I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
Canada's Vancouver Aquarium
One of the premier attractions in Stanley Park and Vancouver, British Columbia, for that matter, is the magnificent Vancouver Aquarium. It was the very first public aquarium in Canada and is also the largest. It also happens to be one of the five largest aquariums in all of North America. Its primary focus is on conservation and research. There are over 166 aquatic displays.
- H.R. MacMillan Tropical Gallery: One can view sharks, stonefish, angelfishes, eels, seahorses, and more.
- Sandwell North Pacific Gallery: One can see beautiful and luminous jellyfish, anemones, octopuses, and more.
- Rufe Gibbs Hall: Plan to visit if you desire to see freshwater fish like salmon, steelhead, and arctic grayling.
- Max Bell Marine Mammal Centre: Offers views of the larger animals like whales, seals, sea lions, and the like.
Our Visit and Impressions
My mother, niece, and I were staying at the Westin Bayshore Hotel. We were within walking distance of Stanley Park and availed ourselves of exploring it several times during our 5-day vacation in Vancouver.
One day we decided to visit the renowned aquarium located in Stanley Park. A giant orca statue greets one at the entrance to the aquarium. It is titled Chief of the Undersea World, and Bill Reid gets the credit for its artistry.
The orca (killer whale) show was terrific. The trainers/handlers had the giant black and white orcas leaping out of the water and doing tricks on command. White beluga whales also performed in unison.
Warnings were issued that people in the audience just might get splashed. As the orcas would whip their tails against the water delivering a massive spray of water into the crowd, we heard peals of laughter. My main concern was to keep my camera dry.
The Vancouver Aquarium was the first to capture and put orcas on display. Much as we enjoyed the show, I would rather think of these magnificent marine animals having the freedom of the ocean and their pods to travel and interact.
End of an Era
As of a decision made in 1996, the Vancouver Aquarium will never again be responsible for capturing wild whales, dolphins, or other cetaceans. Their prime focus, as mentioned above, is conservation and research. People at the aquarium do help abandoned animals or sick ones and nurse them back to health to be released into the wild.
I am delighted to hear about the direction that they are taking.
Performing Beluga Whales
After the beluga whales' performances, chunks of ice were thrown into their pool. They love playing with the ice before it melts. The beluga whales would push the chunks of ice ahead of them and do all sorts of gymnastic moves while the ice was still intact.
Their smooth white faces, which always seem to have a perpetual smile on them, appeared to enjoy this special treat, and it was fun watching their antics with the ice. These were not a trick but just seemed to be a joyful play on their part.
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The crowd of people watching the belugas playing also wore many smiles upon their faces.
Update Regarding the Whales
I recently received this comment from Charles Barnes, who lives in Vancouver. Sharing it in his own words, here it is:
So glad you enjoyed your time at the Vancouver Aquarium. Being a Vancouverite, and a father of 6 children, the aquarium has been a staple for entertainment/education for our family for many years.
Your visit was clearly many years ago now as the aquarium has not kept orcas in captivity since 2001, and sadly, I regret to inform you that the aquarium's last Beluga whale, Aurora, has passed away as of Friday night. Now, the aquarium owns other belugas who are on loan to other facilities around North America. Whether or not one or more of these animals will return to Vancouver is unknown at this time, but you may want to update this page for your visitors.
The Vancouver Aquarium is still very much a worthwhile place to visit and so much to offer beyond the whales. I highly recommend reserving a full day for the experience as there is a lot to take in, and the education through hands-on experience is second to none. If your visitors still wish to see whales, I recommend a whale watching tour to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. All the best to you. Charles"
I am happy to hear that those beautiful orca whales are no longer in captivity. A whale watching tour is the best way to see them while they swim freely with their kind. The Vancouver Aquarium is a great place to spend some time even without whales. I would still highly recommend it.
Thanks again, Charles, for the update!
After spending some time at the magnificent aquarium in Stanley Park, I would heartily recommend visiting there if your travel plans take you to that area.
There is much more to see and enjoy in beautiful Stanley Park, but the aquarium is one that gets a big "thumbs up" from our experience. Enjoy the many YouTube videos in this article.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Peggy Woods