Portugal travel information: Enjoying Zoomarine in the Algarve
Algarve in Portugal
The name Algarve comes from the Arab word Al gharb, which means the West. It's the most southern region of Portugal.
Algarve is one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal and it’s quite different from the rest of the country. First off there is that matter of the climate. Then, the calm sea, the landscape, the quiet and peace… While I think Algarve is not all about beaches and is actually one of the best places to live or at least to spend one, two or three months in the year when it’s not tourist season, so you can fully appreciate the Algarve, the fact is that the tourism part and the tourist season also have some things and places that are really worth your while.
One of those it’s a theme park, it’s called Zoomarine and it’s the right park to take a day off from the beach, if you are holidaying in the Algarve, and have a bit of fun with your family or friends. If you have kids, they will absolutely love it, after all who doesn’t love dolphins… and sea lions… and everything else the park has to offer…
So, let me take you on a virtual tour of the Zoomarine.
Zoomarine first opened to the public in 1991 and it's a theme park oriented to leisure and fun for the family, with a high component of education about sea life and nature's preservation.
The park features shows with dolphins, sea lions, seals, tropical birds and birds of prey throughout the day, but not only you enjoy amazing shows, but you also get to learn about the animals you will be seeing.
Another interesting feature about the park - and this one you can't really experience - is its active roll of Zoomarine in helping to preserve sea life in the Algarve. Together with other Portuguese Institutes Zoomarine uses their professionals and resources to help animals that are found in the wild injured, helps them get better and then returns them to their natural habitat.
What you will see shows how much they care for the animals, how well they treat them and also how well trained the staff is.
But apart from the shows, there is plenty to see throughout the park and it's actually a full day. There is a wonderful area with big swimming pools for both adults and children alike and a picnic area with lawns and green spaces, where you can relax, you will probably not have a lot of time on your hands for that... There are plenty of amusements and attractions to keep you busy, carousels for the little ones, water slides, the big wheel and so much others. So, get your schedule at the front gate and get ready.
Arriving at Zoomarine
You should get to the Park early, as soon as they open, so you have enough time.
The Park is located in Guia, near Albufeira - Algarve. You can buy your tickets on site or before somewhere else, there are plenty of places selling tickets all over the Algarve, so no matter where you are staying, you can get a ticket.
Once you are inside get a schedule, so you know which show starts when and decide what you want to visit first. Bear in mind there are only two shows a day for each of the species of animals.
The dolphins' show is beyond doubt the most sought after show in the Park, after all don't we all have our soft spot for Dolphins? So, be sure to arrive 5 or 10 minutes early, otherwise you will have to be standing up to watch the show.
The dolphins at Zoomarine are from the species Tursiops truncatus, their adult size varies, but it can go from 2,4 meters (7,87 feet) until 4,3 meters (14,10 feet) and their weight from 136 kgs (299 lb) until 295 kgs (650 lb). Their general colour is greyish , but their bellies can be white or pinkish and they have approx. 80 teeth. Their sight is very good, in and out of the water, and they have bilateral sight. Their hearing is also very good and they also have taste, but they can't smell anything. Another important sense for dolphin's is echolocation, that allows them to have a mental picture of objects, without using their sight. They love to eat fish and squid. These dolphins can live in coastal areas, but also in open oceans all over the world, apart from the polar regions. They live in small groups and they have very interesting habits, such as baby-sitting, for instance. That's right, if a mom has to hunt, she will leave her baby with some other female of the group.
Seals and Sea Lions
The seals and the sea lions are marine mammals from the group of the Pinnipeds. One of their main characteristics is that their paws were modified into flippers. They also are the proud owners of a thick layer of fat all over their bodies and very sensitive moustaches. So, what’s the difference between seals and sea lions? Well, there are several differences. For starters on land seals move on their bellies, while sea lions don’t, they can use their flippers to stand and walk, so they move on all fours. Also, seals have no external ears and sea lions do. Seals are quieter than sea lions, that are a bit noisy. But in the water actually seals are much faster than sea lions, because they are smaller and their bodies more aquadynamic than sea lions.
The show with the seals and sea lions is very funny and entertaining and great for kids and to have a few laughs. Probably it will not be as crowded as the dolphins’ show, but you might want to get there a little early just in case.
The Birds of Prey Show allows you to see some interesting birds, from hawks, to eagles and owls. You will witness displays of speed, agile flight, beauty and you will learn a bit more about each species. The Tropical Birds Show is funny and the birds are beautiful and graceful and full of colour. This show tries to instill some environmental awareness in us.
Then you can watch something entirely different, a show with acrobatic dives and acrobatic jumps. A group of divers and gymnasts will entertain and amaze you. The jumps from 5 meters (16,40 feet), 10 meters (32,80 feet) and 15 meters (49,21 feet) high are great, but it’s not until the diver is at 25 meters (82,02 feet) high, waiting to dive, when you really hold your breath and only catch it once he is back again on solid ground. And all this to a somewhat small swimming pool with apparently a depth of only 3 meters (9,84 feet).
Amusements and attractions
Apart from the shows there is much more to see and do. There is a 4D cinema show where you can sit and watch an environmental awareness movie, featuring a shark swimming right at you, polar bears, monkeys, turtles and so much more. Certainly a good time, fun and entertaining, and that everyone enjoys.
Back outside and if you have small children you can have a ride at the carousel or the little train. Other attractions may be off limits if your children is bellow 1 meter (3,28 feet), 1,25 meters ( 4,10 feet) or even 1,30 meters (4,26 feet), depending what you want to ride. Apart from the height limitations there are interesting attractions, such as the big wheel, water slides and a mini roller coaster.
Finally, why not relax a bit over by the swimming pool.
Education, conservation and science
But Zoomarine is much more than just having fun. It is about learning. About the environment. About sea life. About respect. About protection. So there is much more than just attractions and shows.
You can visit the aquarium and see some interesting species, including an actual shark. Plenty of turtles of several species are, also, everywhere in the Park.
There is an exhibition center where you can learn about Zoomarine's projects to help protect the environment and animals. Zoomarine also hosts a lot of meetings and conferences and works with many other partners and institutes, national and foreign, to preserve species and habitats, to learn more about our world, spread awareness and support scientific and research projects that can help wildlife and our world.
Zoomarine is also a shelter for stranded, injured animals, helping them to recover, so they can find their way back to the wild.
You can also find several options if you want to visit the park, but also learn a bit more, this is particularly aimed at schools and children and there are programmes such as “Meet the Educator" or “Educational Sessions” or you can even ask for a guided tour.
Last, but not least, interaction with Dolphins is also possible, allowing you to have a totally unique experience with these amazing animals.
A word of admiration has to go to the wonderful staff at Zoomarine, especially the trainers that do such a wonderful work, training and caring for all the animals and making us feel how this is a work of love and commitment.
Facts and advices
Zoomarine is open to the public from March until November each year and opening hours are usually from 10:00 until 18:00 and during July and August the Park closes one hour later, at 19:00.
Children with less than 1 meter (3,28 feet) high enter free of charge, but also can't ride in some of the attractions. Some of the amusements however allow children with height above 90 cm (2,95 feet) so long they are accompanied by an adult.
It's no use trying to slip a child under 1 meter high in an attraction if the rules say you can't, because it will not work, they have very strict rules about that and they always measure the child.
If you - like me - dislike crowds don't visit the Park in July and August. June and September are great months if you want to avoid crowds.
There are a lot of restaurants and snack-bars at the Park, but if you want to save some money or just enjoy a picnic with the family, you can bring food with you to the park and sunshade and chairs and... well, whatever you want...
Don't forget to take sunscreen with you, otherwise halfway through the day you might be in for a big (and not very pleasant) surprise...
Apart from this, well, I can just say, you are headed for a wonderful day, full of fun and entertainment and I hope you enjoy...
More from Zoomarine
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© Copyright Jun 30 2012 / Algarveview.hubpages.com. To use part or the whole article you must first get written permission from the author. Feel free, nonetheless, to use an intro of the hub with a link to the article here on hubpages for the rest of the article.
© 2012 Joana e Bruno