Have you visited the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC? It’s pretty sweet: friendly people, decent weather, excellent restaurants and — if you love nature, especially — endless fun adventures. My recent Alaskan cruise ported out of Vancouver, so I was able to spend four days checking out this fantastic city, including a fun-packed (and educational) afternoon at the very impressive Vancouver Aquarium. Let’s check it out!
Long-time readers know that Aquariums are my jam, having visited one in cities like Atlanta, Long Beach, Seattle, Boston, New Orleans and right here at home in New York. You might see a lot of same animals at these aquariums, but each facility has features that make it unique.
What stood out for me about the Vancouver Aquarium is their Marine Mammal Rescue Center, a hospital for sick, injured, or orphaned marine mammals which rescues stranded animals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. If their injuries are too severe, or they were orphaned too young to fend for themselves, they are given sanctuary at the aquarium.
Some of these animals have very inspiring stories. Meet Donnelly, a harbor seal who was rescued from Indian Arm after she was struck by a boat. Donnelly arrived at the Rescue Center in critical condition with a poor prognosis, but the veterinary team performed extensive surgery to repair her severe head injuries. Donnelly was left blind by her injuries, and she was deemed non-releasable, meaning she would no longer be able to survive in the wild on her own. She now has a good life at the aquarium where she also brings happiness to others with her beauty and playfulness
As an aside, it turned out that Donnelly was pregnant, and her condition improved so that she delivered a healthy female pup, named Dory, in July of 2021. Dory is the first harbor seal born at the rescue center. She stayed with her mom until she was weaned at about 7 weeks old and was later released into the wild.
This is a mother sea lion named Rogue and her male pup, Natoa, who was just born in September of 2022. Because Natoa is a baby, they have their own pool to keep them safe. It’s lots of fun to watch them swim and play.
Feeding times for seals and sea lions are posted, so you can watch them get fed, which is always fun. Although you can tell that they are intelligent animals, they are not forced to do any tricks to get their food.
If you enjoy visiting the sea lions, you will flip over the five adorable sea otters — all rescues from locations including Washington State, Alaska and Canada — who make their home at the aquarium, bringing joy to all who visit.
The rescued Vancouver Aquarium otters were orphaned too young to survive on their own.
I can’t even, with the cuteness.
These otters seem to almost never rest, and it is hypnotizing to just watch them swim and dive.
Their habitat has a viewing panel so that you can watch them do their thing underwater. Nature is awesome.
Not only will you see lots of cute animals, you will also learn interesting facts about them. This aquarium docent is holding an otter pelt, which we were allowed to touch. He told us that one square-inch of otter fur has over one million hairs on it. One million hairs! How did they even keep an accurate count? Since an otter’s fur is so dense, water literally never touches their skin. This is how they stay warm in the cold waters of the pacific northwest. Otter facts!
The aquarium is also home to a group of endangered African Penguins, who live in an exhibit called Penguin Point.
Penguin Point is inspired by Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, the penguin’s natural home. A 180-degree view allows visitors to see the penguins in action as they waddle on the rocks and swim in the surrounding water. The African penguin is the only penguin known to live along the southern coasts of Africa today. Trivia: a docent told us that these penguins poop something like 8 times an hour, so it is a big job to keep their tank water clear. TMI!
After spending time outdoors with the sea lions, otters and penguins, it was time to venture inside and explore further. While I can’t cover everything we saw at the Vancouver Aquarium — because it is huge — please enjoy these highlights from a few of my favorite exhibits.
Possibly my favorite thing to see at any aquarium is a big tank of undulating jellyfish, and the Vancouver Aquarium does not disappoint, as it showcases jelly species from around the world. The exhibit pictured above is sponsored by a generous donation from BMO Financial Group, so it is called the BMO Jellyfish Bloom.
This photo was taken right after some food (I believe it was krill) was dropped into the tank.
The biologists on staff culture the jellyfish not only for their exhibits, but also for education and research. They are continually propagating a number of jelly species to expand their knowledge of these animals’ life history and environmental needs. Me, I just like looking at them.
This tank, which is also huge, held an entirely different species of jellyfish. There were hundreds of them.
This spotted jellyfish lives in the tank pictured above. Very fancy!
This cylindrical tank lets visitors get a 360-degree view of yet another species of jellyfish. If there was an aquarium with just jellyfish, I would go there. Find out lots of cool Jellyfish Facts at This Link.
When you get tired of geeking-out over all of the insanely cool jellyfish, you can move on to the amazing frogs exhibit, Frogs Forever? (question mark, theirs). Sorry I couldn’t wait for this guy to move out of the above shot, because there were frogs to look at. Let’s go!
If you like frogs, then Frogs Forever will make you lose your mind completely.
The exhibit features many specimens of frogs and other amphibians, including what are commonly known as Poison Dart Frogs — which are very tiny (about the size of your thumb pad) and brightly-colored. This is a Blue Poison Dart Frog. The black spots are unique to each frog, enabling individuals to be identified. You can also tell that this is a male frog, because the tips of its toes are heart shaped (females have round toe tips). The bright blue color serves as a warning sign to predators, as its skin secretes a toxin that will paralyze and sometimes kill.
These are Strawberry Poison Frogs. Like most poison frogs, this species exhibits parental care of its young. Nice!
Behold, the Panamanian Golden Frog: very tiny and very poisonous. Again, its bright color sends a message that it is not to be messed with. Its black and yellow skin oozes a potent nerve toxin that’s unique to the species. One frog can produce enough toxin to kill 1,200 mince! This species is critically endangered, but you can help save it by donating to efforts that protect and keep their rainforest homes intact. Just do it!
These guys are called Titicaca Water Frogs — a species endemic to the high elevation cold-water Lake Titicaca (on the border of Bolivia and Peru) for which it is named.
This giant Tadpole is what a frog looks like before it grows its legs, by which point its tail has disappeared.
I couldn’t leave the amphibians without giving a shout-out to one of my favorites, the Mexican neotenic mole salamander known as the Axolotl. Sadly, these guys are also endangered because apparently they taste like delicious chicken. Stop eating them!
Let’s look at some fish. This is a Lagoon Trigger Fish — very pretty!
These little guys are called Clown Anemone. As the movie Finding Nemo showed, Nemo’s dad and his eggs depend on sea anemones for protection.
This fish here floated in place for a few minutes and looked like it was talking to me, but as soon as I took this photo, it clammed up. Because, camera shy.
These Glass Catfish are truly transparent! You can see its skeleton and all of its internal organs which are tucked into the first quarter of its body. These fish are native to the slow-moving rivers of Thailand.
These Xingu (Shin Gu) River Rays (there are two of them) were born at the Aquarium on August 1st, 2019. They are native to Brazil and live at the river bottom. Let’s get a closer look.
They were swimming around when was I there, but you might also ‘spot’ them hiding under the logs in their pool or half-buried beneath the sand. They are really beautiful.
Believe it or not, there’s a rainforest inside the aquarium! That’s where you’ll find this cute little Goeldi Monkey. Goeldi monkeys are adapted to life to the trees. Signage stresses that monkeys do not make good pets. They need to be left in their preferred habitat, the undisturbed primary forests of Peru, to live with their own kind. They are endangered due to poaching/illegal trade and deforestation. Please help them by supporting your preferred Rainforest Preservation Charity.
These Orange Sea Pens may look like plants, but that is not the case. One Sea Pen is actually a colony of individual animals (called Polyps) living together as one organism. Crazy.
Just one tank over from the Sea Pens, you will find the Giant Plumose Anemone. This sea anemone has two types of tentacles: tiny feeding ones and bigger, more opaque catch tentacles, which they use to attack other sea anemones that come too close. Hardcore!
I hope you have enjoyed this vicarious trip to the marvelous Vancouver Aquarium, and that you can plan to visit in person very soon. We spent about 5 or 6 hours there and weren’t bored for even one second. The only reason we left was because the place was closing! Be sure to eat a big breakfast before you go, so that you can take a break mid-visit to rest your legs and get a snack at one of their three restaurants. And, as always, be sure to exit through the gift shop, because they have tons of cool souvenirs, such as this fun T Shirt, which you may need to own.
The Vancouver Aquarium is located inside Stanley Park at 845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC, V6G 3E2. Get more information and plan your visit at This Link.