Sitting along the foreshore of Napier, the National Aquarium of New Zealand appears like a giant stingray on the edge of the water. This city on the East Coast of New Zealand, the first in the country to establish a public aquarium in 1956, was chosen as the ideal home for the nation’s aquarium which opened in 2002.
Maori legend also supports its placement, for nearby at Cape Kidnappers, a geological formation known as Tangaroa is believed to be the hook used to fish the New Zealand islands from the ocean by Maui, a mythological hero of the Pacific.
With an array of marine life and native species, the National Aquarium was designed to be a centre for education, a source of entertainment for the whole family and a means to express New Zealand’s cultural experience.
With its close proximity to the ocean, fresh seawater is pumped directly into its various tanks and enclosures which are themed to reflect the different continents of the world with a focus on the rare aquatic and wildlife of New Zealand.
On the ground floor is the 50-metre long tunnel that has over 1,500 fish, including sharks and stingrays that swim above and all around you, a penguin pool lets you watch the birds frolic in the water while in a dimly-lit Kiwi enclosure, an enchanting close encounter with this special bird awaits.
On the upper floor are exhibits showcasing some unique settings from around the world such as the Australian outback, an Asian water garden and an African lake where some of each habitat’s distinctive creatures are displayed.
Be sure to witness one of various feeding sessions throughout the day. The National Aquarium also offers special encounters such as swimming with the sharks and stingrays, as well as a café and gift shop alongside the exit.