Vasco da Gama Aquarium
It is one of the oldest public aquariums in the world, inaugurated on May 20th 1898, and celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, (2023). The aquarium-museum was created as part of 400 years discoveries of the Maritime Route to India by Vasco da Gama. The name is therefore a tribute to the Portuguese navigator. The inauguration was done glamorously in the presence of the royal family, as King D. Carlos I was a pioneer of oceanography in the country.
In the history of Vasco da Gama Aquarium, which belongs to the Portuguese Navy, it is said that the monarch had dedicated himself mainly to the study of deep-sea marine fish. His collection has been on display almost since the beginning, but it was with the recent refurbishment of the aquarium that the king’s library was also recreated. The books, which until then had been stored, are now on display to the public and will soon be available for consultation. And this is just one of the latest news from the aquarium, which has had to reinvent itself to continue to be part of the memory of generations, as it has been until now.
Since its inception, Vasco da Gama Aquarium, an apparently small building in Algés, almost by the riverside, has been a pilgrimage site for families and schools. At the entrance, a small garden with tanks full of fish. Inside, there are about 90 aquariums and tanks with more than 300 live marine species, animals and plants. Perhaps you don’t know, but the aquarium has a 17-meter-long boat that it uses to catch some of the species in the exhibition dedicated to the fauna of the Portuguese coast, although many are gifts from fishermen interested in contributing to the dissemination of the diversity of aquatic beings that inhabit our territory, including mollusks, marine fish, freshwater fish, water birds, and turtles.
Opening of Vasco da Gama Aquarium
Live marine species, animals and plants
Museum exhibition spaces
Today, Vasco da Gama Aquarium is more modern, maintaining its mission to raise awareness for the need to preserve the ecosystem, with a focus on the Portuguese coast. There is a new museography in the six museum exhibition spaces, and a restructuring of the live galleries has been carried out. Large marine animals have disappeared from the aquarium because they did not have space to live with the appropriate conditions. In the tank that was once home to seals, for example, a completely interactive space was born, highlighting a giant screen with 20 square meters, where it is possible to explore different species. The idea is that this represents a window to the ocean, allowing a dive into its depths. The floor itself is interactive, making it seem like you are walking and splashing in the water. Its challenge for children, daring them to discover the fish that live there in captivity, mostly native fish from the Atlantic coast. For the younger ones, there are even two interactive tables, where the fish they draw come to life and jump onto the big screen. Vasco da Gama Aquarium has adopted a more accessible and didactic language so that, in a playful way, the message continues to be conveyed.
While it is true that it is the animals that most visitors come here for, it is also clear that Vasco da Gama Aquarium has an important museum collection.
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