By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In less than two months, Rio de Janeiro will inaugurate the largest aquarium in South America when AquaRio opens to the public on November 9th. Regular tickets for the immense 26,000 square meter, five-story structure are R$80 for foreigners and R$60 for Rio natives and residents; students, elderly, and people with disabilities pay half price; and children under the age of three enter for free.
AquaRio is located in Rio’s revitalized Port Zone, at one end of Olympic Boulevard near the exit of the Rio450 tunnel, in front of the recently unveiled Praça Muhammad Ali and Armazéns (Warehouses) 7 and 8. Designed by marine biologist Marcelo Szpilman, the site will house about eight thousand marine animals from 350 different species in 28 tanks filled with 4.5 million liters of water.
Upon entering the aquarium, guests are immediately introduced to the size and scale of the huge space as they are greeted by a gigantic thirteen-meter tall skeleton of a twenty-ton humpback whale that was found off the coast of Prainha Beach in 2014.
“I did not expect it to be so large, and diversified. The space is another attraction in the Port Region,” exclaimed Naira Amorelli, from the travel website Embarque na Viagem, at a special unveiling for journalists and media last Thursday, September 15th.
Sure to be one of the highlights of any visit to AquaRio will be the main tank, called Recinto Oceânico. At five hundred square meters and seven meters deep, Recinto Oceânico will allow guests to touch some of the marine animals, or even dive with the sharks, fishes, and manta rays.
Other attractions will include a virtual aquarium, which uses the latest technology to simulate an interactive underwater experience, and the Sciences Museum, which will house permanent and temporary marine exhibitions.
Szpilman, also AquaRio’s CEO, told the crowd of excited reporters at the special unveiling that the marine aquarium has three goals, “education, research, and conservation. Our proposal is to awaken in children the interest in science.”
AquaRio has partnered with the Department of Marine Biology of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) to create a scientific research center on the site, which will also include a biodiversity conservation center, aimed at preserving animals in danger of extinction.
Starting November 9th, AquaRio will open to the public daily from 10AM to 8PM. Aquarium officials expect to receive about eight thousand visitors a day.