After receiving a very gracious invitation to visit the NAUSICAA Aquarium in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France last month, I spent a day over on the continent getting to know some of the ocean’s most spectacular creatures up-close-and-personal. I hadn’t expected much of my visit to NAUSICAA, afterall if you have seen one aquarium you have seen them all, right? Instead, I was completely blown away by the forward thinking initiatives of the aquarium’s conservation efforts and awareness campaigns, and left the little town of Boulogne-sur-Mer feeling hopeful that organizations such as NAUSICAA were out there- doing their part to ensure our great-grandchildren still have an amazing planet to call home.
I arrived in France via the P&O Ferries Club Lounge, a love affair I wrote about in this post awhile back. After a relaxing, champagne filled, voyage across the English Channel, I took the short drive from Calais to Boulogne-sur-Mer. Within a couple hours I went from my seaside town in England to a seaside town in France’s Opal Coast. (Small world, eh?) The NAUSICAA Aquarium is easily accessible from the highway, and hard to miss in the charming French town.
NAUSICAA Aquarium opened in 1991, and remains the most visited tourist attraction in France, north of Paris. Over 13 million visitors have walked the aquarium’s exhibits, which are home to an astounding population of over 36,000 fish and other marine creatures. The aquariums thoughtfully represent the entire world’s oceans and seas, with marine animals from every corner of the globe on display. NAUSICAA is much more than a tourist attraction, it is also an important research facility, animal hospital, and animal breeding center.
As I entered the main lobby of the NAUSICAA Aquarium, I was greeted with the normal chaos of small children not yet in school, and those on field trips with their current classes. I was thankful it wasn’t summer break, as I assume it would be too crowded for my taste during that period. (My four year old probably wouldn’t mind.) I was taken around the aquarium by Claire, a lovely NAUSICAA employee, who shared with me information on the exhibits, as well as the ‘behind-the-scenes’ efforts the aquarium takes very seriously. While I was very impressed with the amount of marine life on exhibit, I felt that the programs the aquarium runs for conservation, reproduction, rehabilitation, and education, were something I always found lacking at other zoo/aquarium type places.
My favorite part of my visit to NAUSICAA was the new sea lion exhibit. The aquarium has dedicated 2013 to the six new sea lions that have moved to France all the way from California. Sea lion expats! They have built an incredible facility where visitors can see the sea lions, but more importantly learn how the aquarium teaches the animals important life skills through play. The sea lion show is entirely in French, but I felt like I would have been just fine without a translator by my side. Animals are one of those things that never really get lost in translation, a common thread if you will.
I loved the way the aquarium also included the local area, they even have an exhibit with marine life just from the English Channel. NAUSICAA is a special place, and was an entirely different experience than what you get at Sea World or the like. (Although I love Sea World too!) You can easily spend an entire morning or afternoon making your way through the aquarium, and it would make an excellent stop on an Opal Coast itinerary. Boulogne-sur-Mer is small, but the town is well-worth a look around. The sandy beaches looked stop-worthy on their own. Calais is close-by and offers a plethora of great attractions, you can read more about my trip to Calais in this post for some ideas.
If you are located in the UK, Kent/London area in particular, NAUSICAA would make an excellent choice for an entertaining day trip during the October Autumn break. Not only will the kids have a blast, but I can pretty much guarantee the adults will too.
Although this was a sponsored trip to NAUSICAA Aquarium in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, all opinions are always my own!