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Mediterranean Sea Life & Reptiles
Hersonissos - Crete - Greece

Stephania - the blind sea turtle
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Aquaworld Aquarium
and Reptile Rescue Centre
Hersonissos - Crete - Greece

Girl with snake
Conger Eel
A Frog in the Hand...?
Mella and Jeremi Pesonen with boa
Mella can handle the boa on her own...

Our Mission

Our mission at Aquaworld is quite simply to encourage interest - interest in marine life and reptiles in general, and in those of the local area in particular. We believe that bringing people as close as possible to these wonderful creatures will encourage them to care for the animals themselves and their environment - essential to their wellbeing, of course.

Rather than collecting perfectly healthy animals from the wild, however, our aquariums and terrariums in Hersonissos are full of creatures which had already been captured and, in many cases, which were about to die. In addition, we offer a home to many animals which have become unwanted and uncared for pets.

In this way, we believe that we can do the most good without ourselves causing any harm - we hope you agree!

The Story of Aquaworld

Past, present & future

How (not) to Build an Aquarium in Crete

In 1991 I arrived in Crete from Scotland. An aquarium hobbyist for many years, I really wanted an aquarium for my apartment. The prices for a glass box in those days were horrendous! The solution was apparent - I had to build my own. Some weeks later I was rushing down to the sea with my precious cargo of gobies, blennies etc in a plastic salt container to release them. I then went back home to wring out the 125 litres of seawater which had flooded over my bedclothes when the front sheet of glass parted company with the rest of the "glass box."

Only marginally daunted, I discovered the basic flaw in my design. I had pressed almost all the silicone out of the joints, when I should have left 1 to 1.5mm for strength! The tank repaired and back in use, I found a little octopus on the beach in Hersonissos that winter. I kept him at home for several weeks and visitors were truly enchanted, especially local people - many of whom had never seen a salt-water aquarium before. A dream was born!

Easy, really! Let's build the first aquarium open to the public in Crete (the third in Greece) and feature local sea-life. There were just two fundamental problems: I had no money and everyone thought I was a few bob short of a quid! Even taking two weeks off work and discussing my idea with all owners of vacant land/empty buildings etc that I could find only produced results like, "People will not pay to look at fish, only to eat them!" and "My cousin has a hotel next door but one with a swimming pool. Your fish will infect the pool water and make his guests sick!" I had to admit defeat, but could never quite shake the idea off.

At the end of 1995, I was living in an apartment in Filikis Etirias, Hersonissos which was quite roomy in its own right, and had a back garden to boot. The chap renting the apartment immediately in front of me moved out. I looked, I thought, I planned, I dared to dream again! With some (OK, a lot of) trepidation, I approached the owner, Mr Costas Papadakis, with my idea. Lo and behold, a few weeks later he gave me the thumbs up. Before he could change his mind, I grabbed a sledge-hammer and knocked a hole in the wall to link the two premises. The following winter, a few more walls came down - I'm sure I remember asking his permission(?)

So, to cut a long story short, Aquaworld opened in June 1995 with a few aquariums and about three fish! I put a jar on the counter and begged people to make contributions. I was amazed and gratified to discover how many people saw my vision. Aquaworld was truly born!

Present and Future

Aquaworld goes from strength to strength each year. Although still small, it attracts an ever growing "fan club" who visit every time they are in Crete, often on a daily basis. From Day One, my policy was always that visitors only have to pay once a year, meaning that locals can make literally dozens of visits and even those only here for a week or two have ample opportunity to come back time and again to view all aspects of Aquaworld's functioning, or just to keep the kids happy!

Thanks to advice from Dr. Pascal Divanach of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (see Links page), and thanks to the funds provided by visitors, air-conditioning started to go in in 2002, playing down all night long on the tanks to keep them cool and the fish happy and healthy. The air-conditioning is for the benefit of the fish - not us - although it's wonderful to walk into a cool aquarium in the height of summer here!

The new 8,000 litre tank for small sharks is almost complete and the landlord, the aforementioned Costas, has given us another 50sq m on the next floor, at no additional rent! I envisage a small jungle up there - we'll see! Oh yes, REPTILES! They sort of crept up on me unawares, which is, after all, what they're well known for! I had to develop the garden to accommodate them as they poured in, usually with the warning that they were extremely dangerous and highly toxic. In fact, there are no dangerous reptiles on Crete - so relax!!

More "exotic" types have appeared over the years and we try to give each of them the conditions they require.

John McLaren - owner, builder, guide, dreamer and general dogsbody - Aquaworld

Tortoise Breakfast-time
The Cat Snake
Boy enthralled with grouper
Mella and Jeremi again, with Aris!
So can Jeremi, of course!

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Aquaworld - Crete's First Aquarium - Hersonissos

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