Ocean World- Ningbo, China

Aquarium entrance- ticket booth is to the left with the golden trees…

It was impossibly rainy day in Ningbo on Wednesday, and the day before was almost 100 degrees F with 100% humidity. The super hot day, we had stayed inside to stay cool, and two days in a row cooped up in the hotel were not an option. So, we found an indoor attraction and took a taxi out to Ocean World. I was under the impression that this was just an aquarium, what we found was much, much more!

To start, Ocean World’s exterior is borderline over the top, but so exciting for little kids! The octopus, the swordfish, the mermaids- it is all so enchanting. Even though it was raining, Landon wanted to go out there and check it out. The ticket office is situated between the aquarium and theater, on the ground floor. I saw many people head toward the main entrance to the aquarium and realize after climbing a flight of stairs that the tickets were downstairs! Tickets are a little pricey at 160 rmb for adults and 110 rmb for children. However, this includes entrance into the aquarium with its animals as well as a mermaid and seal show, as well as entry into one Ocean Theater performance next door. Comparing the pricing to an attraction like Sea World in the U.S., I’d say it was a fair deal.

Archer fish and suspended balls from which they harvested their food

Once inside the aquarium, the first section set the mood with different areas decorated like different ancient ruins- from Angkor Wat to Egypt to the Summer Palace. Where some aquariums in the U.S. err on the side of stark and plain, this place erred on the side of detracting from the actual things we were there to see- the fish! There were some major standouts in this area- they had archer fish feeding while we were there. The archer fish shoots water out of its mouth to bring down insects and other prey. They had fish food attached to ping pong balls suspended high above the surface of the water. Those archer fish were very accurate and knocked all the food into the water. I had never seen anything like it. I think Landon was slightly amused.

These large sucker fish attach onto sharks and other large animals and hitch a ride in order to catch and eat food
Sorry, endangered salamander, for taking a picture of you using the flash
I hope you will forgive me and not come to eat me or my son!
P.S. that is just it’s head and front arms…

There was also a dark aquarium tank with just a red light barely illuminating it. Although most of the signs were in Chinese, they always had a little bit of English so we knew what we were looking at. This tank said it contained an endangered species- the Chinese giant salamander. We searched the tank for a long time, but seemed to be only seeing logs and rocks in the tank. I wasn’t sure how big a giant salamander should be in comparison to the tiny size of normal salamanders. Then we saw it. Its face was pressed up against the glass, and its head was at least as big as Landon’s. We had overlooked it because it was the color and shape of a rock! Then we saw its eye and mouth. I would not want to step on one of those things or come across it in the wild. It was as large as Landon from head to tail as well. Yikes! It was really cool to see such a large specimen especially since it is endangered.

Mermaid show!

This aquarium had a great selection of fresh water fish and rays from the Amazon and other big rivers. Landon was able to correctly identify several different fish including cat fish and clown fish- although after saying it was a clown fish he immediately started talking about Nemo. At least he knows the real name too. We wound our way through the main floor before being ushered down an escalator. We had the stroller with us because I was planning on walking home, so the security guy at the escalator was trying to tell me that he would bring the stroller down and I could focus on keeping Landon safe. I have safely navigated many an escalator with Landon in the stroller, but I didn’t quite get what he was trying to tell me. We went back to the main entrance to try to take the elevator downstairs, but it didn’t work. So back we came and then I finally figured out what he was saying. We went down the escalator with a clear glass ceiling that looked up into the giant Amazon river fish tank. Those fish were huge!

In the shark tunnel…

Downstairs, a mermaid show was about to start! We saw a mermaid show at the aquarium in Seoul as well, so I was not in complete shock that they would have a show like this at the aquarium. This one was not just dancing/underwater swimming, it was a story. I think it was roughly the story of the little mermaid, but basically the mermaid swam all over and did flips and then a man fell in the water, she saved them and they fell in love. I had mad respect for the mermaid lady- at this show she was in a mermaid tail that looked like it would be really hard to maneuver. She had fins on, but still, she could only move by doing dolphin kicks and arms. She could hold her breath for a decent amount of time as well! Downstairs, there were two more tunnels where we walked under the tanks. One had sharks and sea turtles, and the other had more tropical and reef fish.

Being the photographer and sole Landon-watcher is a hard
task! I’m glad we got a few good pictures out of this!
Portugese Man-of-War?
I had never seen fish like this before- they were so colorful and cute!

The other attraction on this level was the seal show, which was entertaining. It was hard to concentrate, though, because Landon had found the gift shop and really wanted a new truck. He kept flailing around and not watching the cool tricks the seals were doing! They could catch rings around their necks and all sorts of other neat things. Anyway, the trucks there were very cheap so I got him one before continuing on. That was a mistake.

The lights changed colors, and so did the jellyfish
Feeding the turtle
This one was the aggressive one!

Before heading over to the theater for the whale show, we took a short detour upstairs. There was a beautiful jellyfish exhibit with all sorts of jellies including what I think were Portugese Man-O-Wars, but the name they had on the placard was different. This sometimes happens in foreign aquariums- I know the name of something and then the name on the placard is not correct. I guess it’s lost in translation. When we got to the back of the top floor, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. In a few feet of water were 5-10 sea turtles- both leatherbacks and green sea turtles, swimming around. For 20 rmb, you could feed them fish, lettuce and  carrots with tongs. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. On the one had, sea turtles are endangered and protected on Hawaii, and it was a shame that they were in a shallow pool like that. On the other hand, when am I ever going to have an opportunity to feed a sea turtle with tongs? So, we coughed up the 20 rmb and hand-fed the sea turtles. Landon did not quite have the coordination to work the tongs correctly, so I helped him. There were some hungry/aggressive turtles and they snapped up that food with a scary amount of force. Landon was tempted to put his hand in, but I told him that they are probably strong enough to bite his hand completely off! That kept his hands out of the tank! One thing I learned about sea turtles is that they can take in water with their mouths and then shoot it out of their nose. Crazy, right?

Relieved we still have all our fingers!
Theater entrance

When we exited the aquarium, it was still raining, so the covered walkway over to the Ocean Theater was welcome. Something odd/interesting about the aquarium was the one-way flow of traffic through the aquarium. The tunnels were very narrow and did not allow for two-way traffic, and there was no escalator back up to the 2nd floor. It was an unique set-up to say the least. The Ocean Theater only had two shows left for the day, and we were just in time for the next show! Leading into the theater portion of the building were tanks holding all of the animals for the show. It was heart-breaking seeing the tiny cages that they live in when they are not performing. There were belugas, dolphins, a walrus, and sea lions that performed in the show. Other than that, they had arctic wolves and foxes for some reason along with two sad-looking penguins. The exhibits over in the theater building were just not up to the same level as the aquarium. On the 2nd floor, there was a marine science museum with taxidermied marine animals, and lots of information in Chinese. Nothing was in English on this floor, so we breezed through it rather quickly.

Performing walrus- who knew that was a thing?
Hard to see, but he’s surfing on a beluga whale!

The show itself was really neat! I wish I could have watched more of it, and that it hadn’t been so close to Landon’s nap time. He just wanted to play with his new semi truck and was not at all impressed with the performing mammals unless they were jumping high out of the water. He had seen a little boy with a Thomas train earlier and spent the entire show trying to escape from me and find the little boy. It was annoying to say the least. I ended up having to hold him in my lap and force him to watch the show. All of the shows were solely in Chinese, but in this case, everything was self-explanatory. The walrus did some amazing tricks that I did not expect from a walrus. The sea lions were fun and my favorite part was one of the beluga whales did not want to listen to its trainer. It did about half of the routine before just diving down and not coming back up. It went over to its cage and just sat there. After a few minutes, the trainer was able to salvage the performance, which included him surfing on the back of the whale, but I could tell he was frustrated.

Landon’s favorite- the high-flying dolphins!

We spent about four hours at the aquarium before we called it a day. I think a good thorough appreciation of every tank and exhibit would take a little longer, but with a toddler anything over two hours is really a stretch for him. I recommended Ocean World to all of my husband’s co-workers and I think it has something for every age to enjoy!

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