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Vancouver aquarium

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Vancouver, British Columbia's largest city, is where most Australians begin their Canadian adventure.

Canada is one of Getaway's favourite destinations — it has open spaces, lakes, mountains and wonderful wildlife and nature.

On this trip Natalie Gruzlewski visited Vancouver Aquarium. It's Canada's largest aquarium and it's very impressive. There are more than 33,000 fish and native Canadian creatures there, including sea otters, seals and a spectacular array of jellyfish.

The aquarium is a marine research and animal rehabilitation centre and is a self-supporting non-profit organisation. The latest encounter available for visitors takes you behind the scenes in an interactive training session. Three of the four resident Pacific white-sided dolphins at the aquarium have been rescued and rehabilitated from fishing net entanglements and you get to experience their wonderful intelligence.

Those who take the tour enjoy a hands-on training session and get to see just how charismatic and acrobatic the dolphins are. You join the Encounter Team on a platform, complete with displays and props. Before you know it you are incredibly close to these incredible creatures.

Their favourite part of the day is no doubt when they see you heading for the marine mammal kitchen. Natalie fell in love with a dolphin named Spinnaker and the love was returned when he saw she had a red bucket holding 1.2kg of his favourite fish. The official name of Spinnaker's species of dolphins is lagenorhynchus obliquidens — so obviously his aquarium name is so much easier to say.

Nat compared the Pacific white-sided dolphins with Australia's bottlenose dolphins. Ours are like labradors while their Canadian cousins are more like Jack Russell terriers. They are flighty and full of life.

They enjoy temperate waters and are found in the North Pacific Ocean from Japan to North America and from the coasts of Alaska to Baja, Mexico. There are around 900,000 in the entire North Pacific and they travel in groups of 10 to 100 for their entire lives. Happily they are on a "Not at Risk" register.

If that's not enough to meet your "up close with marine creatures" holiday requirements, wait until you see the other exhibit. It's the first aquarium to capture and display an orca whale and there are belugas and narwhals there as well.

Vancouver Aquarium has beluga whale training sessions and you can watch as they are taught various moves by their trainers.

Qila is a baby grey beluga, the first to be conceived and born in a Canadian aquarium. She was born in 1995. As she ages she will turn white.

In 1996 the Vancouver Aquarium vowed to never again capture cetaceans from the wild and only obtain them from other facilities if they too were captured before 1996, unless they were a rescue animal.

After most people have gone home and the aquarium has closed its doors for the night, small numbers of visitors are able to stay behind for a sleepover. After a delicious evening meal you head into the behind-the-scenes marine laboratory where you can touch local invertebrates including live sea stars, sea urchins, anemones and other creatures.

You bed down in front of one of the marine galleries and in the morning, after a continental breakfast, you get to tour the Marine Mammal Deck and Amazon Free Flight Gallery as the aquarium wakens for a new day.

Location

Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Cost

Vancouver Aquarium entry is $25 for adults and $16 for children. Dolphin Encounters are $194 per person and Beluga Whale encounters are $150 per person.

Air New Zealand has flights to Vancouver from.

  • Sydney $2132
  • Melbourne $2210
  • Brisbane $2233
  • Perth $2399
  • Adelaide $2410

For further information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
www.airnewzealand.com.au

Vancouver Aquarium
845 Avison Way
Vancouver BC
Canada V6H 3E2
Ph: +1 604 659 3400
www.vanaqua.org
visitorexperience@vanaqua.org

Visas: Australians do not require a visa for stays of up to six months. Passports must be valid for the period of the intended stay.

Electricity: 110V at 60Hz using plugs with two vertical pins.

Time zone: Canada has six time zones. Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern, Atlantic and Newfoundland. Vancouver is GMT -8.

Currency: The Canadian dollar.

International dialling code: +1.

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