It was the first time I had been inside an U.S. base in Greece. It was deserted and empty and I drove between ground abandoned buildings. It was the former American base of Gournia, just 15 km from Heraklion city, in Crete. I stopped by the sea to observe a part of the ocean in fully controlled conditions. I got to the largest aquarium in the Mediterranean! The Cretaquarium.
I confess that I love the underwater world. So I got to the Aquarium really excited. I entered smoothly from the spring light of the Cretan sun into the twilight of “Thalassocosmos” Aquarium, watching short videos with themes from the sea world of the Mediterranean. Then the good stuff came…
I stared with jaws dropped on the floor by surprise, I stared behind the crystals that shined like my underwater mask, like wonderful windows at the bottom of the sea! Two huge groupers where circling their brownish wings, lobsters with nice colors were detecting their aquatic homes with their antennae, large bright red scorpions were looking silently to the surface, schools of small fish were shining in the tank and an almost a liquid light covered me through the windows of a magical world.
I moved to the tank with the big predators: the steel grey amberjacks, the large imperious basses, the breams with pink bodies and purple specks, the black groupers lurking in the dark depths, the sharks always nervous, always inspecting. All behind the crystals, just some points far from our eyes …
I stared for hours at the long tank with the panoramic glass. Large rosewood sea breams, silver breams, white breams, corbinas with golden wings, purple and gray breams with yellow braid and small silverjacks, were swinging in front of us like colorful birds roaming in an indescribable ballet into their artificial seabed, licking the algae, the stones, the pebbles. The design of each tank is proportional to the number of fishes it hosts, so the seabed was modeled accordingly.
The seabed consists of artificial rocks built by a special artist, carved and painted to resemble the Cretan seabeds. There is a tank-like Matala seabed, another that resembles the bottom of Vai beach etc. I also saw a dark tank simulating the deep waters: three giant deep sea groupers with bulging eyes, a huge huge red bream and monstrous eels were moving slowly in the dark iced water.
Time passed without realizing it. I went for my espresso at the coffee shop of “Thalassocosmos” Aquarium watching the beach of Gournia and the Mediterranean sea in the background. I never got over the obsession to watch at the sea and immediately think of what is below the water’s surface. My thoughts was always running at the bottom of the sea. “Hmm let’s finish the coffee.” I said to myself. And let’s go for another tour at the glass windows of the Cretaquarium”…
You can get to the “Thalassokosmos” aquarium most easily from Heraklion city (15 km) following the countless signs. Located very close to Hersonissos and Malia the aquarium is just at the heart of the tourist-developed northern Cretan coastline.
More details in www.cretaquarium.gr
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