This exciting and interactive Aquarium just outside of Denham is a MUST SEE attraction when visiting Shark Bay. Get up close to a variety of sea creatures that reside in the World Heritage area and learn about the kooky ways they live their lives.
Located just south of Denham, Ocean Park has been operating since 2000 and was built right next to the turquoise ocean. The tours that they provide are run by marine biologists that give you a wonderfully educational experience and greater appreciation for the animals that live in Shark Bay. While the park works to rehabilitate marine reptiles like turtles and snakes, they also assist with researching fish species to provide information that contributes to fishing regulations.
They are very eco-friendly and have a 4 star green rating. The solar panels out the front of the park generate about 270 kilowatts hours each day and provide 98% of the power that they use at the park. They generate their own fresh water using reverse osmosis desalination and the onsite windmill powers the vacuum that cleans the tanks. They also have a licensed café onsite with decking that overlooks Shark Bay Marine Park, and they accommodate for a variety of functions.
Our tour guide was Rose, and she started off the tour in a sheltered area full of big tanks. The first animal we met was Bob the Turtle. It was brought in as a baby because its flipper was picked off by a bird. Because it wasn’t strong enough to swim against the current, it was found way down near Albany when it should have been at its feeding grounds further up the north west coast past Geraldton! Turtles can live to around 150 years old but only reach sexual maturity when they’re around 30 years old. Unfortunately, because their survival rate is only 10%, only 1 in 10,000 actually get to reproduce!
We also got to learn a lot about clown fish – that’s Nemo for those playing at home! They have a symbiotic relationship with the anemone they live in. The tentacles of an anemone are very similar to those of jellyfish – they’re death-traps for fish that get too close. The anemone recognises the protein-based mucus on a fish’s skin and grabs it. Why don’t they eat Nemo then? It turns out that clown fish have a sugar-based mucus layer instead so the anemone doesn’t think its food! The relationship is symbiotic because the anemone provides shelter for the clown fish, and in return, the clown fish brings food to the anemone.
We also learnt that star fish aren’t actually fish and their correct name is sea stars. They have no eyes or brains, but they have five noses and can regrow limbs. If their food is too big to fit in their mouth, they can externally digest it before swallowing. Amazing…ly gross!
There were lots of lion fish – each with 13 hollow spines along the ridge of their back that can inject you with venom. Rose told us a great story about how the hurricane in New Orleans broke many tropical fish tanks and released lion fish into the Atlantic Ocean. They were destroying the environment so the way the problem was tackled was to put out a bounty and a cookbook to encourage fishermen to eat them. Of course, there were many more incidents of people getting stung.
When we got around to the sea snake enclosure, you could feel the fear in the air. These guys are super venomous but lucky for humans, they usually don’t release enough to kill us. Many times, they will strike with a blank bite that doesn’t involve venom to warn you to stay away.
Outside were the bigger tanks and we watched Rose feed trevally, pink snapper and a huge mulloway. Further on was the Shark Pool with a few lemon sharks and sandbar sharks. The longest shark in the tank was a 2.2m shark that only eats about 500g of food a day. It was cool to watch the sharks thrash about as Rose dangled some fish into the water.
Ocean Park is located on Shark Bay Road, just outside of Denham. They are every day from 9am to 4pm, and are closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Telephone: 08 9948 1765