A GROUP of schoolchildren got up close with tropical marine life at the opening of a festival.
The three-day long exhibition, which featured life-sized models of sea animals – including a 50ft blue whale – opened at Portsmouth International Port.
TV wildlife presenter Nigel Marven, who has been in scores of programmes during his career, paid a visit to officially open the display, which celebrated the diversity of the marine life that surrounds the south coast and on ferry routes to France and Spain from Portsmouth International Port.
Nigel said: ‘From Portsmouth International Port you can get on a Brittany Ferries ship and head to the Bay of Biscay, which is one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins.
‘You can see a huge variety of species, just a day’s sailing from Portsmouth. You don’t have to go on exotic trips to have close encounters with whales and dolphins.’
Thirty children from Cottage Grove Primary in Southsea got a lesson from Nigel, who is also a patron of marine charity ORCA.
Education officers from the Portsmouth-based charity were on hand to help guide the children around the display that featured 15 models of whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks and turtles.
Port director Mike Sellers said: ‘With the help of our customers, the port has developed a reputation as a gateway to whale-watching adventures with ferries heading to Spain crossing through the Bay of Biscay, one of the most important habitats on the planet for whales, dolphins and porpoises.
‘This incredible exhibition helped show passengers and locals exactly what is living in our seas and, perhaps most importantly, what we all must do to protect them.’
Hundreds of school children took advantage of the exhibition and whale workshops this week.
Anna Bunney, Orca education co-ordinator, said: ‘We know from our work on board Brittany Ferries services from Portsmouth that passengers love spotting these magnificent animals in the wild. This exhibition is the next best thing and gives us a chance to highlight how lucky we are to be surrounded by such a rich variety of creatures.’