I’m just under half-way through my first working visa and I feel like I’m running out of time. With approximately two months left in which to enjoy as much as Melbourne has to offer, I decided it was time to pull my finger out and start ticking off some attractions.
I recently threw together a list of things that combined things I wanted to do, recommendations and upcoming evens in Melbourne to give me an idea of precisely how much I’ve got to try and squeeze in. I reckon when I do leave the city I might throw together my own visitor’s guide, or similar, based on my experiences here. Anyway, on with the aquarium!
I’ll begin with some free advice; if you’re keen to go to the aquarium, buy your tickets online. There are two reasons for this, the first and most important is that it’s cheaper. You can save around 10 to 20% buy buying online. The second is that with a ticket in hand on arrival, you can beat the queue and walk straight in. This is incredibly convenient if, like me, you decided to have a lazy Saturday morning and not get there until the early afternoon.
The aquarium is spread across four levels, and there’s a one way, self-guided tour route that leads you through all of the themed zones. As my housemate Elena had the day off work, I dragged her along with me. We started off in the Bay of Rays which, apparently, has the world’s only display of elephant sharks. Having never seen an elephant shark before, I was inclined to believe the claim. The creatures living here are all local to Melbourne, naturally residing in Port Phillip Bay.
Our journey continued further afield from Melbourne with rock pools and mangrove swamps and on to coral caves. Things got a little brighter and the children present pointed out all the Dorys and Nemos in the neon tanks. Good work, Disney. Sometimes I’m a little skeptical about the colours on show, so I’m looking forward to future opportunities to see coral reefs without the potential for artificial adjustments.
Progress through the aquarium’s opening zones descends with the ocean and took us deeper and further out to sea. Passing through a shipwreck we came to the first of the big attractions; the oceanarium. I’m used to seeing big tanks, particularly when sharks are about but this was another kind of big. We began in a seated area with a large acrylic panel at the front, not unlike a cinema and I could easily have sat there for three hours and enjoyed the show.
Home to a variety of reef sharks and rays, some of which could have easily covered a table, and various fish it was easy to lose track of time watching the natural elegance of these creatures as they passed by. The layout of the oceanarium was in impressive in itself, we were led through tunnels and halls and it could often seem like it were the fish who had come to see the humans.
Next up would have been a loggerhead turtle but due to what I will assume was excellent work on the part of the aquarium, it had been recently released back into the wild. From my understanding, turtles can’t survive in the colder waters around Victoria, so when they do wash up the aquarium takes them in, rehabilitates them and releases them up in Queensland.
Around a very long corner we had our first encounter with the aquarium’s newest and no doubt largest animal; the saltwater crocodile, Pinjarra. By my reckoning, the crocodile is the only life-threatening beast out here that you can actually justify any fear of. Sharks, snakes and spiders, they’re mostly just out minding their own business. Sharks are pretty dumb and they’ll most likely bite you out of curiosity or because they mistake you for a seal. You’ll probably have to upset a snake or disturb a spider’s peace to get it to have a nibble on you. Salt water crocodiles, on the other hand, will attack you because you have entered their territory and as such have declared yourself fair game.
I think Elena and I probably had the most fun in the next zone; Rainforest Adventure. It all kicked off when I got shot, I leaned over an open tank to take a photograph of a member of staff feeding some fish when I was hit. The fish being fed were archerfish, named for their hunting technique; they shoot water out of their mouths at low flying insects to bring them down into the water. One of the fish had decided that either my hand, or my phone, looked like a decent meal.
After teasing the archerfish a little more, being surprised every time one of them managed a direct hit, we caught up with some of the reptiles and amphibians on display. Seeing who could spot the most frogs, guessing what the lizards would sound like if they could talk and impersonating turtles were all reminders that children don’t have to have the most fun at places like these.
The final zone of the day was the Penguin Playground, home to gentoo and king penguins. The king penguins were mostly chilling on the ice, looking like regal waiters. The gentoos were having a bit more fun, waddling about, jumping on rocks and darting through the water.
I believe that the aquarium is good value for a morning or afternoon indoors. It certainly made for a pleasant change from being at the beach, lazing in a park in the sun or knocking the beers back. There’s plenty to be seen and if, like me, you’re a fan of sea-life, you could easily sit in front of the larger tanks and let life quite literally pass you by.