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Phuket Aquarium is a modest, government-run attraction but it’s not a bad place to spend an afternoon on the cheap. The aquarium sits on the waterfront in Cape Panwa on Phuket’s east coast, about 10 kilometres from Phuket Town.
Those who have ever been to a big-city aquarium like Siam Ocean World in Bangkok or Underwater World in Singapore will be underwhelmed here, where it takes less than an hour to get through even if you shuffle slowly and linger at every tank. For getting an up-close view of sea life in Phuket it’s far more exciting, obviously, to take a snorkel or dive trip.
But the aquarium will appeal to families with children too young to snorkel or those searching for a rainy-day activity away from the shopping centres. Stroller-friendly, air-con and rarely crowded, the aquarium is a pleasant escape from the afternoon heat.
Walking through the aquarium takes you past several tanks with marine life from the Andaman Sea and around the world, including a tank full of orange clownfish of Finding Nemo fame. Everything’s labelled in English and Thai. The most impressive section is the walk-through tunnel. Stand under the huge glass dome and watch reef sharks, stingrays and several larger fish species swim all around you. Kids love it.
The aquarium’s last display room has a tank with some giant, grim-faced groupers and a tsunami exhibition. Those who followed the news of the December 2004 tsunami will find nothing new here, but there are several photos that show the damage done in the aquarium’s immediate area.
You could easily make your Phuket Aquarium visit part of a full day tour around the Cape Panwa area with its scenic drives, quiet beaches, lookout points and Khao Khad Viewpoint Tower to explore.
The aquarium sits at the end of the road on the Cape, not far from the Thai Navy’s Third Area Naval Command base. Its naval officers gained their 15 minutes of fame and hundreds of thousands of YouTube fans after they performed and posted a Gangnam Style dance parody of K-pop star Psy’s smash hit.
The road leading to the aquarium is lined with some condo blocks, a few small convenience shops and restaurants including the quirky but tasty Sawasdee restaurant. From about 17:00 onwards the seafront promenade is busy with strolling couples and street vendors selling grilled meats, drinks and snacks.
For incredible Cape Panwa views and shocking food and drink prices, drop by the swish Baba PoolClub at the Sri Panwa villa resort, reached up a steep narrow road near the aquarium’s entrance gate.
Because the surrounding area makes for an enjoyable drive, Phuket Aquarium is best reached by car or motorbike. There’s also a songthaew bus route from Phuket Town to the aquarium. The ride there from the departure point on Ranong Road takes 30-40 minutes.
Entry is 100 baht for adults, 50 baht for kids, and free for children under 108 cm tall. Thai citizens are charged 50 baht for adults, 20 baht for kids. Open daily from 08:30 to 16:30 (ticket office closes at 16:00).
By Lana Willocks
Last updated on 14th June, 2014.