fish, the theatres and films take you on a journey of understanding, leaving you feeling enriched as a result of the experience.
The Centre National de la Mer is a vast aquarium on the northern edge of Boulogne Sur Mer and a good place to take children and young people.
It offers a broad experience of the world of the oceans, as well as showing hundreds of species of fish and marine mammals in spectacular tanks, against which you can press your nose to the (toughened) glass as sharks or barracuda swim by, alarmingly close.
Adults may find it a little too didactic an experience because, in typical French fashion, there is a very great deal of information presented to you, both at the start and at every stage of your visit. It is also rather hot and, again, adults may find that, like me, they are forced to visit the excellent bar to refresh themselves before returning to the Everglades, or the Deep Oceans or whichever part of the Centre they were at when the need for sustenance overtook them.
Children, young people and adults with energy and curiosity will enjoy Nausicaa enormously.
Nausicaa, Centre National de la Mer, Boulogne Sur Mer. www.nausicaa.fr
I visited the biggest oceanarium in the world. You don't need to love fishing or a nature-freak to enjoy this. It is a great experience. There are four biotypes, each recreating one of the world’s coastal habitats. They're located in the four corner towers which encircle the central aquarium.
Together they constitute a representative set of ocean environments. And I will never forget how cute a baby sea otter can be.
Esplanada D.Carlos I
For the best entrance take the Bac from the east of the town (1.25 Euro for a boat trip in to the town).
There is plenty to see and do in and around the town, such as fishing trips, the GR34 coastal path and the unprepossing but interesting aquarium.
The biggest aquarium in the world (so they say).
If you have a day or two in Atlanta then this place is a must-see. Six different habitats (Georgia coast, Barrier Reef, Jellyfish, Tropical etc, one of them a walk-through, and one huge theatre-size auditorium).
You could spend several hours in there easily. It was funded by Bernie Marcus, the founder of Home Depot and no expense has been spared.
Book tickets online or walk up. It can get a little crowded at times, but is by far the best visitor attraction in Atlanta.
225 Baker St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
Regular hours: Mon-Thurs 10am-5pm. Fri-Sun: 9am-6pm.
Summer Hours: Mon-Thurs: 8am-6pm. Fri-Sun: 8am-7pm.
Last summer I went to the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead, Long Island, NY. It is about one hour in the car from Manhattan but there is also a train. I looked at a giant octopus and at a tank with a giant turtle with big sharks. There is a cage you can go in to be near the sharks but you have to be 12 years old or more to go in the cage. There are seals and penguins outside and the seals do tricks. But the most exciting bit was when me and my dad went swimming in a big outdoor pool with leopard sharks, rays and other fish. You wear a wetsuit and a mask and snorkel and you can touch the sharks if you want but they are quite fast. The rays are friendly and they are easier to touch. This aquarium is much better than the London aquarium, which I also like a lot.
From Finn Bennett (age 7).
431 East Main Street, Riverhead, NY 11901
Tel: 631 208 9200
Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay is a walkthrough aquarium where you get the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of fish and sea creatures including, of course, sharks.
You walk through various themed areas – Jungle, Temple and Shipwreck – guided by both your “passport”, which includes some handy photographs for identifying various species, and an extremely informative audio guide.
Along the way you will see some of what must be some of the most beautiful and bizarre creatures on the planet. Spots, stripes, bright reds, vivacious blues and poster paint yellow catch your eye, as does the range of shapes and sizes from dainty angelfish to huge tarpons and gracefully sleek stingrays. Try and look out for the lookdown, whose flat face makes it seems as if it has just run into a wall, and the magnificent lionfish, a blend of stripes, fans and tendrils that looks like it should be fantasy rather than reality.
Rays swim in a small pool where you're encouraged – under supervision – to touch them. It’s a strange sensation. I thought they would be soft and squashy but instead they felt rather hard and leathery. A nearby display of jellyfish again look like creations of an imagination run wild.
The culmination of the tour is the shipwreck where, in a huge tank, sharks and fish swim round, under and above you. The sharks are amazing creatures, inspiring an almost primeval sense of both fear and respect. Wait for one to swim over your head so you can see its rows of teeth and feel that slight tremor go up your spine.
Education and conservation are two of the aims of the aquarium - it has links to various organisations that promote research and conservation – and I liked the last page of the passport guide that gives some small tips about how people can try and help conserve the environment.
At the Mandalay Bay Hotel, 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
In Dalian, by the sea, the terrible sight of two polar bears in a tiny, tiny tank, obviously going insane with desperation. It's on a par with the handicapped baby beggars for misery. Chinese people thought it highly entertaining, mistaking the repetitive movements for some kind of dance. Really horrible.
As one of Europe's premier aquariums Aquarium La Rochelle knows it has to impress the visitors who dish out 10 euros at the cashier. The aquarium will not disappoint. Spectacular stuff. You enter through an 'elevator' which simulates a ride deep into the sea. When you emerge you are in a tunnel surrounded by water. From there on in it gets better.
Open 365 days a year.
Situated walking distance from the Old Harbour and the Train Station.
Bassin des Grands Yachts - BP4
17002 La Rochelle
Tel: 33 (0)5 46 34 00 00
The old town of Rhodes is a beautiful walled town with narrow cobbled streets and some wonderful looking restaurants nestled in the walls of a palace. I also saw an old man feeding a group of cats down at Mandrake Harbour, which is also gorgeous. There is a bizarre aquarium down there with a selection of embalmed and living sea animals - most notably a rather large shark which haunted me when I went scuba diving later on in the holiday.
The whole island is lovely and only about 50 miles wide, so you can get around easily - and all the taxi drivers seem to drive Mercedes and are about 105 years old.
Just outside downtown Vancouver, Stanley park is a delightful wooded and grassed park on a peninsula in Burrard Inlet with wonderful views of Lion's Gate Bridge and Vancouver Harbour. You can spend several days here wandering around the forest paths, bathing at the beaches, seeing the impressive totem poles, as well as visiting the fantastic aquarium or relaxing in the Rose Garden.
Just go there and see for yourself why it's so great!
1 mile to the west of downtown Vancouver;
One of the best attractions in the city, and a must-see for visitors. It is expensive - $27 single or $65 for a family of four - but well worth it. From the large opening platypus tank (try and count the shrimp) to the crocodile, seals and penguins, the aquarium has all the big draws. The most popular area is the shark tunnel - but don't miss the stunning Barrier Reef exhibit. Dozens of smaller tanks cover all of Australia's marine habitats - it really is a great aquarium.
Darling Harbour, west of the city centre
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