A visit to Creta Aquarium / Video

Exploring the Magnificent Underwaters World of the Mediterranean Sea

 Together with a family of good friends who came on holiday to Crete, we found a cool refuge on a hot September day, visiting the CRETAquarium, near the town of Gournes, 14 km east of Heraklion and about 11 km west (15 minutes by car) from Hersonissos.

 Opened in 2005 on the site of a former US military base on the coast, CRETAquarium (Thalassokosmos, or "World of the Sea" in Greek) is the largest aquarium in Greece and one of the most important in Europe, specializing in the presentation of species and ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea. Operating within the Hellenic Center for Marine Research, CRETAquarium plays an important role in scientific research, rescue and care of injured animals, and conservation of marine biodiversity, in addition to its educational mission for visitors of all ages.

Visiting the Aquarium

 We paid 6 euros per adult at reception; thankfully, it wasn't crowded. Our childlike curiosity drove us through mysteries of the depths of the Mediterranean and the abundance of the underwater world for almost two hours. We had the chance to admire countless magnificent creatures such as ferocious sharks and stingrays, cute turtles, jellyfish, microscopic seahorses, shellfish, coral reefs, and hundreds of kinds of multicolored tropical fish moving elegantly in the scenery with rocks and marine vegetation.

 We easily spotted some endemic species we knew, such as the Caretta caretta turtles, the spectacular scorpion fish, and the sand shark. We had a great time playing with an octopus that seemed more interested in playing with shells than coming out of hiding. A massive cod with a monstrous appearance remained motionless for a long time, seeming to measure us with its gaze through the aquarium glass.

 The 61 reservoirs of different sizes totaling a volume of 1.7 million liters of seawater house over 2,500 specimens representing 250 species found in the Mediterranean basin. There are 100 observation points accompanied by informative and attractive displays for children, and the aquariums are arranged thematically to reflect the local habitat. The richness of the marine fauna is presented against the backdrop of some Cretan underwater landscapes, such as the rocks from Matala Beach (South Crete) and the seabed from the Vai Beach region (East Crete).

 Modern audio-video systems and interactive touchscreen devices, video projectors, and observation instruments (a periscope, microscopes, and stereoscopes for observing microorganisms) are a great help along the way, providing additional information and a comprehensive view of the marine ecosystem.

 Despite being the largest aquarium in Greece, we were not necessarily impressed by the size of the complex or the volumes of reservoirs, but especially by the variety of marine organisms on display, their interesting appearance, and the way they coexist in a perfect balance.

 Before ending our visit, we stopped at the small souvenir shop, and then, on the way out, we had fun posing with the colorful panels and the huge marine animal statues. For hungry visitors, there is a small snack buffet next to the store, and outside, near the building, there is a kiosk with drinks and ice cream. 

Useful Information

Guided tours

 CRETAquarium offers audio guide systems in 9 languages through a portable device that works like a mobile phone, for 3 Euros. It is a useful device because it allows exploring at a leisurely pace, with each visitor activating the record with explanations by typing the number displayed in front of each window. We noticed that there were also guided group tours, especially with organized tourists and schoolchildren.

Activities and events for adults and children

 Visitors can participate in various educational, ecologic, or recreational activities. Informative workshops and seminars are held daily for groups and families. Children's favorites, "touch pools" are specially designed to allow interaction with several species of marine invertebrates. Also, children over the age of 12 have the opportunity to explore the aquatic world with VR glasses.

 As expected, CRETAquarium popularizes scientific knowledge about the Mediterranean Sea and the seas around Greece within the education system. Using modern VR technologies and webcams, students from any region of the country or the world have the chance to visit CRETAquarium remotely.

How to get there

 CRETAquarium is easy to find as it is located on the site of the former American Base in Gournes, 14 km from Heraklion and Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport. Geographically, it is located relatively close to the famous tourist resorts Gouves, Hersonissos, Stalida, Malia, Elounda, etc.

 It can be reached by car, if you have rented one, or by taxi/bus that will take you close to the entrance. About 1 km before reaching the destination, you will find Dinosauria Park, an attractive dinosaur park for children, with some fossil replicas and animatronics dinosaur models, which are also worth visiting. The aquarium is a few minutes walk from the beach, so you can continue your day around this area.

We hope you enjoyed our video material and the information. If you want to offer your children an unforgettable experience, put CRETAquarium on your must-see list!

For operating hours and admission fees, check out the CRETAquarium website!

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