With a stunning coastal location, the rugged Scottish cliffs offer a spectacular natural backdrop to the underwater world of St Andrews Aquarium.
Overlooking St Andrews Bay and the famous West Sands, St Andrews Aquarium offers a fascinating insight into the sea life that lives in the ocean, as well as some of the animals that live outside it too.
With everything from stingrays to seals, penguins to puffer fish, prepare to be amazed by the up-close encounters you could enjoy. Here’s just a snapshot of what you could see in the Aquarium.
Every aquarium has fish, but at St Andrews there are quite literally hundreds of exotic and unusual-looking sea dwellers to hypnotise and entrance you.
But while they may look tranquil and beautiful, their harmless appearance belies a hidden danger. Many of the specimens on show at St Andrews are in fact highly dangerous, and have a variety of weapons with which to protect themselves.
The puffer fish is a comical little beast but need to be handled with gloves to avoid their deadly toxins. Puffer fish are the second most venomous vertebrate on the planet and there’s no known antidote for their poison.
Stingrays have a deadly barb in their spine, and the striking lionfish is another one whose beauty belies its venom.
Piranhas are well known for their ferocity and seeing them up and close in a controlled environment as St Andrews Aquarium is far less scary than seeing them in the wild!
Whilst sharks are technically a type of fish, their popularity and sheer presence deserves a category all of their own.
In St Andrews Aquarium, there’s the chance to see a Black Tip Reef Shark which are native to both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, preferring shallow waters and snacking on fish, crustaceans and even sea-birds!
Still a baby at the moment, at just a couple of years old, the shark at St Andrews has yet to grow to his full size: an impressive 1.6 metres, guaranteed to make you thankful for the glass between you and him!
Caiman and alligators
Another very appealing attraction, caiman and alligators can both be seen at St Andrews, giving visitors the chance to see these prehistoric-looking beasts up close.
Despite not being quite as intimidating as the larger crocodiles, spectacled caiman can still grow up to 8 or 9 feet in length – certainly scary enough!
New to the Aquarium are two baby American Alligators, reptiles that will eventually grow to between 3-5 metres in length, weighing up to 500kg. Preferring freshwater, these alligators have a snout which sticks out of the water whilst the rest of their body remains submerged, a truly terrifying sight!
But not all of the animals at the Aquarium are fearsome creatures of the deep, as the family of friendly Humboldt Penguins shows.
Mid-sized penguins, they love to dive and swim and grow to around 50-70 centimetres tall.
In the summer, the penguins moult ready to grow new feathers, and during this time they lose their waterproof coating, and are unable to swim underwater as usual.
Harbour seals are one of the two breeds of seal which are resident in the UK, and one of a total of 33 species worldwide.
Laurel is the Aquarium’s longest seal resident, having been there since 1991 after she was found abandoned near Oban. She loves to learn new skills and tricks and regularly waves her flippers and blows bubbles at the visitors!
Accompanying Laurel is a family of harbour seals, previously rescued by Denmark, known as Togo, Leif and their mum, Nellie. These seals are truly modern animals as they even have their own Twitter account so you can follow their fun and frolics from the comfort of your own home.
There’s much more to see at the Aquarium too: amphibians, including the colourful yet deadly Poison Dart Frog, reptiles – such as the Bearded Dragons and African Spurred Tortoises – plus spiders, scorpions and even a colony of meerkats!
If you’re staying at the nearby St Andrews Coachouses why not include a trip to the Aquarium? It’s just a short distance away and will open your eyes to the beauty and mystery which lies in the ocean…you’ll certainly think twice before dipping a toe in again!
Image Credits: Sobole VNRM and Thespis377