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Dormitator visits Lisbon

Discussion in 'Portugal' started by Dormitator, 10 Jun 2018.

  1. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    Time for another mini zoo blog, I'm off to Lisbon next weekend and I'm very much looking forward to visiting Jardim Zoologico de Lisboa, Oceanário de Lisboa and the Aquário Vasco da Gama (as well as the Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência). I'm aiming for a day in each, combining the natural history museum with Vasco. All three look to be very interesting for their own slightly different reasons.

    If anyone has any tips I'd be very appreciative, there isn't too much on ZC for these places, so extra info would be awesome.
     
  2. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Unless you are a true lingerer in search of every single signed species you won’t need a full day at Oceanario - and probably not even then. Vasco de Gama might run to 3 hours given the same approach.

    I did spend about 5-6 hours at the zoo, from memory, but it was my first European zoo. I don’t think I’d have spent that long there otherwise. But do ride the free chairlift thing, unless you have a fear of heights.
     
  3. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Be sure to check out the Iberian lynx (above the bears in the top of the zoo) immediately, as you will potentially have to make several repeat visits to see them. It is basically the only enclosure where the animals can hide themselves completely in the whole zoo. I still missed them last September though...

    Also be at the Oceanario at opening time, as it gets busy quite quickly and the visitor areas are not very spacious... The Oceanario is quite good and though the Open Ocean tank is not the biggest anymore, it is still mind-blowing, especially if you haven't seen to many aquaria yet.
     
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  4. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    Thanks CGSwans, your report was pretty useful in getting all of this planned so I really have to thank you for that. The chairlift looks hilarious, really looking forward to that. Do they let you go on with a rucksack?

    Thanks, I imagine they will be similar to the Iberian lynx at Madrid who were largely invisible after midday, but very showy in the morning. Slightly worrying that it's the only enclosure where you have a chance of not seeing things, definitely more interesting if you can't see everything on the first run, as well as being better for the animals.

    I've not been to a big European aquarium before, largest here has been Plymouth, largest ever has been Monterey but that was a looooong time ago. Very excited for the devil rays, and Amano's aquarium which the Oceanario confirmed would still be open (if translate has worked correctly...)
     
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  5. littleRedPanda

    littleRedPanda Well-Known Member

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    I forgot about the cable car! I had a backpack and camera in hand, so rucksack should be fine.
     
  6. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    Perfect, thanks. If I can do one run with the 360 cam, and another with the telephoto I'll be made up.
     
  7. trachycarpus

    trachycarpus Well-Known Member

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    Going to zoological establishments in Lisbon and also Coimbra and Oporto in July so would be interested in your comments!
     
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  8. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    I will try and get some comments up soon. Computer started playing up big time yesterday after I managed to get my photographs off the camera so I might not be able to write much, can't stand typing on the phone!

    Basically though all three are worth a visit, none are staggering standouts in their 'genera' and by no means perfect. In very short sentences:

    Oceanário de Lisboa - visually stunning overall, with the single most beautiful tank I've ever seen (the Submerged Forest), but a couple of sub-par tanks/enclosures (both from a very selfish photography point of view, and one certainly for the animals) for standout species lets it down. At the same time, the main tank is amazing, with a huge diversity of species, and some of the smaller side tanks are very nicely done.

    Jardim Zoologico de Lisboa - slightly odd ABCs zoo with a great parrot collection, some unfortunately small paddocks for hoofstock and others contrast with a stunning lynx enclosure and nice, if again small, assorted cat enclosures. Alas the parrots are difficult to photograph without the damn bars getting in the way and a lack of smaller enclosures dotted around the zoo does mean that some areas feel very sparse with plenty of wasted space. The chairlift is very nice, if rather odd - certainly something you wouldn't find in the UK.

    Aquário Vasco da Gama - gorgeous in its lack of modern touches, so much about this aquarium piqued my interest, including the giant squid, taxonomic layout of the initial corridor, and the heavy reliance on Portuguese species. Fortunately with the fur seals gone, and the turtle not present, I don't need to have any reservations regarding the megafauna they hold. Plus there is a whole museum which is pretty cool.
     
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  9. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Dudley in UK has one though maybe not on the same scale...
     
  10. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    I was more referring to the fact that Lisbon's goes over an open topped lion enclosure...

    But Dudley's is very nice!
     
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  11. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Oh I see- I hope no-one ever falls out...
     
  12. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    I'm not ashamed to admit that I did check the door was firmly locked when I realised I was about to go over it
     
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  13. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    So it’s been a few weeks since I returned from Lisbon, I’d hoped to write something a little sooner, but hey, life happens. It’s been useful to allow my thoughts to gestate and distil into something, hopefully, interesting, rather than just some poorly considered rambles.

    Arriving in Lisbon

    After dragging my suitcase up a cripplingly steep hill in 38-degree sunshine, watched all the way from a group of Japanese tourists who’d wisely taken the tram up, I arrived in Bairro Alto soaked in sweat and looking very much like a typical Brit abroad. I’d never been to Portugal before, but even with some advice ringing in my ear reminding me that the vibe of the place only reveals itself in the evening, I wasn’t expecting to find it completely deserted with every shop/bar boarded shut. However, the adverts outside many of the bars loudly shouting about their various drinks deals strongly hinted that this place was going to seriously liven up in the evening, which, spoiler alter, it did.

    I sorted myself out and headed off to find a bar to grab a beer and a bite to eat, fortunately it only took 30 mins of wandering to find somewhere which ticked most of my boxes for a bar – outside seating, decent beer and food, and under the shade of an interesting tree (Ficus elastica). One odd thing that struck me about Lisbon’s parks was the real lack of bird life, Columba notwithstanding, in and around the parks. Though I did pick up a few interesting species eventually, given the amount of time I ended up spending in parks and wooded areas I’d have thought that I would have picked up more species. Still, I eventually picked up a couple of lifers so I really can’t complain.

    Returning to Bairro Alto confirmed my suspicions that the place would perk up after 2000; I’ve never seen such a dramatic transformation between day and night in a city before. Bars were pumping out music and selling cheap drinks to a diverse mixture of locals and tourists from all walks of life as people spilled from the bars to the streets, only to be pushed back again by the occasional car trying to squeeze its way through the narrow passageways. I was very glad when I finally went to bed that the aircon in the bedroom was loud enough to drown out the crowds…

    Oceanário de Lisboa

    Google Maps isn’t brilliantly optimised for Lisbon, which combined with a very relaxed timetable for buses meant I struggled to wind my way to Oceanário, ending up with me arriving 45 minutes after it opened, stuck behind 3 enormous groups of school children. I couldn’t work out if I needed to go to a booth to pick up a physical ticket for the day (I’d bought it online), or if they could scan the barcode at the entrance to the aquarium itself. My slow trek across Lisbon had put me in a pretty grumpy mood, so I decided just to squeeze past the kids and see if I could sneak ahead – fortunately the .pdf was all I needed, and I managed to get in without any issues. What greeted me was a colossal amount of concrete and a big sign saying that the temporary exhibit was upstairs. I headed up to:

    Forests Underwater by Takashi Amano

    Though I’d seen some incredible pictures of this ridiculous exhibit, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sight that greeted me when I entered the room. I can’t describe it in words, I’m not that eloquent, but Florestas Submersas is simply the most incredible tank I’ve ever seen (including the main marine tank at this very aquarium). Though the plants and animals held within aren’t anything incredible, anyone familiar with Amano’s style will recognise the usual suspects knocking around, the way the whole tank and its islands of plants and bogwood all fits together is awesome. I won’t talk too much about it, the pictures don’t really do it justice either, but the whole experience (including the music by Rodrigo Leão) was a wonderful opportunity for contemplation. Over the day I spent at least 2 hours at gawping at this tank, making the extra couple of euros it cost to enter well worth it. Seeing how different species interacted and hung out in different areas was particularly interesting – there was one very memorable island with a shoal of pearl gouramis (Trichogaster leeri) hanging out, but I couldn’t find a single one anywhere else in the tank.


    Sitting and enjoying the tank gave me time to contemplate the work of art which lay before me and consider the possibly suspect use of the word ‘natural’ in Amano’s erlebnis* aquaria. To my mind, a ‘natural’ exhibit should be a slice of the wild, contained by a boundary of some sort. Florestas Submersas certainly looks very natural – large shoals of diverse fish species, lush plants forming thick mats, punctuations of bogwood prongs, rocks or showcase plants, and breathing space through neutral, unplanted sections. But there’s nothing inherently natural about the mixture of fish from Africa, South America and Asia. Immersion** can be swiftly broken by an intrusive thought popping up, which depends largely on people’s own, personal experiences.

    To digress massively from zoos, but I remember playing Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag a while ago. I was completely surrounded by the feeling of ‘presence’ in the game – everything looked right for the Caribbean, the islands, the water, the ships, and I was essentially dead to the rest of the world. This lasted for a while, without any non-game thoughts intruding on my brain, right up until one point where you make landfall, and are confronted with a Ravenala – a distinctive tree from Madagascar, and one which has no business being in the Caribbean in the 1500s. Suddenly I found my immersion broken as I began to think about why they put this plant in (“it looks tropical”), but also about why people’s experiences shape their enjoyment of and immersion in certain situations.


    There is of course a limit to how ‘natural’ such aquaria can be, and the degree to which anyone viewing the tank will consider it a slice of the wild will vary. Though I can (and will!) moan about the choice of fish in the tank, I can’t moan about the choice of sand in the tank, whereas someone with geological experience or experience of diving in the type of stream/lake Amano is trying to replicate may well have issues with it. Fundamentally, people’s own experiences in life affect how they respond to new experiences.

    It’s probably obvious that Florestas Submersas put me into an extremely reflective place, it’s very rare that I sit still and just watch an exhibit for a good while, so I really have to commend the aquarium for building such a tank. It’s well worth making the visit to Lisbon to see it before they decommission finally ready it to be decommissioned.

    Anyway, I've written faaaar too much about a single tank, the rest of the posts won't be so wordy!


    * I think the best discussion on erlebnis in zoos can be found here, particularly Lintworm’s comments: Why do we love zoos; a summary in stereotypes

    ** McMahn’s 2003 book chapter “Immersion, Engagement, and Presence. A method for analyzing 3-D Video Games” may be useful reading. Though it focusses on video games, a lot of the comments within are very much applicable to the way we enjoy zoos. It’s available here: https://www.phil-fak.uni-duesseldor...us_kulturwissenschaftlicher_Sicht/mcmahan.pdf
     
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  14. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    I was under the impression this tank had already been dismantled. Wonderful to hear one of the best aquatic exhibits in Europe is still alive and kicking.
     
  15. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    I read something a few months ago about it being dismantled in Sept 2017 as this would have been the original 2 year life span of the project (I think). I'm very very glad that they've chosen to extend it!

    Out of interest, which European aquatic exhibits eclipsed it?
     
  16. Dormitator

    Dormitator Well-Known Member

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    Wow, two weeks went quickly. Should probably have updated this sooner! Alas, life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.

    Continuing from where I left off after the temporary exhibition:

    I left the first floor of the building, back into the main hall and all of its lovely concrete, and followed the swell of people toward a pair of doors which led to a walkway to what turned out to be the aquarium itself. I think there is something very excitement-building about walking up a walkway to 'something', especially when that walkway goes over the sea itself. After queuing for a bit behind a large group of teenagers, who were then forced (by their teacher) to take up the entire entrance room for a class photo, I was finally deemed to be worthy of entrance and I quickly ran past them to avoid being trapped by the inevitable group selfies that would follow.


    Oceanário - the 'quarter exhibits'

    The upper floor of the aquarium is built in quite an odd way, each corner houses a walk though 'biome' showcasing a different sea from the world, but between each is a different view of the main showcase tank (which I'll get to next time). The first was a representation of the north European Atlantic coast, with puffins, guillemots and razorbills showcased. Though quite an odd set up, the mock rock worked really well to emphasise the rugged terrain such species usually nest on (or near for the puffins) and provided an interesting environment for the inhabitants, including a large off-show area (something which I would really see again for birds on this trip). In the water itself were a variety of Atlantic fish, nothing special, but it was nice to see the whole exhibit used as a showcase of the cliffs of the British Isles - something institutions over here do very rarely. Indeed I've never seen a razorbill or puffin on display here, which is unfortunate (though I appreciate there isn't much reason to, and they can be finicky).


    Moving on from the Atlantic, the next exhibit showcased the American Pacific, with the highlight species (for the public at least) being the sea otters. It's been a while since I've seen a sea otter, and I almost forgot just how goddamn cute they really are. They're just adorable with their rocks and stubby faces. Unfortunately, I felt that their exhibit was far too close to the walkway, I struggled to see any off-show area (though there must have been one as there were 3 otters in the morning, and 4 in the afternoon) and the people leaning over the barriers were practically on top of the otters. The pool they enjoy can actually be viewed on the lower floor, which I didn't realise until quite far through, which adds a really nice dimension to the exhibit, and reveals that there are a couple of American coastal fish under there for the otters to terrify (though I imagine the fish are far too fast for the otters).

    The rest of the exhibit was designed as a rocky shore, with a really nice series of rockpools throughout which included some really nice species of sea star. Again, mock rock predominated, but as before I felt it was well done. Unfortunately the black oystercatcher proved elusive, though I did eventually catch a glimpse of it at the back of the rockpool area. I really liked the idea behind this section (probably the most of the 4 corners), but I think the execution lets it down. If the otter tank was raised up to be nearer human eye level, but pushed back at least a couple of meters I feel the exhibit would work much better for the otters, and also allow space for one or two more wading birds to fit in.


    Round again we come to the next temperate display, this time focusing on South American coasts with Magellanic penguins and Inca terns. I've not seen these two species displayed together before, but it made total sense, not only are they conspecifics in the wild, but they are very different beasts which complement each other, one being a master of the air, and the other of the water. Other than that, the exhibit was again a tribute to mock rock, but lacked a bit of the visual punch of the Atlantic enclosure.

    Finally, the tropics, and easily the weakest of the corners. Here the walkway meanders over a sort-of reef-type tank, full of the usual tropical reef species one would expect to find, but with a large planted area which included, amongst other nice plants, a mature Cocos, complete with coconuts! However, though it was nice to see a reef tank from a different dimension, the tropical planting was crying, nay screaming for some bird life in there. Just a couple of harmless species, maybe three passerines and a couple of Columbiformes, and the exhibit would be transformed. As it was, no one paid the plants any attention at all, which was a big shame considering how well it was all done out.


    With the final corner exhibit behind me, I was confronted with another decent view of the main tank, and I headed down the stairs to enjoy the main part of the aquarium...
     
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