Bang Saen Aquarium
The Bang Saen Aquarium is the more commonly used name for 'Bangsaen Institute of Marine Science'. It is located in the grounds of the Burapha University in Bang Saen, Chonburi.. Located on the Bang Saen Beach Road which leads from the sea front and up towards the Sukhumvit Highway which runs between Pattaya to Bangkok. It is easy enough to find but if you get lost then anybody in the town would direct you. Getting to Bang Saen from Pattaya is relatively easy.
The aquarium was established way back in 1969 but expansion took place in the early 1980's following a 230 million Baht grant from the Japanese government.
Open every day except Mondays from 09.00 - 18.00
Entrance To The Aquarium
The entrance area is wide and shaded and there is plenty of seating. There is a whale skeleton there and a few tanks and notice boards for the visitors interest.
As with many Thai attractions there was two ticket prices, one for Thais and one for 'Falang' like myself. My ticket cost me 180 Thai Baht.
Ticket Purchasing Booth
Aquarium Ticket - 180 Baht for Falang
My main interests and considerations when visiting any zoo and aquarium are what role does it play in Conservation? Education? Research? Is there any Enrichment? Are the Five Freedoms catered for? If I was wearing my zoo inspectors hat there would be a number of other considerations too. With an aquarium visit I tend to be more centered on the educational aspect. Aquariums in general (there are exceptions) are still exploitative in terms of animal acquisition.
Most good zoos maintain captive bred animals whilst most aquariums keep wild caught specimens. I can appreciate the reasons here which is why I consider the education side so important. Hopefully behind the scenes the research is going strong.
Entering into the aquarium I was struck by how roomy it was. So often aquariums are narrow and a virtual paradise for pickpockets. There were high ceilings too which allowed the air conditioning to circulate to maximum effect.
The collection is housed in one very large tank and around 41 others of varying sizes. The tank décor was perhaps just a little bleak for my tastes but it was miles better than some of the displays I have seen in other places. It would be difficult to single out a 'best' but then I would have an equal problem in trying to decide upon a worst.
There are some really beautiful fish on display several species of which I do not recollect seeing elsewhere.
There was an unusual display of seashells suspended by clear threads had the appearance of floating in the water. This held nine octopus that I could see, though there may have been more. There were a few crabs too which were a food item. I got to thinking but I don't think I have seen a tank with as many octopus in it before and wondered if this presented husbandry problems. Admittedly none of these specimens were large.
The Lionfish tank contained several superb specimens including the biggest I have seen anywhere
Holy Grail of Aquarists
There was a small tank containing three Weedy Scorpionfish Rhinopias frondosa described here as "the holy grail of aquarist". I have seen very few of these previously and they were a joy to watch.
There were about 60 Seahorses of three different species held in a rather sparse tank. I would like to have seen more sea grasses. The only time I have ever seen Seahorses in the wild was whilst diving amongst sea grasses off the neutral zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The species labels consisted of a photograph, the Thai name, English name and scientific name. This I believe is good because so often one or more of these is missing. I do think A small distribution map is essential though. A beautiful fish, but where does it come from. A small graphic could provide the information instantly. On multi species tanks it is very easy to over label. This was not being done here and herein lies a bit of a problem. I look at the diorama and an unusual and beautiful fish appears from behind a lump of coral. What is it? There is no label for that species. This criticism is equally applicable to practically every other aquarium I have ever visited.
Here though I was in general very pleased with the educational signs and labels. It was an educational experience. I especially liked the graphic for the Seahorse with a clear belly showing the baby seahorses within.
Signs on Aquariums
One of the information signs
Close up of graphic belly
Sadly there were no Jellyfish displays here because I do like them. Neither were there any sharks or turtles. Now I rather liked that as a fact because many aquariums try to 'out shark' each other. Sharks were not neglected though because there were excellent graphics giving information on the threats they face in the wild from shark finning.
At the exit area there were three gift shops each of each which were selling much the same thing. It was nice to note that the items on sale did not include dried or encased sea creatures.
'T' Shirt in the Gift Shop
In the foyer there were some advertisements for other animal collections in the area. I found it most disappointing that the aquarium allowed an advertisement for Sri Racha Tiger Zoo and as if to rub salt into the wound this was displayed right next to a sign for the excellent Khao Kheow Zoo.
The finale of the aquarium was a large tank holding a variety of species but most notably Giant Grouper, one was the biggest I have ever seen in an aquarium. I recollect a bigger one when I was snorkeling of Das isand in the Arabian Gulf.
The aquarium was quite busy but apart from myself I think there was only one other 'falang'.
Upstairs was the excellent Marine Science Museum and attached was a Marine Laboratory which I was led to understand was open for public viewing but was closed at the time of my visit.
This aquarium was a joy to visit after the Pattaya Underwater World. Here in Bang Saen the signage was excellent by comparison, it was educational and not commercially exploitative.
The gardens outside of the aquarium are attractively landscaped which make both the approach and departure a pleasant one. There are no food outlets within the aquarium but a range of items are available outside.
Further food outlets are available at the shopping mall across the road from the university.
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