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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Valencia, Spain: The City of Arts and Sciences

Written by Julian Worker
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It would be disingenuous to call the Parque Oceanografico an aquarium.

Shielding your eyes from the reflections all you see above ground is the

wonderful, wavy white roof of the entrance building, designed by Felix Candela and the Wetlands dome and pools where the penguins and seals entertain the crowds by eating fish thrown by the park staff.  

This would disguise the fact that visitors are taken on an underwater voyage

around the world’s main marine ecosystems, which can last the whole day if

the visitor sees the dolphins, seals, and penguins. This voyage takes place

mainly underground, which can be a blessing in the late summer when the

temperatures hit the high 30s and the blue skies are never ending.    


The ecosystems range from the Red Sea to the Arctic and from the Tropics to

Antarctica. There are many different sections you can reach from the entrance

building. A map is essential to ensure you don’t miss something you wish to

see; a pen would be useful to mark the areas you have visited although with

over 45,000 inhabitants from around 500 different species you won’t see

everything, nor should you try. 


The highlights for me were the following: 


1) The Oceans section: a dumbbell shaped area, whose highlight is the tunnel

between the two main viewing areas. This whole section contains 7 million

liters of water, but in the tunnel you feel incredibly close to the sharks, 

rays, and the amazing sawfish as they swim and glide inches above your head. 


2) The seal diving pool: a floor to ceiling glass window where you can see the

seals follow their exercise routines, or so it seemed to me. With a slight

arch of their bodies they dive down to the lowest part of the pool where there

is a wall of rock right by the window. Just before the wall they turn over, 

touch the wall with their tail, place their flippers across their chest, and

head back to the surface in an arrow-straight line at a faster pace than they

descended. The effortlessness and gracefulness was breathtaking as was the

look of contentment on their faces. 


3) The Arctic section where the belugas and walruses live. The walrus was doing a similar circuit to the seals with an amazing athleticism that was beautiful to behold.    


After being underground for a few hours it’s quite liberating to visit the

above ground Wetlands area where, under a 26-meter high dome, the visitor can

learn to appreciate the flora and fauna of the American mangrove swamp and

Mediterranean marshlands. The latter should be of particular interest if you

are intending to visit La Albufera lagoon seven miles south of the city.

Birds such as spoonbills and scarlet ibises fly overhead to add a hint of

authenticity to the experience. 

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Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2013

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