VGP Underwater Aquarium In Chennai
Do you love fishes? What about colourful, interesting and different-sized fishes? Know how it feels like below the sea with fishes swimming around you at the underwater aquarium at VGP Marine Kingdom.
By Dr Shyam Kumar
For those who dream of exploring the deep blue sea and swimming alongside sharks, the underwater aquarium at VGP Marine Kingdom in Chennai is ‘the place to go’.
Located on the East Coast Road, just 21 km from Chennai city, the VGP Marine Kingdom offers visitors an ‘immersive’ experience while exploring marine life in its natural surroundings.
It is the perfect place for children to visualise and experience underwater marine life which they otherwise see only in textbooks or on the Internet. From a variety of exotic, colourful and interesting fishes swimming around you to scuba diving with sharks, there are umpteen adventures to take part in.
So, welcome to the little marine world at VGP!
VGP Marine Kingdom
The swanky reception area is adorned with life-size replicas of two large hammerhead sharks and a couple of sting rays. Then, as you cross the reception area, you will find yourself transported to a cool, forest-like surrounding. Here, the sounds of birds chirping (caught magically on tape) and a stream flowing make you forget the sweltering heat of the afternoon sun outside.
Largest walk-through aquarium in India
The marine aquarium is divided into five zones. These are: Rain Forest, Gorge, Mangrove Forest, Coastal and Deep Sea (Tunnel Aquarium).
1. Rain forest
The cool, wooded area you enter after crossing the reception is the Rain Forest zone. Here, your eyes can feast on colourful fishes swimming in cylindrical tanks made of see-through acrylic. Some of the fishes dart away as you approach them, but some appear to be trying to strike a friendship, for they follow you as you walk by the tank.
The alligator gar fish, so named as such due to its half-alligator, half-fish appearance, looks lazily at you as you observe it for any signs of ferociousness befitting its name.
In another tank, you see a couple of alien-like creatures. These seem to have jumped straight out of a sci-fi movie. They are the axolotl, amphibians with legs and a pair of gills. They are also called the ‘Mexican walking fish’.
As you walk around, you can see the names of fishes flashing on LCD screens. Some of the fishes being showcased in the Rain Forest zone are the Black pacu, zebra tilapia, flag tail fish, flying barb, filament barb, orange chromide, convict cichlid and silver moony.
Kids would surely love the special viewing window placed right at the centre of these tanks. In fact, a child can easily crawl in through a hole beneath the tank and stand up inside a special transparent recess. Soon the colourful fishes would be swarming around him. And, while he is enjoying the company of the fishes, not wanting to miss the magical moments, parents click away the images to create memories for later on.
The smooth laminated flooring ends where a flight of stairs leads down to the Gorge. This zone displays fishes that are found in a riverine habitat.
A descend into the Gorge brings you to the roots of a giant tree branching out in between the rocks and trying to reach the flowing water. And, the sight of a bunch of golden koi carps frolicking in the stream would captivate anyone. The surrounding vegetation and creepers dangling overhead induce a state of tranquillity which can only be experienced in the wild.
As you walk further, you would find yourself in between open tanks. These allow you to view the fishes from the top as well as through an acrylic panel on the sides.
A display panel lists the names of fishes living in the Gorge. These include the spotted scat, rosy barb, gourami, rohu, flower horn fish, black ghost knifefish, grass carp, iridescent shark, silver shark, catla and reticulated flying fox.
3. Mangrove forest
Beyond the Gorge lies a dark tunnel-like pathway with a well-lit aquarium to its right. A tastefully done mangrove environment is set up here with a variety of fishes swimming in between a network of roots.
Some of the fishes displayed here are the rabbit fish, archer fish, snapper and dwarf pufferfish. You can also see the mangrove crab or the mud crab hiding in the muddy bottom.
4. Coastal zone
This is the most exciting zone in the entire VGP Marine Kingdom. Several exciting and exotic marine species are on display here.
There is a coral reef with beautiful clown fish (‘Finding Nemo’ fame) darting in and out of the finger-like tentacles of the sea anemones. You can spot a sea urchin in a corner. In another tank, there is an octopus dozing away with its tentacles wrapped around itself.
Almost an entire tank is devoted to various sting rays that appear to fly around in the water, flamboyantly flapping their wings and swinging their tail. A closer look may make you feel that the sting rays are smiling at you. Some of them even appear to push their heads out of the water, almost like dolphins.
For children who are enthusiastic about touching a fish, there is a starfish touch zone.
Among the species of fishes living in this zone are the squirrel fish, triggerfish, Indian lizard fish, mullet, threadfin trevally, grouper, surgeon fish and emperor angel fish.
5. Deep sea
A stroll across the coastal zone took me to the Deep Sea zone. This is where the pathway of the underwater tunnel aquarium begins. There is a large acrylic dome submerged in water with a moving walkway or travellator installed in it.
A variety of amazing fishes, large sharks, a gigantic sting ray and other marine species swim above as you pass through the tunnel. At times, it can make you feel as though you are standing on the ocean floor, with fishes swimming all around you. And, the wonderful part is, even those who do not like being within closed spaces wouldn’t feel claustrophobic.
The water is strikingly clean, resulting in a crystal-clear view of the vibrant marine life swimming around. A child can be seen excitedly pointing at some fishes and dancing merrily to the amusement of the onlookers. A scuba diver, probably a tank maintenance worker, appears out of the blue and waves merrily at the spectators as he glides past a shark.
Your time with the marine life will then come to an abrupt end as you exit the Deep Sea zone; but there would still be some fun activities for children to indulge in.
The VR zone has a couple of shows which enthral the kids with a realistic visual of life under the sea. Here, you can hear kids screaming and trying to reach out and touch huge blobs of jelly fish floating around them. A huge baleen whale gently floats past and swims out of view with a gigantic swing of its tail. In another visual, a violent shark tries to bite off the metal bar of a cage in which you are immersed.
The more adventurous can indulge in scuba diving. After a brief training in a standalone pool, one can dive into the marine aquarium and swim along with sharks under the supervision of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certified divers.
Star attractions at VGP Marine Kingdom
- Tunnel aquarium
- Live feeding show
- Scuba Diving
- VR Theatre
Ticket price at VGP Marine Kingdom
- Entry fee for adults Rs 550
- Entry fee for kids Rs 450 (height 90–125cm)
- Entry fee for VR Theatre Rs 150
- Scuba diving Rs 3,000
VGP Marine Kingdom timings
- Weekdays: 09:30 a.m. to 07:30 p.m.
- Weekends: 09:00 a.m. to 08:00 p.m.
- 7 days a week
Facilities at VGP Marine Kingdom
- Banquet Hall
- Teaching lab for school children who visit
- Elevator and escalator
- Souvenir shop
About the author:
Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 21 February 2020
The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.
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