Fish and Sharks at Oceanopolis in the Bay of Brest – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
At the extreme west end of Brittany, in the heart of a unique natural harbour, Brest is an old city known as the main harbour of the French Navy since centuries. During Roman times it was already a stronghold to secure the region. The strong castle walls still stands on the first walls built by the Roman legions.
Brest has always been the gate linking the continent and the ocean. Still a military harbour, the city is also a great centre for maritime studies. Over 50% of the European ocean research labs are settled in the surroundings of Brest.
Among them, Oceanopolis is a scientific centre dedicated to marine life studies and research. It’s also a gigantic “aquarium” open to public since 1990. Over than 50 tanks are dispatched between 3 pavilions. The size of the tanks goes from 50 litres for the smallest ones to 1.000.000 litres for the amazing sharks tank, a must-see. One of the pavilions has been designed as a huge crab. But some think it’s a flying saucer that has crashed on the ground!
The Temperate Pavilion highlights the Breton ocean fauna and flora, including rays, lobsters, langoustines and various fishes. There are also local seals. If you are lucky, you will be there right in time to see the seals’ feeding that is not to be missed.
A special area is dedicated to show and explain the natural movements of the sea, waves, tides and currents. This is very instructive, even for adults, and kids are always pleased to look at any mystery and to understand the laws of nature.
The Polar Pavilion shows the life and the ecosystem of Arctic and Antarctic, both similar and unique. Look at the penguin colony. Discover how they walk so strangely and so slowly on the soil and how they swim as torpedoes in the frozen seawater. Don’t miss the seals in their tank with a real ice-floe.
The Tropical Pavilion offers an amazing journey into warm seas and oceans, a world of colours that seems to be an underwater paradise. There is a 13m long tank sheltering a rocky wall covered by so many corals, more than 60 species. Various tanks show colourful species of fish living closed to the coasts or along the reefs. Be patient, kids love to stay hours looking closely to the fishes, keeping their noses pressed against the windows!
But the most impressive of all of the tanks is the huge sharks’ one with a volume of 1.000 cubic meters. Round shaped this tank as several large windows that allow everyone to discover various species of sharks that slowly and silently turn in the water. A kind of amphitheatre with bleachers gives anyone a resting time to admire them. This vision of a silent world where these “dangerous” predators are wandering is totally fascinating.
There is also a tropical room revealing a wild forest from West Indies islands where visitors walk on a wooden gangway over a fresh water aquarium featuring the water life
of the Amazon river.
To make your day at Oceanopolis complete, after or even during your visit, don’t hesitate to recover your strength by stopping at the self-service canteen providing a buffet lunch and drinks. The canteen has also a huge outside terrace offering an exceptional view over the Bay of Brest. Opening times depend on the season.
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Text © Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Photos © Frederic de Poligny