The trip is divided up into five biozones and 12 natural environments, each with its own unique scenography. The way that this has been set up is markedly different to other well-known Aquarium-Vivariums as it offers an intimate tour experience, suggesting which path visitors should take rather than dictating the way and helping them to understand the context without forcing an opinion on them. The five biozones - Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America- are geographically dispersed. Aside from the fact that their amazing diversity is spectacularly scene-set by way of technical scenography, the one point that they all have in common is the fact that their ecosystems are becoming increasingly fragile and it is our duty to preserve them. Freshwater in fact only represents 2.5% of our planet’s natural resources.
Visitors are invited to go back in time to take a look at the bigger picture, immersing themselves in primitive times to get a better feel for evolution, understanding the world’s diversity and temporality and comprehending that water is a unifying and very real element upon which life has been constructed.
The ground floor is dedicated to:
Reception area: plunge into the AQUATIS world as soon as you go into the entrance hall and the souvenir shop.
Restaurant: be immersed in the atmosphere of the Amazon with a themed restaurant and terrace.
Technical and care facilities: go behind the scenes and discover how the aquariums/vivariums function and the animal care area during special visits.
The first floor is dedicated to Europe, where the freshwater of the Rhône that crosses it has formed landscapes, different industries, culture and history.
The tour follows the path of the Rhône from its glacial origins to its arrival in the Mediterranean Sea and is split up into different areas: the Alpine area, the Lake Geneva area, the Rhône area and the Camargue area. Visitors are constantly reminded of the superb biodiversity that exists in Europe which indeed merits their attention.
As the journey takes a turn, between two worlds, Spinosaurus rises up in an underwater canyon that has taken over the staircase. It marks the entrance to the Evolution area, reminding us that life did indeed begin in the water.
At the top of the stairs on the second floor, the African lakes, the Congo River, the Asian mangroves, the Mekong River with its floating villages, the Pioneer River, which discharges into the Great Barrier Reef and the flooded Amazon forest suddenly emerge, taking up two levels.
They tell the story not only of their beauty, but also of the veiled threat posed by the carelessness of mankind.
The Alpine landscape, which opens onto an ice cave kicks off the first stage of the Europe biozone.
Right from the start, visitors are launched into the Ice Age thanks to techniques tried and tested during the reproduction of the Grotte Chauvet (Chauvet Cave). Interactive scenography enables visitors to understand how the Earth’s climate has been working for the past 3 million years, alternating between glacial and interglacial periods!
The next step is the Rhône Glacier, source of the eponymous river, where visitors learn about its origins, transformations and its recent recession.
Salmonidae and fish typically found in torrential waters and very cold, aerated lake waters such as brown trout and grayling, evolve here.
The pools, aquariums and vivariums feel like they are part of the ice, giving an impression of total immersion.
The second stop on this trip along the Rhône is Lake Geneva.
This lake is the largest body of freshwater in Western Europe (89 million m²) and 90% of its water comes from the Rhône.
Lake Geneva has welcomed and inspired many great writers over the years, including Victor Hugo at Zweig and Rousseau, Dumas, Dostoïevski, Lord Byron, Lamartine and Mary Shelley.
Located at the heart of Europe, this huge lake offers visitors a really stunning view. From the shore, they can see the mountains rise up between the rocks, while from the surrounding hills, the view opens up like the sea opens up on the world. How do you catch a glimpse of this mirror of the world, often called the mirror of man by romantics?
Well, you simply place visitors on an overhang and invite them to dive into the lake, crossing over space and time like a submarine.
And there, on the other side, they can relive the collapse of the mountainside at Tauredunum and the tsunami that followed it. Man retook possession of the shore and with it the risks posed by the lake waters.
And so the scale changes yet again, enabling them to see as far down as the plankton on the lake bed.
As you cross Lake Geneva, behold the Rhône, whose infinite path joins the Mediterranean in a huge delta.
It is one of the most powerful rivers in Europe but has yet lost its wild character, constantly having been shaped by man, his industries and energy research for the past two centuries.
A multitude of developments have altered the way it runs and have had a considerable ecological impact on the area. Channelised and by-passed, the whole face of the Rhône has completely changed.
It has gone from being a constantly changing dynamic environment to a river that is channelised and uniform, with smooth, bland surrounding landscapes.
Bearing witness to a tame, restricted and silenced Rhône river, dams come to life beneath the visitors’ feet.
The roaring waters of the river surge from these Pharaonic monuments, taking visitors completely by surprise.
Here, we question the economic operation of the Rhône with its hydroelectric and nuclear power plants, how man has been able to tame nature and has he been right to do so. Bearing these issues in
mind, the ecological river renovation programmes implemented in the 1980s are addressed at this point.
And so we arrive at the delta. The Camargue region, the capital of biodiversity in Europe with close to 500 animal and plant species of heritage interest and land of annual refuge for migrating birds, is home to the only pink
flamingo nesting site in Europe.
The Camargue appears so drenched in water and so preserved that it is hard to imagine that it has been artificially fashioned and that the vast landscape has been created by humans. At the foot of the basin where aquatic life is reproduced, where fresh and saltwater meet, surrounded by the wildest of natural habitats, we find ″La Terre vue du Ciel″ (Earth viewed from the sky). Here, visitors fly over the sea with pink flamingos who are soaring on their way towards the African horizon.
The Evolution area makes the transition between the two floors, paying particular interest to the outflow of water.
This is when visitors climb into a volcanic underwater pit to take a leap back 100 million years. And there, lives Spinosaurus, more than ten metres long with an enormous jaw full of spiked teeth and one of the greatest dinosaurs that ever lived both on land and in the water.
Why use this dinosaur as an element of decoration? Because this specific dinosaur was a great fish consumer.
It is the fish that we see thriving today in the large pool located at the heart of this area. There are a few differences however, as all the species presented here have been chosen because
they have all retained some surprising prehistoric characteristics!
Africa is so big and rich and hugely mysterious.
The port of entry chosen for this area is the Rift, where, to the extreme east of the African land lies a huge cauldron of magma that is currently separating the earth for thousands of kilometres. A new continent is about to be born. Here reside some of the most extraordinary lakes ever to have been given to us by Mother Nature. Lake Turkana, the most salty, Lake Kivu, the most volcanic, Lake Natron the most caustic, and Lake Tanganyika, one of the deepest in the world. Lake Malawi’s fresh waters are home to one of the world’s greatest range of species of colourful fish, offering the visitor a truly cinematic and balletic display. This cliffrich landscape is adjacent to a vivarium inhabited by crocodiles.
Then it is on to Namibia’s orange desert and its enormous underground reserve of water that was recently discovered 600 metres below the sand.
Then comes the Niger River, which today is beset by the same urban and industrial pressures as the Rhône was in its time.
Asia boasts many mountainous areas, the climate is extremely variable and its river distribution is closely linked to geography and the climate.
The Mekong River takes pride of place, beginning its journey in Tibet and flowing to Southern Vietnam where it discharges via an immense delta into the China Sea having crossed four borders. It is a civilising waterway, worshipping nature along the way, passing through Hinduism, Buddhism and art. The Mekong is also a place where colonisation, civil wars, conflicts between riverside communities and migration has taken place. It is so powerful that it reverses the direction of the streams that feed it and is incredibly rich in migrating fish. Have the various countries that it flows through come to an agreement so that not one of them makes more of its natural treasures than the others?
Tourists along the Mekong can feast their eyes on floating villages and an astonishing vibrant fish and rice cultivation industry.
The Mekong visitor can stop awhile and look upon this stretch of water marking a geographical boundary and uniquely interfacing with both aquaculture and agriculture, before leisurely travelling through the mangroves with their jumble of overhanging branches delving the depths of the brackish waters.
Mangroves not only provide the link between the elements, they also link territories and open the doors to Oceania, the only continent that is also an ocean.
It is only natural that the scenography begins here with a tale from an 18th century explorer and ends with immersion in water.
Lost in this clear blue ocean, the voyagers of yesteryear feared they would never see the end of the world. Following the melting of polar ice caps, this continent of water has today started to swallow up the paradise islands of the Pacific archipelagos.
Visitors then return to the place where they started, at the glacier and the source of the Rhône, presently become an ocean source. This area houses the tour’s second saltwater pool and sheds new light on the threats posed to our coral reefs.
Climate equilibrium on a global scale and the risks associated with rising water levels are also addressed.
The journey ends in South America in an area dedicated to the Amazon region.
A truly standalone and important location for this region, and one which without doubt houses the world’s largest biodiversity reservoir, marks the end of the AQUATIS tour, reminding us that water is synonymous with cycle, life and (re)birth.
A vast tropical greenhouse of 533 m², spread over two levels at the heart of the building, has been set aside specially. Visitors cross this vast space with its Amazon forest-like temperature of 28°C and 80% humidity level.
They will see giant trees, waterfalls, pools dotted with a myriad of blue fish and small, white-faced monkeys who will spend their entire lives on one single tree.
And in the middle of this part of the world ″the R ain tree" rises up. Visitors in an y doubt will have the opportunity to test its capacities!