The Rayong Aquarium
The Rayong Aquarium is situated on the Thailand coast just 5 Kilometres outside the city of Rayong and about an hours drive from Pattaya. Rayong and its surrounding villages is an interesting little area with good roads and markets. It is a very popular area amongst Thai people as a day out destination. It does not figure too highly amongst Western tourists so they are few and far between.
As a weekend destination Rayong has a lot to offer. There is Elephant trekking for those so inclined and the Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park is close by. With a bit of luck you may just spot Wild Elephant as well as Bears, Pileated Gibbon, Banded Langur, Gaur, Serow, Wild Pig, Deer and more as well as the 53 recorded bird species. Failing that just visiting some of the numerous waterfalls and caves may be a treat enough in itself.
Rayong Aquarium is a jointly managed and run project involving National and local fisheries research bodies.
The Aquarium is open every day of the week apart from Monday and Tuesday. Daily opening times are from 10.00 - 16.00 and closing an hour later at the weekends.
Hump Back Grouper
Housed in an attractive purpose built building this aquarium looks like it is here to stay unlike some of the highly commercial Asian aquaria whose circuslike appearance suggests that they may up sticks and disappear during the night.
And unlike these commercial ventures Rayong Aquarium only charges a very reasonable 30 Thai Baht entrance fee. It would be worth it at treble the price. This is far more than I could say about Underwater World in Pattaya.
This aquarium is neat, clean and well laid out. Without exception every one of the tanks here had a functional label. If there was some misspelling then I missed it (unusual for Thailand). Each label has a colour photograph, the English name, Scientific name, Thai name and further information in Thai.
Okay I do think the signage could have been a little more adventurous and include a bit of humour as this teaches so well but, that said, It was very very good. So many aquaria have missing or damaged signs or even have never had any signs at all. To so many of these places a fish is a fish is a fish...and if it dies we will catch another. Rayong is not like that. It so obviously cares about what it is doing and it shows.
The Inevitable Underwater Tunnel
Display of Fish Traps
There were about forty tanks in all which varied in size. There was only one that I thought a bit cramped but there may well have been a reason for it. The water was of exceptional clarity and all the tanks were well decorated. Personally I am not too keen on artificial colours in aquariums (it is too much plastic bubble castle but works for some) but here it was not overdone. There were four species of Anenome fish but no anenomes which I thought a pity. In fact there were no anenomes at all, or living corals or jellies which I find so very fascinating.
That said, this is a way above average aquarium and borders on the excellent. It certainly does a lot more for education than Pattaya Underwater World. Here, in addition to the well labelled and attractive tanks there was a small museum exhibiting fishing traps and methods of fishing. A very nice display of seashells too.
Some of the tanks
The Sea Turtle display was simple but functional and interesting to watch. Having seen turtles from above at the Sattahip and Sri Racha Turtle Conservation Centres in recent days it was a treat to view them from below.
One slight puzzle was the inclusion of Horseshoe Crabs within the dedicated display area of poisonous sea creatures. The signage seemed to indicate that the trailing spine contained venom. I had always understood this to be a myth...perhaps that is what the signage said.
The Rayong Aquarium is definitely worth a visit. It is a very well done and presented aquarium making a positive contribution to education, in fact one could go as far as to say that this is its main reason for being. As such it is contributing far more than most of the 'Underwater World' chain of aquariums which I have visited in Asia. They could learn much by visiting here.
It is all very well making money and taking money from exhibiting sea creatures but without giving something back it is almost a wildlife crime akin to poaching.