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Okinawa Part II – Churaumi Aquarium

:: Sunday, December 23rd, 2007 @ 8:52:44 pm

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whale shark tank at the churaumi aquarium in okinawa, japan

[Part I] [Part II] We spent our last day in Okinawa at the Churaumi Aquarium and a few sites between Naha and the aquarium. All of the guidebooks say that the aquarium is more than 2 hours away from Naha by car, but we made it in about an hour and a half.

The Kuroshio Sea tank is impressive, holding 80 species of fish in its 10m x 35m x 27m (H x W x D) volume. Three whale sharks and a bunch of manta (and other) rays were the highlights, and regardless of what one may think about whether whale sharks should be kept in captivity, it was an impressive sight.


the coral sea exhibit

The Coral Sea exhibit showcases reef-building species local to the Okinawa area. The aquarium’s website states:

This tank showcases a collection of Okinawan reef-building corals, allowing you an intimate look at corals and the habitat of the creatures in this tank. Our plan is to raise coral colonies and eventually return them to the sea to thrive. *The corals in this Aquarium were collected under special permission and have been growing here for about 10 years.

Some of the corals did look like they were thriving, but compared to coral reefs I’ve seen in the wild, the captive reef looked barren and devoid of life. Still, if the corals there have been growing for 10 years without any problems, I see no problem in sustaining them in an aquarium for people to see. Everyone we saw was fascinated by the exhibit, and getting people interested in the ocean is a great thing!


the sign says that mantis shrimp taste really good

There was a mantis shrimp exhibit with an accompanying sign stating that mantis shrimp taste really good. I thought a sign like that was incredibly tacky, especially at an aquarium that celebrates LIVING marine life.


the dolphin lagoon show

The Dolphin Lagoon was tiny, and I was surprised that they were holding so many captive dolphins in such a small space. We went to see the show, which was a huge hit amongst the Japanese audience. They oohhed and ahhed at a level unsurpassed by any American audience I have ever seen. I don’t know what species of dolphin the large, black ones were — perhaps, pilot whales? I’m told that the large black dolphins were false killer whales. Whatever they were, I have never seen them in the wild. They have huge teeth!


tiny manatee holding area

I was really depressed by the manatee tank. It was tiny, and the manatees swam around in little circles, endlessly.


lower entrance of the churaumi aquarium

Some of my conservation friends are against aquariums of any kind, but I am not. Most people on the planet have no access to living marine life and only see the ocean as a source of food (or fear). It’s important to have a place to go where one can see and interact with marine life; otherwise, how are people going to know that there is something worth protecting?

[see all photos]

| Taipei, Taiwan | link | trackback | Dec 23, 2007 20:52:44
  • Weiwei

    Whale shark tank! OMG! Fantastic!(Sorry, Eric – I had posted the comment to the previous post – just a mistake!)

  • http://aquarium-answers.blogspot.com/ Carl Strohmeyer

    Nice pictures! The Koroshio Sea tank looks awesome (I would love to see this in person, but doubt this will ever happen). I the Coral Sea tank also looked interesting even though you stated it was not quite as full of life as a wild reef. It is still nice to see a self sustaining captive reef.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    I posted this in the forums at Wetpixel, and there is an interesting discussion going on about the whale sharks there:

    http://wetpixel.com/forums/ind.....opic=22122

  • Ry

    Could the large black dolphins have been Wholphins?

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Nope. They were false killer whales, I’m told.

  • Jeff

    The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta has whale sharks as well. I believe they came from Taiwan.

  • http://www.jauderho.com Jauder Ho

    There’s also a whale shark in the aquarium in Osaka. Eventually, I’ll post the pictures on Flickr.

  • http://www.mommymoments.net Mommy

    If you’re into SCUBA, they also had an area to dive with whale sharks… it was a bit sad, being that they were netted… They claim it’s a rehabilitation area for the whale sharks… It’s an experience …

  • http://www.reefescape.net Chris

    That place looks amazing, I sincerely hope I get to visit someday. I would love to see the whale sharks in person, and the coral sea exhibit in the pictures looks beautiful.

  • Michael Kiang

    Hi Eric, Beautiful whale shark.May I ask: 1.How far were you from the glass of the tank…10..20..more ft ? 2.What is the focal length of lens ? 3.What is the White Balance….Auto….some other ? I plan to visit Okinawa Aquarium later in the year & am not sure which lens to bring.

    Many Thanks.

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