A Look Into the Malta National Aquarium in Qawra
A Look Into the Malta National Aquarium in Qawra
We sit down with Mark Pace, Marketng Director of the Malta National Aquarium, located at the northernmost tip of Qawra and home to an impressive 50 tanks, filled with reptiles, insects, amphibians and, of course, fish.
Q: The Malta National Aquarium has become one of the biggest attractions in the north of Malta. What do you think makes it a unique tourist attraction point?
A: The Malta National Aquarium project is spread over approximately 20,000 square metres and consists of an aquarium, a public landscaped belvedere on the promenade, a multistorey car park, facilities for local dive schools, catering facilities including a beach club, a merchandise outlet and a tourist information kiosk. The Malta National Aquarium has 50 tanks including reptiles, insects and amphibians, amongst others, Mediterranean fish, including fish commonly found in Maltese waters as well as replicas of historical artefacts that one can find in the seas surrounding the Maltese islands.
The main tank of the aquarium houses species from the Indo-Pacific Ocean, including black tip sharks, zebra sharks, leopard sharks, bamboo sharks, rays, eels and other exotic species. The main tank is approximately 12 meters in diameter and has a walk-through tunnel that allows visitors to experience the fish at a much closer range. All tanks are expertly themed to replicate the underwater environment.
Additional features of the public aquarium include a laboratory, food preparation room and quarantine facilities.
The Malta National Aquarium complex is in an iconic curved shell structure in the form of a starfish. The adjacent promenade provides additional recreation facilities for pedestrians including a children’s play area.
We also offer curricula related activities with the Aquarium education team to supplement the students’ visit. We provide an array of public talks daily that help promote awareness on essential issues such as littering, loss of species and conservation. This new concept of interactive teaching will eventually help change the traditional way of learning. Our aim is to be the leading entity for the preservation of the marine life and its environment. We do this by instilling a sense of environmental responsibility in our visitors and members of staff. We practise what we preach and therefore fully respect the environment throughout our operations.
Through collaboration with various local NGOs we have undergone a number of projects to further promote awareness and education amongst school kids and adults alike.
Q: The aquarium is divided into different zones according to which area, time period, or species they represent. Can you explain what each and every zone has to offer?
A: In The Malta National Aquarium we have five different zone offering different enviroments for one to discover.
MALTA’S WESTERN SHORELINE & SUBMARINE
This zone consists primarily of Mediterranean species that can be found locally in Malta.
Don’t forget to look out for the skates hiding beneath the sand! Often known as undulate rays, these type of skates are common in our seas and are a type of cartilaginous fish closely related to sharks and stingrays.
In this area you’ll also find our jellyfish station and go through a submarine. This submarine is a replica of the HMS Stubborn submarine used during World War II, which is now a very popular dive site located 3 km away from Qawra point. You will find a number of surprises when looking through the windows of the submarine such as the octopus, sea anemones, clownfish and beautiful coral reefs.
Conservation of our ocean and raising awareness is one of our main objectives. Thanks to our collaboration with the NGO Sharklab, you may observe eggcases and baby sharks of nursehound and small-spotted catsharks in this zone. These egg cases are rescued from the fish market, taken care of by our Back of House team and then released back into Maltese waters. So far, we managed to rescue and release more than 350 sharks!
When entering the Grand Harbour zone, you will find yourself surrounded by a beautiful mural of Malta’s majestic harbour, a display of a rockpool and a variety of local species.
The Grand Harbour, together with Valletta’s historic architectural buildings, features the marine habitat within the port area and is rich in Mediterranean aquatic species. This area features a replica of the Couvre Porte built during the 1716-1730, which was a gateway that provided access into the city of Vittoriosa.
The tanks in this area host marine life from the Indo-Pacific region, displaying numerous shoals of colourful fish and also a few species of sharks.
The marine biodiversity in these waters is astounding, but our main tank also hosts a wreck which is a replica of the Um El Faroud, a Lybian tanker which exploded following maintenance work in 1995 in Malta shipbuilding. The wreck sits upright on the sandy seabed southwest of Malta.
This zone characterises an ancient shipwreck as well as replicas of ancient Roman remains. The anchor displayed in this area is a replica of the original anchor of St Paul’s shipwreck which was found in 2005 and is currently placed at the Malta Maritime Museum. Such anchor is thought to be the one used by Saint Paul during his voyage to Malta.
There is also the Jesus Christ statue which represents the statue which was sunk in commemoration of the Pope’s visit to Malta in 1990 near St Paul’s islands.
These themed exhibits combine the Maltese megalithic temples and the beauty of the rainforest which most species in this area call home. Intertwined in a perfect symbiosis and with the presence of all sorts of freshwater species, they leave us wondering what stories this interesting mix would have to tell.
Q: Do you have any Restaurants part of the Aquarium Complex?
A: La Nave Bistro is our flag ship restaurant which is situated under the Aquarium dome, the restaurant is open everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At La Nave bistro is also ideal for your next corporate event, special occasion and kids birthday parties. We also have a Kiosk part of the complex situated in the Piazza next to the Aquarium serving an array of snacks and beverages.
The walk-through tunnel makes you feel as if you are literally under the sea. How many species and fresh water animals live inside this huge aquarium? Which are some of the most impressive species we can see?
The Malta National Aquarium has 50 tanks with approx 250 speciies of fish, reptiles, insects and amphibians, amongst others, Mediterranean fish, including fish commonly found in Maltese waters other species come from Indo pacific oceans and various rivers and lakes around the world. Howevevr from all the species we have inside the Aquarium the all time favourite of all are our Zebra, and black tip reef sharks.
Q: Are there any special activities held at the aquarium?
A: On a daily basis on the hour we have talks on different topics, baby shark talk, octopus talks, jellyfish talks, reptile talks and many other interesing topics.
Q: You also offer back of house tours. Can you describe the experience of such a tour should the visitors wish to book a place?
A: Experience the back of house tour, which includes visits to the quarantine area, food prep area, laboratory, filtration system, and the main tank from above. This can be booked directly on your arrival at the Aquarium tours are held every hour during the day.
Q: Do you have any tips for tourists visiting the aquarium?
A: We always recommend or visitors not to rush their visit, they will be visiting a living musuem so there is a lot of things happening all the time in each different tank therefore we always suggest to spend time on each tank to experience the underewater habitats better and finally if you want to have the best experience we also suggest to do a back of house tour to appreciate all the work which takes place inside the Aquarium.
Q: How much time would it take a visitor to explore all the aquarium?
A: There is no time limit to visit the Aquarium as it all depends on the interest of each individual person however we normallt recommend a minimum of 1 hr.
Q: Do visitors need to pre-book? From where can they find all the information they need?
A: You dont need to pre book. You can by tickets at the door or online on www.aquarium.com.mt