“ Address: Boulevard Sainte-Beuve / 62203 / Boulogne sur Mer „
Last year whilst having a few days over in Hardelot (please see my review!) I had spent a few days planning on where I would like to go and what I would like to see. Despite going over to that area of France regularly for a good few years one place I had never visited (however much I had wanted to) was the Aquarium Nausicca located on the dockside of Boulogne sur Mer.
== What is it all about ==
Aquarium Nausicca is not just a building full of marine life, don't expect to go and just see tanks full of the weird and wonderful that can be found in our oceans. No, Nausicca also try to educate those about the oceans including environmental damage, pollution, over population. They want you to learn all about the sea in far more detail than you realise. Nausicca has been going since 1981 and is one of the biggest aquariums in Europe.
== What to See ==
As you can imagine Nausicca is certainly not a small place! Once parked (if using the public car park to the right of the building) you are met with a rather intimidating looking building which was once an old casino. My best tip is to buy the guide available when you buy your tickets, it really does give you all the information you need as well as the day's feeding times and talks. The building inside is circular and it is best to follow the route rather than try and do your own so not to miss anything.
Nausicca is split into 7 exhibitions which are: Shark Aquarium, Tropical Lagoon, Sealion Reserve, Tactile Pool, World Ocean, Submerged Forest and Penguin Beach.
The Shark Aquarium is the first exhibition on the route and it is an area full of incredibly deep tanks full of a variety of different sharks all living in relative harmony with other species including various fish. Next is the Tropical Lagoon which is full of the most wonderfully coloured and interesting species of fish I have ever come across, the variety is vast as is the number of tanks including port hole type tanks. The Sea lion Reserve is one of the exhibitions where there are daily talks and feeding which is nice. This is the first exhibition which is outside due to the sheer size of the tank complete with gorgeous Californian sea lions.
The Tactile Pool is where you can find skates and sting rays in a circular aquarium. This is where you can put your hands in the water and let them glide over you. The World Ocean exhibition is certainly an impressive one from the large tanks filled with huge shoals of tuna to the more easy going grouper fish the variety is certainly impressive as are the displays. Next comes the Submerged Forest which is based on a Caiman forest and is an indoor forest quite simply! Wooden walk ways cross over aquariums and large pools complete with an avery, sharks and crocodiles and of course quite a humid heat!
The last exhibition is the Penguin Beach which seemed to be my daughter's favourite! It is set and based on The Cape in South Africa and you really could sit and watch the penguins for hours diving into their pools they really do have a graceful nature. Throughout the exhibitions there are plenty of information boards and interactive stations where you can learn more than just the name of what fish is in the tank and it really is an educative experience.
== Facilities ==
Being such a big building there are of course ample facilities such as toilets which are easily located and sign posted so you never have to struggle to find them. They are also quite large and clean which for me is definitely a good thing as with so many visitors you'd want them to be pretty clean. There are also decent baby changing facilities which is a must for me with a young child, even more so last year when my daughter was younger.
If you are feeling peckish you have spoilt with a choice of three different restaurants; the Bistrot du Port, Village Tropical Lagoon Bar and the gourmet restaurant and bar. We ate at the Village Tropical Lagoon Bar which seems as if it is set on stilts above the Tropical Lagoon so certainly has a nice setting and view! As I only ate here I cannot comment on the food choices in the other two restaurants but the Village Tropical Lagoon Bar was well equipment with basic lunch staples such as sandwiches, baguettes etc all at 'ok' prices.
There is of course a gift shop or in Nausicca's case a store! The gift store certainly houses a wider stock than just pens, pencils and a few postcards! You can buy a wide selection of books, dvds based on the oceans of the world, about Nausicca itself as well as various kitchen wear such as vases and bowls.
== Our Experience ==
Now, this part of the review may be short and sweet but I see little point in discussing each exhibition again. The building is incredibly large but I did find doing the exhibitions in order was far easier than going your own route. Due to having a pushchair we did have to use the lifts but found it no more of an inconvenience. I found the exhibitions all incredibly impressive and the selection of marine life housed here is vast and you certainly come away with learning something.
Due to the size of the building you never feel cramped despite the many visitors that are around you, there is always plenty of space at the tanks, information stations so you don't have to wait your turn to see a few fish! Of course we went in May which won't be as busy as the higher peak summer months but there was certainly enough people around just without feeling like you're on a conveyer belt when seeing the different tanks and fish.
For me, as fascinating as Nausicca is and it is clear that they try and do their upmost to be environmentally friendly and all the species housed there are looked after I do find a part of me feeling sad for the marine life living in a tank albeit the tanks look incredibly clean and well maintained as well as being big enough I do feel a little sad but then without these places you'd never know about them or learn about them.
== Where is it? ==
Centre National De La Mer
Boulevard Sainte Beuve
62203 Boulogne Sur Mer Cedex
Tel: 00 33 3 21 30 98 98
The aquarium is easy to get to whether you are coming by car (plenty of public car parks as well as an underground carpark), train (Frethun Calais and Boulogne-Ville stations are the closest) and by boat as they are directly on the harbour and there are a number of moorings available.
== Opening Times and Prices ==
Adults: Euro17.95 or Euro15.60 (bought online)
Children (ages 3 to 12): Euro11.70 or Euro9 (bought online)
Students and the unemployed: Euro12.50
Over 60s: Euro16.45
It is open every day all year round (although it does have a few weeks in January where it shuts down completely) and opens from 9.30am to 6.30pm daily although it does close at 7.30pm in July and August.
== Misc ==
* You are allowed to take photographs but be aware you are not to use the flash.
* The aquarium is fully equipped for the disabled
* The average visit lasts for 2 hours and 30 minutes
* All major credit cards accepted
* Pushchair rental is available although they do advise that on very busy days they can/will refuse entry
== Overall ==
Nausicca is certainly an aquarium that shouldn't be missed if in the area as it is truly fascinating and you come away with learning a thing or two! It isn't the cheapest place to visit but I feel the fact that there is so much to see and do then it does warrant the higher prices and it certainly isn't your average aquarium with a few fish. If possible definitely buy your tickets online (not all ticket options can be bought online) to save a little money.
Would I recommend? Yes, without a doubt. A truly interesting and fascinating place which is laid out well and has enough information not to overwhelm you and all of their exhibitions are all equally as interesting. I can easily give this place 5 stars and would recommend to all.