The Northern Ireland Aquarium was opened by Ards Borough Council in 1987 to enable the public to view the amazingly diverse marine life that exists around these islands.
The conservation village of Portaferry was the ideal location. It is sited on the shores of the Marine Nature reserve of Strangford Lough which contains nearly three quarters of all the marine species to be found in Northern Irish waters.
As a result of the enormous popularity with both visitors and education groups the aquarium was extended and re-opened by Prince Charles in 1994 as Exploris.
The increased number of tanks enabled the aquarium to re-create a wide diversity of underwater communities which exist locally. This gave visitors the opportunity to really go on ‘An Exploration of the Irish Sea’ (Exploris).
While the aquarium has been involved in the rehabilitation of seals since 1989, the new purpose built Seal Sanctuary opened in 2000. Not only did this provide state of the art facilities to look after sick or abandoned seals from rescue to release, but also included a new Education Suite and Exhibition Hall.
Exploris, the Northern Ireland Aquarium, strives to provide an enjoyable and educational experience through changing marine exhibits, a rolling programme of exhibitions and activities for ‘kids of all ages’.