At the end of the promenade in Qawra, past spectacular views of St. Paul’s Islands, you reach an unusual shell-like building overlooking the broad stretch of the blue Mediterranean. It couldn’t be a more appropriate location for the Malta National Aquarium. Built with the help of EU funds and opened in 2013, the aquarium is in the heart of a larger recreational complex and is the first public aquarium to be built in the Maltese Islands.
Recently named in the top 20 best aquariums in Europe, the facility has been designed to enthrall visitors of all ages. It houses more than 175 different species of sea life in 26 display tanks, giving visitors a snapshot of the habitat which has defined the Maltese Islands. Visitors walk through a series of rooms and exhibitions, which directly relate the aquatic life on show with the history of the islands. In one tank you see the remains of a Roman shipwreck with broken amphorae strewn about, in another you see a portion of the Grand Harbour and a wartime bomber. Everywhere you look, there are fish of different shapes, sizes and amazing colours.
Children are fascinated as they walk past the seahorses, box fish and puffer fish. They will love the ‘crawl through’ fish tank, touch pools and the unusual shark nursery. This tank is strung with ‘washing lines’ hung with eggs, each with a wriggly baby shark inside. The breeding project, in collaboration with Shark Lab Malta, is a brilliant example of how good conservation and tourism can work together.
Eventually, you reach the centerpiece of the aquarium, a twelve-metre diameter tank filled with sharks, eels and rays from the Indian Ocean. As you walk through the ‘water tunnel’ taking you within the tank, you experience these stunning fish gliding over your head.
When you have finished walking through all the exhibitions, the La Nave Bistro on the first floor provides a good menu of lunch and snack options, and is a great place to take a break before the kids hit the souvenir shop. Facilities outside the aquarium include the Café del Mar reef lido for an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing, an outside café, an underwater themed children’s playground with dancing water fountains and a multi-storey car park. So whether it’s a rainy winters day or a treat for the summer holidays, head to the Malta National Aquarium.
Malta National Aquarium
San Pawl il-Bahar SPB 1500
t: (+356) 2258 8100