An activity with real bite

A zebra shark at Southsea's Blue Reef Aquarium.
A zebra shark at Southsea's Blue Reef Aquarium.

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There’s no need to travel to Australia and fall off your surfboard to have a close encounter with a shark – Southsea’s Blue Reef Aquarium is currently hosting ‘shark week’.

The half-term activity week devoted to the ultimate predator of the oceans will run until Sunday.

Visitors have the chance to take part in quizzes, competitions and attend special talks given by shark experts.

Tomorrow, visitors will also be able to help feed the native rays and sharks. Taking part in the feeding costs a bit more than an ordinary ticket, and proceeds go to a shark and marine conservation charity called Back Bite.

Blue Reef’s Jenna MacFarlane says sharks are always the stars of the show. ‘Sharks are always one of the first things visitors want to see when they come to the aquarium.

‘We have more than a dozen different shark and ray species on display here, including a number of shark eggs from three species on display in our nursery tanks.’

Jenna says sharks first appeared in the ocean more than 400 million years ago – 170 million years before the dinosaurs.

She adds that today there are more than 450 different species of shark, ranging from the 21cm dwarf lantern shark to the 13m whale shark.

‘This event will also provide visitors of all ages with a real insight into these fascinating fish and their truly extraordinary history,’ Jenna says.

‘From ancient shark fossils to having the chance to actually help feed real ones there really is something for everyone to enjoy.’

British waters are visited by more than 30 different species – including the world’s fastest, the shortfin mako shark, which can reach speeds of 46mph and leap 30ft into the air.

The aquarium has more than 50 living displays which bring the wonders of the aquatic world to life and has sea creatures including the undulate ray, southern stingray, colourful wrasse, crustaceans, sea bass and triggerfish.

Admission costs £10 or from £7.70 to £9 for children or concessions and there are discounts for online bookings. For more information call the aquarium on (023) 9287 5222 or visit bluereefaquarium.co.uk/portsmouth.