“ Guia / Alubfeira / Algarve / Portugal „
On my recent holiday to Portugal it quickly became apparent that going out of season in early October had it's negatives as well as positives. On the plus side, it was blissfully quiet and uncrowded and screaming kids were in short supply. On the downside---well screaming kids were in short supply and my daughter was obviously missing company of children her own age. At 'almost' seven I'd imagined playmates on the beach while I watched on from behind my kindle on a sun lounger. Mostly, this didn't happen and after two days of building castles and jumping waves a teeny bit reluctantly (I know, awful mother) I decided a day trip was needed.
I'd seen Zoomarine advertised from the moment I stepped off the plane at Faro airport, it's clearly one of the area's biggest attractions. I hadn't paid that much attention at first, as I hadn't really planned on doing any trips other than maybe a water park, but after browsing the leaflets at the hotel (and dismissing some awesome sounding historical tours with regret) we decided this sounded like a good one to go for. We booked through our hotel and paid 75 Euro for two adults and one child plus transfer pick-ups right on the doorstep. We could have booked it at numerous tourist information/car hire points dotted around the resort we stayed in, Alvor, and probably in hindsight could have got a better deal. Similarly, if you're more organised than me, you can book online with a little discount.
Getting There/ First Impressions
The big ZooMarine double-decker picked us almost exactly to the second of its due time. My daughter insisted we sat upstairs which at first caused a little worry. It was a pretty old, tatty looking vehicle and I couldn't swear by the safety of the driving around some pretty narrow roads. However one plus point was we got fantastic views of the beautiful scenery. ZooMarine is situated in Guia, just west of Albufiero and took around an hour to get there from Alvor due to the windy journey picking up fellow passengers. Coming home took half as much time, mostly due to the fact that there wasn't THAT many other passengers, the first indication that the park wasn't going to be particularly busy. This was also apparent by the lack of queues to enter the park once we arrived, and we sailed right in. One thing that did concern us was our return journey of 4pm. As it was almost 11 am then, we wondered how we would fit everything in.
Once through the park gates and after bypassing the obligatory photo opportunity (which I think was CGI dolphins as no bored parrots were in sight-just a blank blue screen) we were faced with a beautiful fountain and an impression that this was a very clean and well-kept park, an impression that continued throughout our visit. You're handed a map and a list of animal show times as you enter, so the first thing we did was plan what we wanted to see and when. At this point we weren't all that sure what exactly ZooMarine was, although it soon became apparent it's a mixture between Sea World, a water park and a tiny fairground. We'd brought along our swimming costumes and towels so our first priority was to locate the lockers and get rid of them until later but despite following the map and after walking in circles for 10 minutes and still not locating them, we opted instead for staking a tree near the pool, removing our valuables and leaving our belongings there. This seemed to be what most people decided to do. During our search we did notice there were toilets everywhere, drinks and food stands in abundance, a place to hire kiddie carts for smaller children and a lovely shop.
Zoomarine has several shows on offer and at the time of our visit there was a Dolphin, Sea lion, Parrot, Birds Of Prey and an intriguing sounding 4d cinema experience. With our list of times we planned our day, deciding to miss out Birds Of Prey to make sure we fit it all in. The Dolphin show was due to start shortly after arriving so after ditching our bags that's where we headed.
Now, I'm thirty-four years old and have never seen dolphins before, and to be honest I was a little worried about how I would feel about seeing them perform. The arena was pretty huge but as the park was very quiet there was plenty of good seats left. We were treated to a warm up by a surprisingly impressive man dressed up as a pirate before the show opened with a synchronised swimming team. They were really very good, elegant and beautiful but what everyone wanted were the dolphins and by the time they arrived my daughter was beside herself with excitement. We were all blown away by these stunning animals. I'm no expert but they seemed very happy and loved, it was touching to see the relationship between them and the trainers and it brought tears to my eyes. The dolphins made brief appearances throughout and I got the feeling this was to ensure they weren't overwhelmed or overworked. In all the show lasted around half an hour and featured more of the gorgeous synchronised swimmers. ZooMarine do offer the opportunity to swim with the dolphins away from the public (romantically named Dolphin Emotions) and while I would've loved to do this, the 150 Euro per person cost was beyond me (bizarrely there's currently an offer for over 50's to get half price on this experience right now, so it's worth checking).
The next show we decided on was the Parrot show and to be honest we wished we hadn't. The best thing was the same warm up guy as before, this time masquerading as a magician. The actual show had a story that while in Portuguese was clearly along the lines of how to behave in the countryside but the two actors were irritating beyond belief. The parrots mainly sat at the back and mostly refused to do anything they were bidden. This was the one let down of the day.
The Sea Lion show wasn't particularly one I was excited about, but proved to be as good as, if not better than the dolphins. After warm up guys Oscar winning comedy routine as a cowboy we were treated to a musical theatre style show revolving around the campest ship wrecked sailor ever and a feisty explorer. Again, the sea lions participation was minimal and thoughtful. The whole thing was absolutely hilarious, I loved it as did my mother and daughter and not once did I feel uncomfortable with the sea lions involvement. I'm fairly sure they enjoyed it too.
The final show was the 4d cinema and I can't recommend this enough. I've never seen such stunning 3d cinema (the 4d coming from a small squirt of water at the audience). Themed around climate change and its effect on animals, it was extremely hard-hitting and powerful without saying anything at all or being patronising and preachy.
Other Attractions and Facilities
As well as numerous animal shows Zoomarine also has a small amount of animals dotted around in enclosures such as alligators and turtles, although they seem to blend in so seamlessly to their surroundings it s easy to miss them. An indoor aquarium is home to some impressive sea life and we really enjoyed this, although it could have done with wider walkways as despite the park being quiet it was still a little squashed.
There's a small fairground that is specifically aimed at younger children and consists of a small mini roller coaster, a pirate ship, a train ride, an impressive carousel and a Ferris wheel. Because the park was so quiet my daughter was able to run on and off the rides without queuing at all, although I imagine in peak season the waiting time would be ridiculous. We all went on the Ferris wheel, which is one of the safest looking I've seen despite its enormous size and we were treated to some breathtaking views.
The final element of ZooMarine is a sort of Water Park. There are two 'wet' rides, the crazy rapids ride that sees you float through sprays and fountains in a barrel shaped vessel and a large water slide on which you ride a dinghy. While you don't need to change into swimwear for these (we didn't) you will get very wet! The rapid river ride was funny, especially with my mum on board who had to be coerced on but enjoyed herself despite getting the worst soaking and the slide is awesome. Again, during our visit we were straight on these rides without queuing but signposts declaring hour long waits at the entrances indicates peak season will be a very different story.
Sadly we didn't get time to make use of the pool which had a lovely children's play area because of our early return journey and ideally we could have spent another couple of hours here. We stopped twice for drinks and ice cream at very reasonable prices and my daughter got a huge slush in a plastic keepsake container for 4 Euro, which seemed good value. We didn't eat, but had we wanted to there was the usual theme park fare to choose from. There are also plenty of picnic areas and unlike in Britain they don't have issues with you taking your own food. One thing I did notice was the incredible amount of toilets! I can't see huge queue's occurring even in high season. The whole layout of the park is very friendly towards children and the disabled and being pretty small, everything is easily accessible. Our final stop was the airy and beautifully air-conditioned shop, which had an assortment of souvenirs at very reasonable prices. My daughter managed to pick up a cuddly dolphin and furry purse for six Euros.
We ended up having a brilliant day at ZooMarine. Even my mother, who generally hates theme parks due to the fact she doesn't go on rides, thoroughly enjoyed it here. In fact I think this is ZooMarines great appeal, it really is a place the whole family can enjoy. The shows are genuinely entertaining and well thought out and the animals appear happy and loved. Warm up guy stole the show though...he really earned his pay the day we were there and there wasn't a single person in the audiences who wasn't laughing. He made everyone feel at ease and happy. The 4d cinema experience is something I'll remember for a long time and has set a very high bar for future 3D cinema visits, which pale beside it.
The grounds themselves were a pleasure to be in and I liked that everything was in close proximity. This makes ZooMarine particularly suited to families with very young children, or those who struggle with mobility. It was immaculately clean and well kept with an amazing amount of facilities. Some people may find the smaller number of attractions a negative, but we definitely found there was enough to spend the full day here and in fact we enjoyed the relaxed approach we were able to take rather than feeling overwhelmed and rushed. We would have loved an extra couple of hours to relax at the pool, and perhaps ZooMarine need to consider this when they make their transfer schedules.
While we had a fantastic day, I can see this was largely due to the timing of our visit and I can see it being pretty much a different experience during July and August. I Imagine ZooMarine will be packed then and the smaller number of attractions may be an issue then along with waiting times. I'm also undecided at how much teenagers would enjoy ZooMarine and feel it's aimed more at families with younger children. The only other slight negative I noticed was a lack of shaded areas. We visited in early October, and even then the heat was unforgiving. Sunscreen is a MUST as it's easy to not notice yourself burning as you travel around the park and some nice shady seating might have been nice.
Overall we enjoyed Zoomarine far more than we anticipated and were impressed with everything, apart from the dire parrot show. My daughter claims it was her favourite day in Portugal and even my hard to please Mum enjoyed herself immensely. If you're visiting the Algarve out of school holiday time with young children, then I highly recommend ZooMarine, although advise you to shop around for discounts and to check return transfer times, possibly making your own way there! At around £70 for our party, it wasn't a cheap day out but worth every penny and once there we hardly spent a thing. A Five Star day out and well worth a visit.
When I had first met my wife we decided to take a nice little holiday somewhere so I booked us a nice week in Portugal and organised us to stay in Vilamoura and we simply loved the place but what we have remembered the best about our entire trip was the visit to Zoomarine.
The theme park is situated in a fairly remote area of Albufeira and spans quite a large area of land which in turn allows for large areas for the animals to be housed.
The park has a large variety of animals including dolphins, seals, sealions, crocodiles, aligators, birds, tortoise and others with the animals well looked after.
The park has a great variety of shows on offer aswell as a large swimming area (something we didn't know about until we were there), a number of gift shops and a large restaurant with hot and cold food on offer that was fairly priced and offered ok quality when you consider this is a theme park.
The theme park offers tickets for just entry to the park or for the entry and travel to the park with tickets available from tourist ticket stands in the towns around the area aswell as many hotels offering you the ability to purchase tickets through them.
The park has plenty of staff who are friendly and speak good English and have tiime for you with your questions and it is nice to see the animals and staff interact as it is obvious there is a real bond between them.
The park is well laid out, clean and very well maintained and so offers a very enjoyable day out.
You can also swim with the dolphins for a cost so long as enough people are wanting to do this and although this is not something we did I think it is well worth bearing in mind.
- Fairly priced for what is on offer
- Good variety of well looked after animals
- Well kept and clean animal park
- Food and gift shops offer good variety and are well priced
- Tickets available from a number of places and can be purchased with or without travel to the park
- Animals and staff have good interaction and an obvious bond
Zoomarine offers a fantastic day out and is simply something you will remember for a long time after.
On the information leaflet given to us by our holiday rep in the Algarve was an offer to go on the Zoomarine excursion. Loving all forms of sea life (from a distance) I was immediately planning what day would be best to go. We decided on Wednesday and promptly found our rep to book our trip.
Booking & The Journey based on 2008 prices
Our ticket voucher cost Euro27 each so Euro55 in total paid to our rep who rang through our booking confirmation. We were to catch the coach at 10.30am from the bus stop outside the 5* hotel next door. This we did and the bus drove straight past us with the driver waving dismissively in our direction as we stood dismayed and angered at the roadside. It took us 5 minutes to decide we would return to the complex and complain to our rep. 2minutes into our journey back and I learnt that my legs could still run extremely fast as I found myself crossing the road and flagging down a Zoomarine coach. Puffing and panting after my monthly exercise our voucher was accepted and we settled back into our seats. It would seem that when bus number 1 is full, but number 2 completes the next leg of the pickups, something we were not told about and something to definitely bear in mind if you ever find yourself in the same situation.
We stopped at several other pickup points en route to our destination and on arrival we were informed that the return journey would commence at 5pm; it was only 11.15am when we arrived!
Not to be deterred by the 5.45 hours ahead we entered the Zoomarine accepted a map and declined having our photograph taken as soon as we walked through the archway - an offer extended to all customers.
It's important to mention that the staff were very efficient on the gates and there was no queue for entry. Our tickets were scanned and accepted quickly and quietly and we were waved through the turnstiles.
Our first attraction was the dolphin show. I am constantly amazed at the ability of dolphins to do "tricks" and in this case nose a ball directly at my forehead which narrowly missed me as I ducked out of the way. The dolphin show lasted approximately 30minutes and incorporated 7 dolphins, 1 whole family and 3 trainers. It was amazing to see the relationship between trainer and mammal. The dolphins were trained to play games, rescue humans and also interact safely with children and the display gave an insight into each of these skills. There is an opportunity to swim with the dolphins, it costs Euro145 and was beyond my budget but you can book this at the dolphin information office on the day or I believe in advance. Next we went on a Viking boat, the kind that swings and also a big wheel which overlooks the whole park and the building site next door. We then wandered around the areas containing alligators, crocodiles, tortoises, terrapins, various ducks, swans and fish (obviously all in separate enclosures). The animal areas are all open top enclosures with signs telling you not to place your hands over the wires and into the enclosures. We then saw the Aquarium which wasn't as grand as I was expecting. It is a walk through building with various fish and crabs etc in the walls (in tanks). We saw many species of terrapins, fish, crab, sea life and then wandered around the edge of a leaking tank holding wray fish, turtles, sharks and fish. It was a tiny space compared to the size of the two sharks it was home to and the amount of sea life it also housed. I was genuinely upset at how enclosed they were and it wasn't a good example to children as the sharks looked resigned to a life of floating backwards and forwards, because swimming at any speed would be impossible due to the lack of room available to them. As we exited the Aquarium we entered the merchandise shop, a ploy to encourage you to buy soft toys and key rings after being hassled by your children.
Our next exhibition was a seal and sea lion show which would have been 100% better without the human pantomime. Performance, aimed more at children and less appreciated by adults, however it once again displayed the ability of these animals to interact with humans. This show lasted approximately 20minutes but was nowhere near as good as the dolphins which was factual as well as impressive. I cannot forget to mention the mute clown who introduced both shows. He looked a bit like Mika (the singer) with a clown's nose and put on a mini comedy show, inviting one or two guests from the audience to interact in his sketches and raising the audience as a support act does at a gig. Again directed more at the kids in the crown but received laughs from all ages.
Okay so with a bit of wandering in between we managed to wind the clock to 2.20pm then we began to wonder how we were going to fill the next 2 hours and 40minutes. We went to the 4D cinema; shows ran every 30minutes from opening till close. The show staff give you silly glasses and guide you into the auditorium. On sitting you are presented with a 15minute educational film based on the effects global warming and deforestation have on the animals. We saw polar bears watching the ice melt, turtles watching fish be swept away in nets and monkeys falling from chopped trees with a panda at the bottom of the forest suffering the consequences. It was very good and very very clever. I would definitely recommend going to see this 4D show with or without your kids. Either way the whole family will enjoy it and get a lot from it.
The clock now read 3.15pm (we ate in-between) and decided to look for the birds of prey and exotic birds. We found some parrots. We missed the bird shows and I guess they go into hiding when they are not being shown off, otherwise they had flown away as there was no sight of them anywhere.....3.45pm. Now seriously bored and having seen everything the Zoomarine had to offer we went to the games room to waste our Euros. The games room had 3 out of order games and 3 that worked plus some pool and hockey tables; a very big space for a minimal amount of entertainment. There was a staff member seated at a desk ready to change money and remove any unruly teenagers, but otherwise it was a dull games room with no atmosphere. By 4pm we had shopped. There are 2 smaller gift shops and a larger one with general Zoomarine memorabilia on offer as well as tat. 4 eateries are dotted around the park and I would avoid lunchtimes as the queue was massive with just 1 till open at each outlet and very few members of staff around to serve the large number of hungry tummies. On offer were burgers, salads, and pasta, sandwiches and kids meals like the kind you get in McDonalds, all reasonably priced. There are also 2 bars and various ice-cream stands scattered around in convenient places. There is a large food hall to sit in and devour your meal but we chose to sit outside on a grassy patch near the swimming pool.
The park offers 2 swimming pools and lush grassy area, there is also a water ride that was rather large and that I avoided like the plague, however unless you went looking for it you would think it wasn't associated with the complex as it was only accessible by a long path and badly signposted. Other attractions included a carousel, log flume and kids train, a rehabilitation centre which you cannot access and seemed a bit pointless signposting as all you can see is signs with each animal's vital statistics on them.
The Zoomarine is a lovely place but I do feel that by the time 5pm came around we were bored and could have left at 3pm quite happily. The park wasn't exactly busy, though it wasn't quiet either and everybody appeared to be a holiday maker or not local. Despite how lovely the place is I was very disappointed by the lack of space the marine life had in their enclosures. There was a sea cow in a very small confined space with little room to move let alone swim around happily; it saddens me that these mammals are not considered important enough to be given a large living area where they feel more in their natural habitat rather than just an object to be watched by onlookers.
Prices without a rep excursion voucher are:
Euro14 Children (5-10)
Euro23 Adults (11-64)
Euro14 OAPS (>65)
The Zoomarine opens between:
10-6pm - 17/3/08 - 22/6/08
10-7.30pm - 23/6/08 - 5/9/08
10-6pm - 6/9/08 - 31/10/08
It does say open all year round, but other times were unavailable on the leaflet. Zoomarine is situated in Guia, Algarve approximately 20minutes from Albufeira where we were staying.
Dolphin shows happen at 11.45am and 3.15pm (30minutes each)
Seal and Sea Lion shows happen at 1.45pm and 4.30pm (30minutes each)
Tropical bird shows happen at 12.45pm and 5.30pm (25minutes each)
Birds of prey shows happen at 10.30am and 2.30pm (20minutes each)
Cinema 4D starts at 12.30pm - 5pm (every 30minutes all day)
Conscience exhibition - 10.15am / 1.15pm and 4pm (45minutes each) - we didn't see this.
Aquarium opens at 10.30am - 1pm and again from 2.30pm - 5pm
For the kids are toy cars with handles to be pushed around in and there is a first aid base near the games room for any emergencies.
If you are a fan of Zoo's and Large mammals, then it's worth a look around, give yourself enough time but do not stay too long it's not the biggest park in the world. Also if you do find yourself upset by animals in confined spaces I would suggest you go elsewhere. It is for this reason I doubt we would return to the park. The care and relationships between staff and animals was fantastic but the space just wasn't big enough for them and that's quite sad when there was no attempt made to adapt their surroundings to what they would experience in reality.
Also on Ciao as Carysb
You may be wondering what Zoomarine is - is it a zoo? An aquarium? A water park? A theme park? In actual fact it's all of those! On a very recent holiday to Portugal I decided to take the family.
The Zoomarine is situated in the Algarve in the South West of Portugal (there is also one in Italy which I haven't visited). We had hired out a car so it was easy for us to get to, it was about a 20 minute drive from Portomao.
When we arrived at the Zoomarine the carpark was full. The carpark was quite large but I soon realised I had booked our holiday during Portugal school holidays! I was so busy trying to avoid UK school holidays that I didn't even give Portugal school holidays a second thought. I would definitely avoid visiting the Zoomarine during school holidays if possible as it was absolutley packed and there were queues and crowds for everything.
Before I left home I read a review on Zoomarine which stated it wouldn't take a whole day and that you should only really give it a few hours, so we arrived at the Zoomarine at 12.30pm and stayed until 5.30pm. It turns out we did need a whole day and didn't get round to doing and seeing half the things we wanted to. My advice is to give it a whole day to avoid disappointment.
The entrance is a white U shaped building with a ticket booth built into it. Once you have got your tickets you can proceed through the turnstiles by popping your ticket inside. On the other side of the turnstiles is a photo opportunity where they take your photo infront of a Zoomarine sign and give you a piece of paper with a number on to view your photo at the exit. You are also given a very useful map with all the presentation times on it.
Ticket prices are as follows:
0-4 year olds - Free
5-10 year olds - 15 euros
11-64 year olds - 24 euros
Over 65 - 15 euros.
I thought that the adult tickets were very much overpriced but the 0-4 year old rule was quite generous as most places charge for children over 2 years. You can also get a 10% discount if you book in advance on the website. The park opens at 10am daily and closes between 5.00pm - 7.30pm depending on the time of year.
The first thing you come to is a dolphin enclosure. This is where they put on a show called 'Dolphins in Motion'. There was a big queue for the show but we got in at the very last minute. There were hundreds of seats that were all filled up, we managed to grab a couple of seats near the front. There are 2 or 3 rows of unused seats at the front - don't attempt to use these seats as they don't give a very good view and you could end up looking into a murky tank rather than watching the action happen on top of the water. Our seats were good as we could see into the tank aswell as on top of it and the dolphins got really close to us. The show started off with a man playing a bongo drum in the crowd, he soon got the whole crowd interacting with him with the help of only one bongo drum and one whistle. Eventually the show started and the dolphins and trainers came out to some epic music. The show lasted around half an hour and was fascinating. The show was very varied and had some very fast paced moments where the dolphins were jumping around and doing flips to dancey music but also some very slow and touching moments which could have brung a tear to the eye (although thinking about it now I'm not quite sure how humans and dolphins hugging and kissing along to Elton Johns 'Can you feel the love tonight' in panpipes didn't turn into a total cheese fest!). The show included dolphin introductions (apparently they have the worlds oldest bottle nosed dolphin) and had various dolphin facts throughout. At one point the music was turned off so we could listen to the dolphins blowholes and a trainer jumped into the water and played dead to display the instinct that dolphins seem to have to save human life. Two children were also pulled out of the crowd to ride in a little boat that was pulled around by the dolphins, they also got to kiss them. At one point the trainers threw inflatable balls into the water for the dolphins to hit with their tails into the crowd (if you caught one you got to keep it). It was lovely to watch as the dolphins all seemed very happy with their trainers and seemed to enjoy what they were doing, although I'm probably being niave - after all who wants to live their lives in a tank and perform to a crowd everyday? Hmm.
An hour and a half dolphin interaction session is also available at a steep (but probably worthwhile) 140 euros per person. Sadly I didn't have a spare 140 euros floating around! This is done during park opening hours and is situated at the back of the park. There is also a dolphin photo opportunity where you can get your photo taken kissing or touching a dolphin, just one of the things that I wanted to do but never got round to doing.
There were 2 main places to eat at (aswell as a number of small outlets scattered throughout the Zoomarine) which were next door to each other, had large seating areas and were under cover. There was a self service 'restuarant' where you can go along and pick up what foods you like, pay for it at the end and pick somewhere to sit. However they were seriously lacking in vegetarian options so we went next door. Next door held a number of different fast food outlets under one roof (Chicken Barbecue, pizza and hamburgers, snack bar) with a shared dining area. The whole thing was pretty rubbish and we couldn't really find anything decent to eat. I ended up getting chips and sharing a pizza (which we had to wait extra for). All of the menus in every outlet seemed very samey and again lacked in vegetarian options. I would have been quite happy with a veggie burger but there wasn't one on the menu - it turns out (after I'd eaten) that they do veggie burgers but don't have them on the menu!???!!
Opposite the restuarant area is a 4D cinema which is something else we didn't get round to doing. Plus the fact we had a fidgety 2 year old with us.
Next to the 4D cinema are the seals and sealions. There is also a big ship where a seal and sealion show is held. We had to watch the show as my daughter loves sealions. The show started with a mute/clown interacting with the crowd and all of a sudden the Titanic theme tune came on and a man came out on to the boat. The rest of the cast included a women, a seal and a sealion. The majority of the show focused on the man and women which I thought was rather strange and slightly disappointing. I was also expecting to see more than one seal and one sealion. It was more of a comedy act than anything and did actually have some sort of strange story to it but it kind of got lost on me! The kids loved it though and everybody was laughing and clapping along. The show had music and references to different films and the animals did a few cute tricks. It was all quite fun and bizarre.
In the middle of the Zoomarine are a few fun rides which include a childrens pirate ship (which swings backwards and fowards), a train for younger children to ride by themselves, a huge ferris wheel which overlooks the park, a double decker merry-go-round and a childrens rollercoaster. This is a great place for younger children, although I did notice that there were 1 metre height restrictions for most of the rides and sadly my daughter is just under. She was able to ride the train and merry-go-round (five thousand times) though. All of the rides are free to use. I was expecting there to be a log flume which I was secretley looking foward to but there wasn't one - I think I saw something which looked like a log flume being built or taken down, it looked like half a track.
Next to the rides is a small river with a bridge over the top. I noticed 2 alligators inside the river but it didn't look like the best of enclosures. There were also a few brave birds and turtles inside!
Next to the river is an indoor aquarium called Oceanus. The aquarium had tanks of different fresh and salt water marine life, aswell as tropical inhabitants. There was also a tank full of marine life from The Algarve which was interesting. The tank which seemed to draw the most attention was called 'the immense Atlantic' which was home to a number of big fish, a shark and a huge 3 legged sea turtle. There was also a tank full of junk which was aimed at teaching people about pollution and the sea, and the importance of not littering. Near the end of the aquarium was a big round tank of stingrays and huge, actual sized models of sharks and a whale. At the end of the aquarium is a shop with all the souveneir essentials.
Near to the entrance of the aquarium are where the birds of prey and tropical birds are kept. When we took a walk over the birds of prey show was underway which meant we didn't get to see any of the birds of prey, but we did get to see some tropical birds such as macaws, parrots, cockatoos and budgerigars. I was on the look out for flamingos but sadly didn't see any. The birds of prey show is called 'Sweeping the Skies' and the tropical bird show is called 'Enchanted Forest' but we never got the chance to see either of them so I can't comment on them.
Next to the Ferris wheel is a swimming area. This is a great place for the kids and perfect for cooling off on a hot day. You can hire out lockers and sunbeds. There are also changing rooms, showers, a shop and toilets right next to it.
There are 2 rides which are suitable for older children and adults which are situated away from the main part of the park, they are called 'Rapid River' and 'Harakin'. There was about a 10 minute queue for Rapid River which was 10 minutes too long in my opinion as the ride was really quite lame. You sat inside a wooden looking tub (each one seats up to about 5 people) and went around a stream. There wasn't any scenery and nothing exciting happened. We didn't get wet at all and the only thing that could have caused an ounce of excitement were a few dancing flowers which spirted water out... except they were all broken and limp and just seemed to be squirting water into the ground! Harakin was quite fun and again was about a 10 minute queue. It was a ride with 4 huge bumpy slides with water in. You sit in a rubber dinghy (each one seats up to 2 people) and zoom down the slides. I wasn't expecting to get wet but I got absolutely soaked. Very fun indeed, even if it did smell like sewage water! Nearby these 2 rides was an arena where a new diving show called 'Aqualocos' was taking place. I didn't see the show so can't comment on it but thought it was a strange place to have a show - I doubt many people would have even noticed it was there.
Zoomarine is passionate about conservation, education and rehabilitation. Throughout the park are animal facts and information, there is also a zoologist that goes around the park answering questions and such. The park also takes in sick and injured animals which they care for until they are fit for re-release - there is a rehabilitation centre which has a seal recovery, dolphin recovery, turtle recovery, observation room, treatment room and food preperation room... yet something else I didn't have enough time to visit. The park is also commited to educating people about the devastating effects of pollution etc on our planet, there is a dome shaped building called 'The Planet Awareness Centre' to learn more, but I must admit I didn't even see it!
At the end of the park is a big souvenir shop and photo centre to pick up any photos which have been taken at the park.
Overall Zoomarine was a very good afternoon out but I wish I had made more time for it. I recommend to all animal lovers and families with children that are visiting Portugal. I will definately be visiting again at some point.
This review is about the Dolphin Interaction at Zoomarine as eiley123 has already done a brilliant review on the rest of the Zoomarine theme park.
My fiancé had already done the Dolphin Interaction on a previous holiday to Albufeira and he wanted to share this wonderful experience with me.
<<< How to book >>>
I made a booking request via the Zoomarine website to book our Dolphin Interaction experience, as I didn't want to be disappointed by it being fully booked. In peak season they recommend booking up to 1 month in advance, but during off peak you can book on the day in the Reservations Office in the park.
To book you can either complete an online form and give them your:
* email address,
* Day/Preferred Schedule
* Number of Participants
* Phone number
* Will you use Zoomarine's mean of transportation?
* The ages of the participants and any other relevant information or additional requests
Or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org as they are really helpful.
I filled out the online form and I asked about the free transportation they offered. I received an email shortly afterwards explaining that they have daily transport from Albufeira to Zoomarine and back. There are several pick-up places, but it is best if you ask in your hotel reception which is the best place to catch the coach and the times of the pick-ups.
(We were staying at the Club Maria Luisa Hotel and the pick up place was on the main road, which was a short walk from the hotel).
The email confirmed they had availability for the dates I'd requested and it also contained lots of information about the Dolphin Interaction. I emailed them back to confirm which date I would like to do the Interaction and they replied confirming the date and a time. I was also given a reference number, which I had to give to the people in the Reservations Office when we got there. This is when they take payment, which is good as you won't lose your money if for some reason you can't get to Zoomarine for your Interaction experience.
<<< How long does it last? >>>
The Dolphin Interaction takes place in a private area of the theme park and lasts 90 minutes. This includes the training session, time to change and shower and the interaction itself. The time spent in the water with the dolphins is 30 minutes.
<<< Who can participate? >>>
The minimum age to participate in the program is 8 years old (the
passport of children between 8 and 10 is required) and all the participants
have to know how to swim.
For safety reasons the following people cannot participate in the interactive program:
* pregnant women
* physically or psychologically impaired people
* people with autism or autistic-like behaviours
* people with strong physical limitations (e.g heart condition)
* people with skin disorders
* people under the influence of drugs or alcohol
* people with hydrophobia (fear of water)
* people with any other condition which may compromise the participant or the
<<< So what happens? >>>
You have to meet outside the reservation office 60 minutes before the session starts, as they need to take you to the private area of the park for the Dolphin Interaction. You do the Interaction in groups and the maximum number of people in a group is 12. Our group was a mixture of men and women of all ages. One of the men had his son with him, as he'd promised to bring him back when he was old enough, as he was too young when his older brother had done the Interaction the year before. He was so excited at the thought of finally fulfilling his dream of swimming with dolphins!
Each participant is allowed to have two guests as spectators and each guest is allowed up to two children to accompany them. They can take photos/video, but Zoomarine have professional photographers who take individual photos of you with the dolphins. They take photos of you posing with the dolphins and also of you doing the special activities with them on your own. These photos are available to buy in a lovely presentation pack with your name on a certificate. You get 1 large photo on the front of the pack and 4 smaller photos inside. There's also a videographer to film the whole experience, which you can buy on DVD. This has footage of your whole group on it, but it's really worth buying as it's such a special experience. I'm afraid I can't remember the prices of the photo packs and the DVD, but I don't think it was too extortionate!
<<< Preparation >>>
First of all you have to do the training session, which simply involves sitting in a darkened room and watching an educational presentation about the dolphins. It's really interesting, although it's hard to sit still as you think about the exciting experience that awaits you!
They then lead you to the changing rooms/showers, as you must have a shower before entering the water and you must also remove all jewellery, glasses, watches and basically anything that could be harmful to the dolphins. They give you lockers to keep all your things secure. They also give you a wet suit or vest to wear over your own swimming costume. I would recommend the wet suit as the temperature of the water depends on the time of year and it will generally be the environment temperature. We went in October 2007 and it was pretty cold but you soon get used to it and the wetsuit helps. The pool has a large canopy covering it, so the Interaction can be done even if it is raining.
They also give you a really large Zoomarine towel and a pair of flip-flops, which you get to keep. This is great as you don't need to take your own towel and they make great mementos of your experience.
After you've changed and showered, they then lead you to the pool. It's quite a big pool so the dolphins have plenty of room to play around in. They lead you to one section of the pool where there are 2 dolphins waiting, as the group is divided into two smaller groups of 6 so you have a more intimate experience.
The instructors show the groups how to command the dolphins to do different tricks by doing different hand signals/movements. Everyone is a little nervous in the beginning, but as you do these as a group it's a little less daunting. You then do more individual tricks with the dolphins, like getting them to kiss you, which is brilliant! The instructors are really funny and make sure that everyone is happy, relaxed and having a great time.
The depth of the pool is between 0.6 and 5.5 metres. For most of the activities you will be standing in the shallow part of the pool, which is great if you're not particularly strong at swimming like us.
At the end of the session you get to do two special activities on your own with the dolphin, but these need to be done in deeper water. My fiancé isn't a confident swimmer, so he asked to do one of the activities in slightly shallower water and the instructor said this was OK.
You get to choose which special activities you want to do. For my first activity I chose the one where you stand upright treading water and you hold your arm stretched out with your hand flat. The dolphin then uses its nose to push against your hand and spin you around! It goes really fast so you have to concentrate on staying upright, but it's great fun.
The other activity I chose was you stand in the water with two dolphins in front of you and you grab hold of their tails so they can drag you along the whole width of the pool until you reach the other side! I really enjoyed this and I was glad I picked this one instead of the one my fiancé chose as his was really fast! He had to lie on a boogie-board and the dolphins put their noses on his feet and pushed him along, so he shot across the water and nearly took off! The photographer perfectly captured the look of panic on his face!
<<< How much does it cost? >>>
The cost for the Dolphin Interaction is 145 Euros (we paid 140 Euros back in 2007) for each participant and it is not included in the entrance tickets to Zoomarine, which is:
20 Euros for Adults
12 Euros for Children (5 to 10 years old) and the over 65's
This might seem like a lot of money but it really is worth every penny as it was truly special. The whole experience was amazing and I just felt so elated afterwards.
The whole experience was extremely well organised and I can't recommend it enough.
<<< Tips >>>
I would recommend doing the Dolphin Interaction around lunchtime as this will give you time to see some of the park before the Interaction and also afterwards. They also give you hot drinks and biscuits after you've finished the Interaction and got changed - I highly recommend the hot chocolate as it was divine!