The Beijing Aquarium, located in the Beijing Zoo on Line 4, maybe the largest aquarium in China, but unfortunately does not compare to any of the major western aquariums you might be accustomed to. The aquarium is technically apart of the Beijing Zoo, but is an additional 120 Yuan fee. The Beijing Aquarium is divided into 7 sectors that range from coral reef displays to dolphin performances. The facilities are fine, the building is impressive, but we were disappointed with the much of what the Beijing Aquarium had to offer. We recommend skipping the aquarium and just sticking with the zoo, but if you are curious to learn more keep reading.
Beijing Aquarium Attractions
The Beijing Aquarium, also called Beijing Hai Yang Guan, was originally opened in 1999, but has had a lot of work done on it over the past few years. As soon as you enter the massive aquarium you can tell that a lot of money went into the construction of the building and facilities. You can even see that the Beijing Aquarium has a great deal of potential to be a phenomenal aquarium. Unfortunately, the management has dropped the ball on too many key things that make this site a waste of both your time and money.
First though, lets cover what the Beijing Aquarium offers. As mentioned earlier, the aquarium is split into 7 different sectors that offer a variety of different fish and viewing experiences. The first of these, or last depending on what entrance the Beijing Aquarium is using that day, is the “Rainforest Adventure.” The Rainforest Adventure is beautifully designed and contains some fairly elaborate sets that take you into a deep rainforest. There are waterfalls, trees, and even enormous amazonian like statues… oh and of course numerous tanks of fish. There were some typical tanks that let you see the fish swimming at eye level as well as some that let you observe the fish from above. There was even a thin tank that created a barrier between paths allowing you to view from both sides depending on which path you were taking. All in all a fairly neat set up.
INCREDIBLY NARROW PATHS!!! If you know anything about China, or Beijing in particular, it is that there are lots of people here. The aquarium is no different. The beautiful props and design lend themselves nicely to some great photo ops. Which is nice, but when you have have the country trying to make their way through narrow paths that maybe allow for 2-3 people, these photos create massive traffic jams. Not entirely sure this is the Beijing Aquarium’s fault, but it was an annoyance. On top of that, the building is currently under construction, so once you got to the current end of the rainforest, you simply had to turn around and fight through the mess of people. Uggghhh… Still though, the aquarium part was nice, and this part of the aquarium was done.
Next there is supposed to be a “Colorful Beach,” where you can play in a touch pool with sea turtles and other marine animals. Unfortunately, this part of the aquarium must have been closed on the day we visited. We searched for a good while and could not find it. Assuming that it was behind a makeshift construction wall, we are going to give the benefit of the doubt and say that this would have been a great addition to the Beijing Aquarium. Moving on.
From the Colorful Beach, your next stop is supposed to be the “Bering Town.” Bering town consists of some 3D murals and special effects that make for an arctic feel. The highlight, and ultimately downfall of the Bering Town is its “White Whale Tank.” The tank is nowhere near a suitable size, which will make any animal sympathizer cringe. Even worse than that though is the “Beautiful Singing” that can be heard throughout the aquarium that comes from these whales. The “Beautiful Singing” would better be described as ear piercing shrieks that I can only presume are being amplified by the aquarium. The shrieks hurt so bad that I literally walked in fear of hearing another every time I walked in the main room.
After Bering Town is the “Acipenser Sinensis Aquarium.” Not sure if that is the scientific term for giant fish, or someone just slapped their face on the keyboard a few times, either way… I don’t have a clue how to say this exhibits name. That being said, this was actually one of the better exhibits at the Beijing Aquarium. The tanks were large, really interesting fish, and lots of room to take time and fully enjoy the fish.
The next exhibit, “Wonders of Coral Reefs,” was far and above the favorite. The coral reefs are gorgeous and well designed. The “Fairyland of Jellyfish,” were lit up and made for some of the most memorable exhibits in the entire aquarium. Their were plenty of unique viewing experiences including some mirrored tanks and even a few tunnel tanks that made the Coral Reef exhibit so much fun. If there were any complaints it would be with the water level. Many of the tanks had green netting visible which really took away from the natural setting, and probably could have been fixed with a bit less water.
The last two exhibits were far and above the most disappointing of the lot. First the “Whale and Dolphin Discovery.” What an incredibly misleading title. It is entirely possible that we some how missed something. Maybe the actual exhibit was under construction. Maybe the tank was being cleaned. Maybe the whale was out seeing more interesting attractions. Whatever the situation may have been… there was no whale. At least not of the variety displayed on their brochure. All that you do get in the “Whale and Dolphin Discovery,” is a small path that off shoots from the main one, and takes you to a few viewing stations. The first couple consisted of small, empty tanks. The last consisted of a couple of porpoises in another small tank. Now before we get a boatload of comments saying, “Well they weren’t wrong, porpoises are whales.” We know. The brochure would have you believe that the tank should include what resembles a giant Sperm Whale. Absolutely disappointed.
Finally, we got to the Marine Mammal Pavilion. Here you can see a performance put on by sea lions, dolphins, and even the previously mentioned porpoises in a stadium that seats over 3,000 people. The brochure even goes as far as to call it the “Broadway on the Sea.” Once again, the brochure oversold the exhibit. The sea lions performed well enough, the dolphins did jump a couple of times, but all in all the show was just boring. I found wanting to leave on several occasions, but felt that there had to be something at the end to make this worth the 30 minute time investment. There was not. The show consisted of the sea lions doing a couple of decent tricks, including catching a few rings. Dolphins swimming about and waving their tails. A trainer trying to stand and ride the dolphin’s nose, but failing miserably. An audience participation portion that consisted of nothing but talking (keep in mind that it was entirely in Chinese, so maybe this part was entertaining to the locals… maybe). The stage however was well put together and looked really nice.
On top of all of that, there were several little things about the aquarium that were just awkward. Most notably were the bathrooms. When you first go in, you will see a toilet paper dispenser. This is fairly typical in China, where you are supposed to take as much as you may need before you go in the actual stall. As strange as this may seem, it is nothing compared to the actual stall. The stall consists of high walls, and a half door. What’s a half door you ask? I mean a door that only comes up to your chest. You are totally covered when you are sitting down, but while I was doing my thing on the toilet, I had a man completely come up to the door and stare down at me. Really uncomfortable…
In the end, the price tag seems to be far too expensive for an attraction that I wouldn’t even recommend for a fifth of the price. There are lots of small things here that can easily be fixed, and who knows, by the time you read this all of these issues could be fixed. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Beijing Aquarium in its current state.
- Admission: 120 Yuan
- Hours: 9:00 – 17:30 (times may differ depending on the season)
- Directions: Take Line 4 to the Beijing Zoo. You will find the Beijing Aquarium inside the Zoo.