Why I visit aquariums when on holiday

Whenever I go on holiday overseas, I make it a point to try and visit an aquarium. It does not matter whether the aquarium is big or small, famous or obscure. If the city I’m visiting has an aquarium, I would definitely set aside some time for it.

Me and the curator of AquaPlanet 63 in Seoul, Korea earlier this year. He kindly showed me the back-of-house area of the aquarium where I got to see some of their husbandry practices.

In fact, I’m not the only one in the S.E.A. Aquarium curatorial department who does this – almost all of us take the opportunity to visit other aquariums during our holidays. We are even encouraged to do so! Our travel companions are always baffled by this: why would someone who works full-time at an aquarium want to spend their holiday visiting other aquariums?

The answer is pretty simple: to be inspired, to learn, and to encourage.

S.E.A. Aquarium may be one of the biggest aquariums in the world but it is important that we also look to other aquariums to expand our knowledge and to exchange ideas with aquarists working there. In most instances, we would reach out to these aquarists prior to our visit, so that we can get a personal tour with them, and get to know our overseas colleagues better. This allows us to form important relationships and networks with aquarists all over the world – a network of highly passionate, experienced individuals who are willing to teach anybody who is willing to learn.

That’s the penguin feeder at AquaPlanet 63.

As an aquarist, I am inspired by the overseas aquariums I have visited. I am not alone. My colleague Kenneth Chin, who recently returned from Japan where he visited five aquariums, had this to say,

“Other than their animal collections, I love the way they incorporated characteristic Japanese elements into the design of their exhibits and information charts. It has been a bonus to learn and understand how Japanese culture has influenced the industry. The Japanese take great pride in their work and it is reflected in their passionate sharing when engaging guests. Their penchant for teamwork is also evident in the way they engage the public on marine conservation and education.”

Kenneth Chin (center) with the curators of Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN

It was such a wonderful experience that he has already planned to visit five more aquariums on his next trip back!

By visiting other aquariums, we are able to see new innovations and different animal husbandry techniques and practices for a variety of aquatic animals. Vivian Cavan, who is part of our sea jelly team, recently returned from a holiday to Hong Kong where she connected with sea jelly aquarists working there. This was what she shared,

“I had the opportunity to look at their back-of-house systems which are completely different from ours. I also learned what other food we could feed our sea jellies with – options which I have never considered before!”

Vivian Cavan at the Grand Aquarium at Ocean Park, Hong Kong

When we visit other aquariums, we are usually on the look-out for ways to better design our habitats so as to improve the guest experience. At the same time, many aquariums have exhibitions that focus on their native aquatic species, and may feature animals that most of us in Singapore have not heard of. We also look to these aquariums for ideas for outreach and education programmes. For example, some aquariums have a whole gallery dedicated to shark biology and conservation, and others have special coral larvae exhibits that allow the general public to better understand how corals grow.

Saw this exhibition on sharks at an aquarium in Shanghai.

Aquarists across the world form a community where we gladly share our findings and expertise with one another. Visiting our colleagues help to support and foster our common goal in marine conservation and education. As such, many of us enjoy meeting with our overseas counterparts to trade pointers and inspire one another. Similarly, my colleagues and I are very happy to host our foreign colleagues here as well.

So if you are a fellow aquarist or curator and would like to meet up with us, please drop us an email at enquiries@rwsentosa.com

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