Portugal was the country I was more anxious to visit during this trip and Lisbon proved to be a great travel destination, although it was similar to Greece in some ways, that at times we felt as if we had never left home. The climate was comparable to my hometown (extremely humid and hot during the summer days we spent there), people partying or simply hanging around with friends late at night, even the fondness of sardines (well, Lisbon takes it one step further, as we don’t have any shops devoted strictly to canned sardines, although we do have a two day fiesta about this yummy fish).
As we arrived late at night, we simply got to the metro and reached Cais do Sodre, our home for the weekend, which actually proved to be a great choice. We had some trouble locating our hostel, but in the end we settled in and tried to rest in order to make a fresh start during this leg of our itinerary as our first stop tomorrow would be the Oceanário de Lisboa.
Taking advantage of the metro, we reached the great park where our destination is located and were shocked to find a huge crowd lining up for tickets. Thankfully, we had booked ours online, therefor we skipped the extensive line of people gathered patiently by the entrance and we rushed in eagerly awaiting for this experience to begin.
We crossed an elevated aisle, listening to recorded sounds of the sea, whales, seagulls among the ones we could discern, but some of unknown origin to us as well, before advancing to the main tank, just to be temporarily frustrated by the crowd surrounding it. It made sense though, as the large crowd awaiting to get a hold of a ticket, was a precursor of what would go on inside. Of course, after a while we managed to figure out how to move inside the crowded place (hint: it takes some gentle nudging, no I wouldn’t know anything about the bodies floating in the shark tank) and truly had a great time, while learning about the oceans and the marine life.
The main tank offered the chance to view the oceanarium’s collection from various angles and we enjoyed the serene movements of sharks, rays and other exhibits, before turning our attention towards the smaller habitats. We were mesmerized by the penguins, which seemed to stand perfectly still, as if they were freeze-dried or something, yet their elegance once they would dive in the cold water tank left us speechless. They would move like rockets and our eyes could hardly follow their motion.
We carried on strolling through the place admiring the rays, which seemed to be floating as part of a bizarre dream, I mean, they would simply hovering peacefully around their tank, yet they’d emit a sense as if something was about to happen, giving the impression that they are the keepers of a secret that would soon be revealed and something strange would occur as they would go on with their magnificent yet creepy dance.
The sea otters were of a more playful character and quickly cheered up everyone that placed their eyes upon them, while the tropical habitat offered us a chance to experience a small scale model of the rain-forest. I must say, I expected the place to be like some sort of aquatic zoo, but we were pleasantly surprised, as it was a lot more than that, as it became evident that this place aims to inform its visitors about the planet’s marine ecosystems and it takes this mission seriously, while at the same time provides entertainment to all ages (They even offer the chance to spend the night by the main tank, or as they call it sleep with the sharks).
Around the main tank, smaller ones present the biodiversity of the North Atlantic, the Antarctic coast, the Pacific and the Indian ocean. We enjoyed viewing the huge Antarctic cramps, as well as the immense sunfish and urchins and starfish, before returning to the sharks and rays once more. A huge octopus was practicing its own dance moves just a while before we left, satisfied that we had the chance to gain such valuable knowledge during this visit. We also spent some time around the kids area, which was simply awesome, providing the youngsters with the opportunity to get acquainted with the ocean and the food chain through play. We could have visited the temporary exhibition as well, which seemed rather interesting, but we were feeling pretty tired (your ticket entitles you to visit the place as many times as you wish during the day though), while we had to see more of downtown Lisbon before running out of time, let alone we were also a bit hungry. Therefor, we made a small stopover at the gift shop and waived the Oceanarium goodbye, before a brief stop for snacks and refreshments, prior to our peregrination through the main attractions of the Portuguese capital…