The artificial underwater world of CretAquarium is home to more than 2,500 Mediterranean and tropical sea creatures, including sharks and sea turtles, in 60 tanks. With interactive, educational, multi-media activities the attraction is aimed at the whole family.
Each tank has labels with the relevant species’ names printed in nine languages and there are touch screens offering more information.
Visitors can also hire audio guides with headphones or book a one-hour tour with a personal guide, while behind-the-scenes tours and special ‘small explorers’ tours are aimed especially at children.
The aquarium, at Gournes, 14km from Heraklion, is open every day, including and Easter and stays open later in the evenings during the summer. There is a large, free car park, and buses run at least every 30 minutes from Heraklion to within a 10-minute walk.
The tanks are arranged according to natural ecosystems in the sea, with creatures like stingray, dusky grouper and red scorpionfish preferring a low-lit environment to replicate their haunts close to the sea bed.
Open sea dwellers include awe-inspiring sand tiger shark and octopus, while the area covering coastal species features sea anemone and lobster, there are shallower open tanks, containing specimens including jellyfish and wrasse, and in the tropical section youngsters might try to find Nemo among the clownfish.
The aquarium also often cares for loggerhead turtles, which lay their eggs on beaches around the Mediterranean – including Chania, on Crete – taking in any found injured and returning them to the sea after treatment.
The aquarium is far from being purely for entertainment as it is part of Thalassokosmos, headquarters of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, pursuing scientific knowledge and discoveries in the Mediterranean, observing the behaviours and life-cycles of aquatic species, and treating and re-releasing sick creatures.