Where else can you step out of a parkade and see three Ferraris and a Lamborghini go by within two minutes of walking down the street?

Yesterday, the girls were excited to visit the second smallest country in the world (the Vatican is the smallest). Monaco lies just east of Nice and has an area of slightly more than two  square kilometres. With a population of 37, 800, it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

When we arrived we went straight to the tourist info office. There is no border control between France and Monaco, so if you want a stamp in your passport you are directed there.

Japanese Garden in Monaco

Japanese Garden in Monaco

We wandered around for a while looking at the beautiful buildings and green spaces (however small) as well as the palace. We also walked around the harbour to look at the yachts, and saw that some even came with cars on board!

In a city where no one pays income tax and 30% of the population are millionaires, we are happy to report that we did not have to pay for any bathrooms.

Monaco is not just a playboy’s playground, however. Through the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco and its royal benefactors, a lot of work is being carried out to protect our marine heritage and educate tourists about the importance of the world’s oceans.

Jellyfish swim past in one of the tanks

Jellyfish up close

The institute was created in 1906 by Prince Albert I of Monaco, who led 28 scientific expeditions to better understand the oceans. The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco was created in 1910 to promote the protection and sustainable management of the oceans through public education.

The museum is an impressive building located on the side of a cliff. We were able to peer down a manhole to see the steep staircase that researchers took to reach the water 300 feet below. (No, Al was not a fan of the view.)

We then spent some time watching various species swim by in a six-metre-deep aquarium including blacktip reef sharks, a nurse shark, a hawksbill sea turtle, moray eels and giant guitarfish. Several other tanks provided good views of jellyfish, sea horses, and many more marine creatures.

The highlight for the girls was being able to touch a shark as it swam past in a tactile pool. The museum is currently educating the public about the depletion of sharks from the world’s oceans, which causes a chain reaction that has negative consequences right down to the extinction of coral reefs.

A shark swims past in a six-metre-deep tank

A shark swims past in a six-metre-deep tank

A giant display in the exhibit area of the museum made the point that humans should be far more scared of mosquitoes than sharks. Mosquitoes kill approximately 800, 000 people per year (think malaria) whereas sharks are responsible for the deaths of less than 10.

No, the girls didn’t get bitten by the shark, and they were pretty excited to feel its rubbery skin and hard fins!

7 Comments on “Monaco

  1. Did you see the palace or break out the tux and go to the casino?

    • We skipped the casino and walked by the palace instead.


    • Actually, this aquarium made us realize how world class the Vancouver Aquarium is! They might not have sharks, but the displays are just as good. We’ll have to take Claire there next, as she was to young to remember the last time!

      – Heather

  2. It must have been a very different experience coming here from Tanzania . You must be very ecstatic with
    the whole aquarium visit. Happy EASTER to my special granddaughters.

    • Yes, the contrast is extreme. I kept thinking what the value of just one of those cars would mean for the operating budget of the school we were at. Right now they are trying to raise $1500 to pay for five doors that will allow the boys and girls to have separate bathrooms. Currently only one side is open that the children share, because the other must remain closed until they get the doors (government regulation).

      – Heather

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