I enjoy freelance creative writing and being a Mum to my two awesome boys.
Published November 14th 2011
Mettam's Touch Pool is a hands-on interactive experience that is especially favoured by children. Open daily from 10am – 5pm at the Aquarium of Western Australia at Hillary's Boat Harbour, the touch pool is tailored for anyone wanting to engage in the activity of this living exhibit.
Part of the Marmion Marine Park segment located outside at AQWA, it also includes Stingray Bay, which is further along the path decking and down around the corner. The touch pool is under shade cover outside the café and gift shop.
A Complete View of the Touch Pool Area Under Cover
The idea is that anyone can pick up or feel living sea creatures, as long as the creatures remain and are always kept underwater. Once out of the water the animals are unable to breathe. Kids scoot around crazy with excitement, holding, touching and stroking rays, sharks, starfish and more.
Sometimes little people are tempted to hold onto the small Port Jackson sharks, but it is not advised. Even though it is reported they have small front teeth which do not usually pierce human skin, this action stresses the shark and toxins build up in their body and they inevitably die.
Inside the pool you'll find Starfish, Slate Pencil Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Western Rock Lobsters, Port Jackson Sharks, Fiddler Rays, Cuttlefish, King George Whiting, Western King Wrasse and Striped Stingarees. Some or all of these are available to see and touch throughout the year.
Not all rays have barbs, stings or dermal denticles, as they are otherwise known. All animals within the touch pool are able to supposedly be handled without threat of a person being injured or poisoned. This expels the myth that barbs are removed for a human's benefit to touch them here at the pool. The barbs will never be removed for this purpose.
The stingrays with barbs are kept in the enclosure at Stingray Bay around the corner, where no one is allowed to handle or touch them. These stingrays are purely a viewing platform or watching beside the lagoon experience.
Western Rock Lobsters tend to congregate under the rock area at the centre of the touch pool, which is exactly where the sharks go when they have had enough treatment for a day.
There is much stimulation for young children here as they are permitted to touch living animals you don't normally see every day, experiencing different colours, textures and movement through their hands. Young kids will spend hours at the touch pool if you let them.
One piece of advice that would have been handy for us, had I thought it necessary at the time, would have been to take some spare shirts or clothing. Kids get right into the thick of the action and even though sleeves are rolled up, they end up getting soaked everywhere anyway. Although, in summer they can quickly dry off in the sun.
Admission to the Aquarium can be paid for at the door or shop online.
Entry prices vary from a child under 4 years old being free, up to an adult paying $28 per person. Family tickets are $75, making it worthwhile if your children are above 4 years old and there are two adults and two children. This gives you a saving of $13, as children 4 to 15 years old normally cost $16 each. Concession holder tickets are $20 each.
AQWA Ocean Passes give you considerable discounts. Make sure you work out how many times a year you would need to go, or if there are restrictions, to reap this benefit. These are available for children, adults, families and concession holders.
Senior packages are also available with a minimum of six required to book and no more than 25. Details and booking form are accessible at the bottom of the page here.
Most of AQWA is wheelchair and pram friendly with a lift and ramps. Mettam's Touch Pool is easily accessible in this instance as well, with plenty of room to move around. Some clear panels have also been fitted to view from the side.
As mentioned earlier, the café and gift shop are right next to the touch pool inside. Grab a drink, snack or souvenir on your way out. If the kids have their way, this is all you'll have time for before they close the door at the end of the day.
AQWA can be found at 91 Southside Drive, Hillary's Boat Harbour. Just take the turn off to Hepburn Avenue while you're on the Mitchell Freeway North. Phone (08) 9447 7500 for further information or visit the website.
If you want to know more on how the aquarium all started, jump to About AQWA and select the AQWA Story, which really is quite interesting.