Exploris Aquarium, Portaferry enjoyed a double celebration today (20 July 2017) when it welcomed its 150,000 visitor during an official visit from HRH, The Duke of Kent.
The hugely popular Aquarium has enjoyed an incredibly successful year of operation since it reopened to the public in August 2016 following a £1.5M refurbishment. Funding was provided by Ards and North Down Borough Council and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to secure the future of Northern Ireland’s only aquarium and seal sanctuary. A further £500,000 has been invested by the operators, Aquarium Exploris Ltd (AEL) managing the visitor facility.
The Duke of Kent toured the attraction, including the discovery pool in the ‘Strangford Viking’ room, tropical zone with its vibrant fish and corals, the new jelly fish section and an education programme that has attracted more than 150 schools and over 5000 children in the past year. Visitors can also experience the powerful presence of the resident African Nile Crocodile, while the recent birth of a small-clawed Asian Otter pup has been a particularly exciting addition to the Exploris family.
The seal sanctuary remains a firm favourite and the DAERA funded seal rehabilitation programme has proved highly successful. Twenty two seals have received high quality care and been released back into Strangford Lough.
Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Robert Adair, welcomed the royal visitor and commented: “It was my great pleasure to join The Duke of Kent at Exploris today and to be part of the celebrations of the fantastic success of the attraction over the past year. The number of visitors and the immensely positive reputation that the facility has built up are testament to the commitment and enthusiasm of the whole staff team. As the centre continues to develop, with the new zone called ‘The Rise of the Jellies’ will showcase species found around our coastline and our ‘Ocean Pollution Zone supports the education and learning for our school groups. I am confident visitor numbers will continue to grow providing a vital economic boost to Portaferry and the surrounding area. I am thrilled at the success thus far.”
Ann Moreland, General Manager of Exploris commented: “We are delighted by the visitor response to Exploris. We have continued to listen to the public and acted upon feedback. We believe that by constantly striving to make positive changes such as developing a soft play area, introducing new seating and menus in our licensed restaurant and a wide range of new visitor collateral to guide our visitors through the facilities. We have improved the visitor experience in a way that will ensure Exploris continues to be a top attraction in Northern Ireland.”
Exploris Aquarium has gone from strength to strength since it reopening and is developing strong partnerships with QUB, Ulster Wildlife Trust, AFBI that will help the centre to continue to develop and improve. The Aquarium has also been awarded a 5 star Food Hygiene Rating and is currently working towards full membership of the British and Irish Aquarium and Zoo Association (BIAZA).
With the summer season now underway Exploris Aquarium will look forward to continuing to offer day-trippers a first class visitor experience. Our birthday celebrations on Tuesday 15 August including a Pirate & Mermaid Competition.