Chiang Mai Aquarium
The Chiang Mai Aquarium is located within Chiang Mai Zoo. It is an extremely modern, beautiful and well designed aquarium. It reputedly maintains some 8,000 specimens of 250 species. It first opened its doors to the public in October 26th 2008. Problems with filteration meant that it closed the following day and did not open again till mid November. This new Aquarium replaced a much older aquarium within the zoo which was well past its sell by date.
This new aquarium was a joint project between the Royal Thai Government and the Australian firm Marine Scape.
It is understood that the company Marine Scape take 60% of the profits from this venture and have the licence to operate for 20 years.
The Aquarium is open every day from 08.00 - 18.00 hrs
There have been a few successes since the aquarium opened and in August 2010 90 brown-banded Bamboo Sharks which were raised in the collection were released into the wild. In cooperation with the Turtle Conservation Centre in Sattahip, the Chiang Mai Aquarium managed to hatch in excess of 169 sea turtles for release into the wild.
The website for the aquarium is a big disappointment as practically nothing works. It has apparently been that way for years.
Roof of Aquarium as seen from higher up in Chiang Mai Zoo
The Aquarium front
The Aquarium Entrance
For some very odd reason the logo for Chiang Mai Aquarium and Georgia Aquarium are nearly identical. See above and below.
Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium Activity Schedule
"The Biggest in ASEAN -The Longest in the world". As this is on the sign for Chiang Mai Aquarium then these are two of its claims to fame. But the biggest what? The longest what? It is a big aquarium but the biggest? Is this size of building, yards of passage, number of tanks or gallons? The Longest? There is another word open to interpretation. I am assuming this refers to the tunnel (133 metres)... But that was in two parts (freshwater and marine) does that count? Longest in the world. Wow that is a big claim to fame. It would mean that Thailand could say they have both the longest and the shortest. The one in Phuket aquarium is almost an afterthought. Blink and you will miss it.
As it is I don't reckon that biggest, longest, highest, widest, tallest are really of much importance. What zoos and aquariums should be striving towards is perfection. "The Best Aquarium in South East Asia" has a far better ring to it. That said, such a title should be given by an outside body and not the collection itself as in Chiang Mai Night Safari for example.
As can be seen from the Activity Schedule above that there is plenty to keep the aquarium visitors busy. Although I did not see it there was one which bothered me. This was the 'Angling Shark Activity' which caused me to remember the horrible Shark Hunting Aquarium outside of Pattaya. Just what is an Angling Shark Activity I wonder? I dislike 'teasing' as a zoo visitor activity and don't believe it should be promoted in a zoo.
Aquarium Educational Graphic
As I had travelled all the way to Chiang Mai in part to visit the aquarium I was going to visit it regardless of the price. The falang price from aquarium entrance was 450 Baht. I was glad that I had not purchased a ticket at the zoo entrance because there the price was advertised at 520 Baht. Why more? There must be some logic. As the aquarium is in the centre of the zoo it would be difficult just to visit the aquarium.
The prices for Thais and foreign residents of Thailand are very much cheaper.
Map of Chiang Mai Aquarium
This is a new aquarium and as such not all exhibits are ready as yet. It is certainly a beautiful aquarium. I could see similarities here in both design and décor to a number of other S.E. Asian aquariums I have visited. The same hand at work perhaps.
There were some very nice exhibits. I very much liked the living corals. All the fish looked healthy. The signs were good. I especially liked the automatically changing signs in the tunnel. This clever idea removes the need to have too many and give the appearance of clutter. It also causes the genuinely interested to watch and wait and possibly learn something new whilst they do. Possibly a button to whizz on to the sign for the impatient may be an improvement.
I am not sure how I like animals as art, it is much too Damien Hirst for my liking. I have seen coloured lighting used to good effect with Jellyfish in some aquariums and it works well. It does not work with Siamese Fighting Fish. I hated seeing these housed in a chequer board of tiny, bare perspex boxes being flashed with coloured lights. (I appreciate it is not the best photograph but you can see the coloured boxes above) This is not the way to house living creatures. I have seen Siamese Fighting Fish housed better in plastic bottles in a Gents urinal in a Pattaya Beer Bar (truly).
Equally horrible were specimens held in tiny tiny (the repeat of tiny is for emphasis) tanks. These tanks were far too small. Three Nautilus with nowhere to go. A Stonefish with no room to turn. Some other tanks were overcrowded. I don't know who is responsible for this type of husbandry but they need to do a re-think. The Five Freedoms immediately springs to mind as a source of reference.
Dangerous Dangerous Marine Animals
A huge mistake is the 'Dangerous Marine Animals' tank. Okay there is a stand off barrier of sorts and there is a warning sign but it is very similar in design to the unbarriered touch tanks elsewhere in the Aquarium. I, with very little effort could have leaned over to touch one of the Lion fish. In fact he was there at the front on top of the water daring (or willing) me to do so. It will happen! Just to put my zoo inspector hat on for a moment. I would advise the relevant authorities to close the aquarium down until this tank is made people proof. This is a severe accident waiting to happen. It is not a case of 'if' but 'when'. It is inevitable. I have had two friends stung by Lionfish and through them know how painful and incapacitating it can be.
So was the aquarium value for money? No, I don't think so. As an extra charge within the zoo I believe the price was far too high. The Aquarium was generally quite good but there was nothing to set it apart from other aquariums in Thailand. I thought the Siam Paragon Aquarium in Bangkok was a lot more impressive.