I finally visited the aquarium this last Saturday. I’ve past by it dozens of times only a couple of miles from my school. Like many things in China, it was such a great idea that had so much potential but was carried out in a mediocre fashion.
However, that’s coming from someone who has been to Sea World and other world-class aquariums. For many Chinese people, this is the closest thing they will ever get to the sea or ocean and they really wouldn’t know any better that sea turtles need space.
Like many great aquariums that opened in the 1990s all across America (Chattanooga Aquarium, TN; River Journey, Denver; Dallas World Aquarium, TX), this one tries to take the visitor on a journey through different habitats including the river rainforest habitat, the reef and the deep ocean. That’s why the first exhibits you see are jungle enclosures with sloths and peacocks. It looks like there should have been more but one of the enclosures was being renovated.
The aquarium is also home to a couple varieties of seal, dolphins and sea lions in addition to the usual fish, sharks and rays. One of the coolest exhibits is the reef. It’s really a great idea. We’ve all seen the cylindrical tanks with fish swimming in circles in a large school. Well, this one does basically the same thing, but puts the visitor in the middle of the cylinder so that there are fish 360 degrees around you.
Perhaps the saddest part of the aquarium though was the dolphin show and the sea lion enclosures. The dolphins were more fun to watch without trainers trying to get them to do tricks. Once the trainers showed up, I felt like the dolphins’ intelligence was taken for granted. The trainers didn’t have good relationships with the animals, and the dolphins obviously didn’t want to respond. Before the trainers showed up the dolphins were playing with each other and having fun.
The sea lions also put on a show, similar to the one I wrote about for the wildlife park. It was basic and slapped the intelligence right out of the animal. The saddest part though was their enclosures. They were smaller than my bedroom growing up.
I was also disappointed with the water tunnels that didn’t have many fish and the only sharks were nurse sharks sitting at the bottom. We didn’t stick around for the mermaid show, but that’s okay. Overall, it was a neat experience. I did get to feed some seals. However, unlike with the wildlife park, the cons definitely outweighed the pros at the aquarium.
I don’t know what my next animal adventure in China will be, but I’ll tell you all about it even if it isn’t til next summer when I make a trip to see the pandas near Chengdu.