Posts Tagged ‘Largest Aquariums in the world’

Waking up the next morning, our rent a car had arrived at a nice and early 9 AM, so we made our way downstairs to the lobby of the Chisun Hotel and Resort to begin the day. Our day was filled with activities from Ocean Expo park to the northern tip of Okinawa island to Cape Hedo. To begin our day we punched in some coordinates in the GPS of our rent-a-car (unfortunately all in Japanese – if you have no one who who can speak Japanese ask the hotel Lobby to input the coordinates for you) and began our 2 hour drive North. The trip will cost you around 1000 yen in toll charges, but at the time they were trying to make tolls free in Okinawa so we didn’t need to pay. At the date of writing this blog, the tolls could now very well be free, but you will need to do your own research on that. On your way to aquarium if you are driving, there is often signs were you can pick up discounted tickets, we stopped by at a tourist office just after the Nago exit and picked up our tickets for 1800 yen. 

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is the second largest aquarium in the world and after some photo ops out front with whale shark and turtle statue/sculptures, we made our way inside for what would be one of the best aquariums I have had the pleasure to visit in a long time. I believe the only other aquarium that is bigger by volume of water held is in Seattle (possibly) but if you’re in Asia this particular aquarium is probably much closer to visit. The name itself translates into ‘beautiful – chura’ ocean/sea ‘umi’, and thats exactly the surreal experience you will get upon entering. Now unlike the Kaiyukan aquarium in Osaka, the Okinawa Aquarium does not have a large variety of animals, but rather they specialize in fish, but in saying that there is a massive quantity of fish in this aquarium. While the main highly is the tank with the whale sharks (which large would be an understatement) there are several other exhibits that are worthy of a look – these include the shark exhibit, the preserved squid, and the crustacean exhibits, but back to the main tank; The main tank holds the whale sharks (there’s actually a few of them), there is not a lot of tanks in the world that actually hold these mammoth beasts, and seeing them swimming gracefully in a large aquarium held inside by several inches think of a type of plexy glass is a pretty surreal experience. Inside the tank there is also a variety of other sharks, fish and massive shoals of tiny fish. The mood is set by the 360 degrees around the tank being dark with the tank lit up, these makes for some pretty amazing photography even with a compact camera (if you can hold it still enough). If you’re an avid fish lover im sure you would be able to spend several days enjoying this aquarium, but for the average person a few hours should suffice (allow more if you have small kids). Upon finishing up with the aquarium you can go to the dolphin show which is a few hundred metres to the left of the exit of the aquarium (I believe this is free even if you dont have an aqarium pass). But just before leaving don’t forget to pick up a souvenir gold coin which you can get for 500 yen or so just like everywhere else in Japan.

As we had jsut missed the dolphin show for that hour we made our way via golf buggy type vehicles that will cart you around Ocean Expo park for a small fee of 200 yen return or 100 yen one way, towards the Tropical Dream Center. The Tropical Dream Center is home to several greenhouses, and water features that feature flora and a small amount of fauna. It costs 330 yen if you have an aquarium ticket and it is definitely great value for money. Like most places in Japan the gardens are well manicured and make for more great photo opportunities. Before starting your journey of tranquillity make sure you pick up a stamp passport for free, as you can collect upwards of 20 stamps along the way. As you make your way through the greenhouses (one at a time – all connected in some form of path) you will find a multitude of tropical flowers, more than you probably want to see. (We made our way through collecting the stamps) A good highly for us was the tropical fruit trees, of which you can see most of the fruit growing on the trees. When you get bored of the greenhouses make your way to the tower, which is by far the main feature of the Tropical Dream Center, you make your way to the top only to be met with amazing views of the ocean and the surrounding area. If it’s a hot day, standing on the top of the tower provides a refreshing breeze that you just don’t get being at sea level. At the bottom of hte tower there is a nice tranquil water feature, where you can sit on a nearby bench and listen to the sounds of hte water come by. Finally there is also a small fish section that keeps some freshwater fish inside one of the buildings, but after seeing the aquarium this exhibit is pretty dismal compared to seeing whale sharks. Being a bit tired we spent a bit of time sitting on the benches before making our way back to the dolphin show.

If your plan is to spend a whole day at Ocean Expo Park then you can take advantage of seeing other attractions including the Oceanic Culture Museum, and just strolling around Expo Parks gardens and parks (which include a traditional Okinawan village, and brilliant ocean views), but as we had plans to visit the northern tip of Okinawa we finished up our day here at the dolphin show. Walking back to the dolphin show takes about 10-15 minutes if you walk at a leisurely pace, and on the way there is souvenir shops and large area with buildings selling food. Grabbing a bite to eat while waiting for the last 10-15 minutes before the dolphin show started, we enjoyed the tranquil music being played out of the speakers around the park. 

Finishing up this part of the day, the Dolphin show was a worthwhile attracting. The show featured several dolphins and trainers doing spectacular tricks, with some even having the dolphins jump several meters out of the air. The dolphins are trained to dance to music and the show is fun for the whole family.

Before concluding this blog, a few notes on the area: parking, the dolphin show, and walking around the grounds are all free, so if you are really struck for cash, you could spend a day here exploring the area and watching the dolphin show for free. 

Stay tuned for the second half of this hectic day to come soon.

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