Aquariums, sea and kids: where to see dolphins in Italy

To the Dolphin alone, beyond all other, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage
Plutarch

Every child loves sea and everything related to it: sand, fishes, shells. Aquatic life has a particular fascination on our little ones (and also on adults, don’t you think?). Thinking that in the deep blue of the oceans, in the most remote abyss life exists, and that’s a life rich in species, makes us almost feel safe. Knowing that seas, oceans, abysses are full of life reassure us: it’s like when we look at the immensity of the firmament and we wonder if in the distant galaxies there is life… It’s that answer that heaven doesn’t give us.

Seas are ecosystems, today more than ever, delicate, threatened, perfect but easily altered, weakened by anthropogenic pressure and visiting aquariums and water parks is without any doubt a way to transmit love and respect to the sea to our children.

Besides the knowledge of the sea, of the underwater life, of fishes and organisms that populate seas and oceans, as soon as we speak the word Aquarius our children ask us to see dolphins. During our childhood Flipper was quite popular on TV, but today our children see dolphins often not only on TV, but also in animated films, in documentaries, in prints on clothes… Dolphins arouse sympathy in anyone, they are intelligent animals that always interact with man. They move in their sweetness.

Where to see dolphins in Italy? 

The answer – obvious – is the dolphinarium, but which of the various Italian aquariums is worth visiting and how?

If you want to see dolphins in action in a really exciting show (prepares handkerchiefs, because at times it is really moving), I can recommend the park Oltremare in Riccione (which is also much more than aquarium and dolphinarium, as I told you in the article dedicated to our visit): Dream represents really a dream, in which dolphins, educators and dancers interact giving a unique spectacle.

The Aquarium of Cattolica is the largest aquarium of the Adriatic, but it does not host dolphins: you will find sharks, penguins, otters, the tactile bath with the stingrays and many other species. But not dolphins.

In Zoomarine, the aquatic park of Rome, you will find the Island of dolphins, where animals perform in various shows during the day showing everyone their beauty, tenderness, great intelligence and agility.

At Aquarium of Genoa the experience with the dolphins takes place through the Cetacean Pavilion, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and inaugurated in 2013: positioned between the main body of the aquarium and the Big Blue Ship, the pavilion integrates inside of the ancient port with a light visual impact thanks to the glazed surface of the south side and the height of the visitors path, which rises just 3 meters above sea level. It consists of four open-air tanks – main exhibition tank, nursery, medical tank and curatorial tank – that can accommodate up to 10 bottlenose dolphins. The tour is structured on two levels to allow the public to admire the animals both from the top and from an underwater perspective.

The visitor from the aquarium enters the new exhibition section and has a first view of the Main pool from the top. Here, thanks to a 30 metre long glass wall that can be opened, the visitors can listen to the large repertoire that these animals use for communication, thus establishing a closer contact with them. Thanks to the position of the work platform of the trainers, designed just beyond this opening glass wall, the attention of the public focuses on dolphins even in the stages of training: animals can in fact be observed from the front.

In this first part of the itinerary, the visitor receives a welcome in the area with information on the Sanctuary Pelagos, the marine protected area of about 90,000 km2 created in 2001 thanks to an agreement between France, Italy and Monaco. It’s all about biology and evolutionary history of the 8 species of cetaceans that are regularly present in this area and also some suggestions on a correct approach to sighting in open sea, respectful of animals and their natural habitat.

After visiting the Biodiversity Pavilion on the ship, the visitor returns to the Cetacean Pavilion in a path that gives him an underwater view thanks to the glass tunnel about 15 meters long which, thanks to the curved shape, partly penetrates the volume of main exhibition tub, offering glimpses and unusual and exciting views of aquatic life, with dolphins swimming even above the head of visitors.

It is here that you saw us spending a night with the Dolphins thanks to Spongebob!

We slept right in this part of the aquarium of Genoa, in a room set up for the occasion by Nickelodeon, completely Spongebob themed. A unique emotion that all of us will remember forever, a highly educational experience to observe these beautiful animals so close. We have learned many things about the life of aquarium’s animals and dolphins thanks to the specialized biologist who followed us in the two days of full immersion (it is the perfect word!) in the Aquarium of Genoa.

Just click to enlarge the photos (Sissi is wearing Barn of Monkeys t-shirt and Vingino jeans):

You have seen us dining with the dolphins: a romantic dinner, with background of classical music and dim lights, where the blue of the sea dominates: we moms chatted while the children did nothing but watching the dolphins and drawing them, in every way. There was no room for tablets, telephones, TV, whims: just amazement for this unique experience and many many many drawings, such as wanting to immortalize forever those moments. After dinner the biologist accompanied us, with torches, in a night visit to discover the nocturnal habits of marine animals.

So everyone wants to sleep with Spongebob and the Dolphins!!! But can you really sleep in such a unique experience? The truth is that you do not want to sleep: you do not want to miss a second of that spectacle on your head. In front of you and above you, blue water, dolphins swimming constantly (did you know that dolphins swim and never stop? To live they must breathe voluntarily!) and the reflection of the outer lights. Of the moon before, of dawn after. In these moments you can understand the greatness of creation, it is something that touches you deeply, that educates children on the delicacy and importance of the aquatic ecosystem.

In the morning the alarm clock arrives early for the morning tour to open the aquarium with the biologist and to prepare breakfast for fishes and dolphins! Actually, the alarm clock didn’t even sound because… Dolphins woke us up first!

Can you sleep in the aquarium of Genoa with the dolphins?

One night at the aquarium with SpongeBob was the contest that Nickelodeon (on the Italian Sky channels 605-606) organized with some special episodes of the series SpongeBob: the contest is finished in April, but it will begin again in September so stay tuned on Nickeolodeon, on the official profiles of Nickelodeon Italy and on the site www.nicktv.it

The lucky winners have had the opportunity to spend a night in the suggestive scenery of the Spongebob themed room inside the aquarium of Genoa, set up in the tunnel in front of the dolphin pool. In addition to the possibility of winning a night in this underwater world, you can visit with a guide the whole structure of the aquarium of Genoa and discover the secrets of the seas.

Where to see dolphins in Europe? 

In addition to the Italian Aquariums, you can also visit important structures that host dolphins abroad: the Oceanografic in Valencia has a dolphinarium with five swimming pools where up to thirty dolphins can sleep. L’Oceanogràfic presents the largest dolphinarium in Europe, with a total of 26 million litres of water and a tribune seating for 2,000 people. The exhibition pool, with an area equivalent to two Olympic pools and a depth of 11 m of surface, offers the best conditions for studying and observing dolphins. The aquarium also has four other pools for training, reproduction and medical assistance.

Den Blå Planet, near Copenhagen, is the largest aquarium in northern Europe that offers a unique experience for children and adults. Here you can visit the Ocean tank, the largest tank of the National Aquarium Denmark, where the hammerheads swim together with the breeds and moray eels in four million litres of seawater. You won’t find the dolphins, though.

In London, right on the banks of the Thames you will find Sealife London Aquarium, where you can find lots of fishes and sea animals. But not the dolphins.

By Drow Male, from Wikimedia Commons

Where to see dolphins in open sea in Europe?

Dolphins can also be spotted in the Mediterranean, even in Italian territory: they arrive in general at the end of August and remain for all September thanks to the temperature of the sea, ideal for them. The area where they can be spotted is the reserve Pelagos Sanctuary, between the Ligurian Sea and the Sea of Corsica. Another area populated by dolphins is the sea is around Malta: there are lots of boat trips that you can book for this purpose.

In Scotland, it is believed that there are over 130 bottlenose dolphins living in the Moray Firth (in the Inverness area) as well as a large population of seals. Off this area you can even spot wales and orcas! The population of dolphins of the Moray Firth area is very special because they are the largest population of bottlenose dolphins that reside in the Nordic seas. These dolphins are much larger and fatter (4m vs. 2.5 m) of dolphins living in warmer waters just because they have to have a higher percentage of fat to isolate themselves from the colder temperatures of the North Sea water.

In Scotland, we have seen them! Starting by boat from Chanonry Point (the ideal time is after the tide, you can start from Avoch with Dolphin trips or from Cromarty with the Ecoventures), with a little patience and luck… here they are:

Special meetings… in the Aquarium!

If it is true that for the contest One night at the aquarium with Spongebob you will have to wait a while (remember to follow Nickeolodeon Italy on the official profiles and on the site www.nicktv.it), at Aquarium of Genoa you can live a night with sharks, dedicated to groups of children (maximum 34 participants per evening) from 7 to 11 years. The adventure in this case begins at 9pm and, equipped with sleeping bags, pajamas, toothbrush and anything else that can be useful to spend the night away from home, the kids will be welcomed by the staff of the aquarium. After a moment of knowledge, the program foresees a visit to the tanks of the aquarium full of curiosities and surprises to discover the little known and singular behaviors of the nocturnal marine environment. After sunset, with the closing of the structure and the turning off of the lighting system, the tanks transform revealing new creatures, particular colours, behaviors and typical nocturnal movements. The evening ends in front of the shark tank where the kids will live the memorable emotion of falling asleep admiring these fascinating predators. The next morning, they will continue with a further visit to the pools with observations on the “awakening” of the animals and on the restart of the life of the aquarium in general. After breakfast, the fantastic adventure ends at 9 a.m.

Next dates 2018: 29 May, 2 and 23 June, 7 and 21 July, 15 and 22 September, 13 and 27 October, 3 and 24 November, 8, 28 and 29 December. To participate, the reservation at C-Way is essential so you can contact by telephone at the number 010-2345666. Night with sharks is also available from the site www.c-way.it. The price is Euro 80, 000 per child.

For a romantic experience, you can enjoy an emotional dinner in front of the cetaceans pool: a dinner with a chef’s menu (land or sea, with a wine list) on the notes of a soprano. There are two special meeting moments: a more emotional one in which the dolphins will seem to dance on the live singing of a soprano and an educational moment with an aquarium expert that will tell all the curiosities about these beautiful cetaceans .

The next 2018 dates of the emotional dinner are: Saturday, June 16, Saturday, June 30, Saturday, July 14, Saturday, July 28, Saturday August 11, Saturday August 25. The cost of the evening is €80.00 per person excluding wines and beverages. The reservation can be made by email [email protected] or phone 349/3479802.

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