Bermuda’s best-known, bona fide attraction, the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo) (40 North Shore Rd., tel. 441/293-2727, fax 441/293-3176, infobzs [at] gov [dot] bm, www.bamz.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day, last admission 4 p.m., $10 adults, $5 seniors and children 5–12, kids under 5 free) sits opposite Flatts Village  on the facing shore of Flatts Inlet, attracting crowds of visitors and locals alike. In fact, some 15 percent of Bermuda’s population are members, and more than 100,000 people visit annually.
Supported by the Bermuda Zoological Society with government and private funding, the facility fulfills many roles, offering a fun recreational venue but also conservation programs, curricula, natural history camps, aqua camps, and special courses for some 9,000 schoolchildren, not to mention a center for environmental research on endangered regional species like the endemic skink (or Rock Lizard) and green turtle.
Raising awareness of the fragile ecosystems of oceanic islands is its key role—not only the delicate balance of Bermuda’s own flora and fauna, but also that of Australasia, the Caribbean, and other archipelagos of the world. Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo is headquarters for the Bermuda Biodiversity Program, an eight-year effort to catalog all island species.
Opened at the present site in 1928, Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo was born of a collaboration between the Bermuda government, island environmentalists, and American scientists from Harvard and New York Universities who, together, set up a biology and zoology research station at Flatts  as early as 1903. After various relocations during the two World Wars, the aquarium and the Bermuda Biological Station for Research became established as separate entities, though they continue to work together on many projects.
Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo offers an up-close look at Bermuda’s marine life, especially that of its precious coral reefs—some of the most northerly in the world. The aquarium’s main hall contains many of the original tanks, displaying large moray eels, schools of silver minnows and squid, spiny lobsters, gigantic groupers, beaked parrotfish, an octopus, and a total of 200 species of fish and invertebrates. The pièce de résistance is the 140,000-gallon North Rock Exhibit—the first living coral-reef exhibit of its scale in the world. Occupying the whole western side of the main aquarium building, the tank is actually two interlocking tanks naturally lit from above, cleverly mimicking what you might see by diving on North Rock, a reefy outcrop some 10 miles north of the facility on the North Shore.
Inside the smaller front tank, tiny jewel-like reef fish dart among anemones, queen angelfish sway like ballerinas, and sponges, corals, and sea fans all can be seen up close. Behind this, the larger tank offers floor-to-ceiling viewing of sharks, barracuda, schools of pompano, golden-frilled triggerfish, and a mammoth black grouper. Benches are provided, and children—even babies and toddlers—can commune at floor-level with the various curiosities, making this a popular place for playgroups and family outings.
The Natural History Museum explores the geology and biodiversity of Bermuda with audio-visual and interactive exhibits, as well as lab-style drawer displays of preserved animals. Outside, the zoo contains more than 300 birds, mammals, and reptiles in exhibits that aim to teach about the habitats of life on oceanic islands. Red-brick paths, rest areas, lookouts over Harrington Sound , and beautifully landscaped gardens featuring some of Bermuda’s most exotic flowering plants and trees encourage a leisurely visit that can easily span a couple of hours. The Australasia Exhibit re-creates the humid interior and landscape of a rainforest for the menagerie of tree kangaroos, wallabies, and a python that live here. Parrots squawk loudly in the cliff-style rock-faces above them. A Madagascar Exhibit was being developed in 2009.
A flock of 65 pink flamingos lives in a large open area at the zoo, where they have bred successfully. Inside the adjoining Caribbean Exhibit, cardinals and other birds dart freely among bamboo and other tropical forest plants, along with pairs of Golden Lion Tamarins. The monkeys are part of an international conservation program, the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which links Bermuda to an organized effort to boost the number of endangered animals. Bred in captivity, many tamarins are released back into the Brazilian rainforest. You will also see spoonbills, scarlet ibis, a two-toed sloth, and endangered Haitian sliders (terrapins) in this exhibit.
Young visitors love the air-conditioned Local Tails, a hands-on exhibit center where they can touch starfish and sea urchins, feed fish, and pick up sea cucumbers, or sea squirts. Murals and exhibits teach about Bermuda’s various habitats and the creatures found in each. The nearby Discovery Room allows kids to play and stage their own mini theater productions. Outside, they can create sandcastles at the playground, climb a rope “spider web,” and make believe inside a hands-on shipwreck of concrete.
The lively seal exhibit, with five longtime Western Atlantic harbor seals, is located near the entrance. You can watch daily feedings at 9 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. Archie, the 34-year-old patriarch, may be one of the oldest surviving harbor seals in captivity. Beyond the Aquarium’s front entrance, in an outdoor pool next to the bus stop, swim a collection of green turtles, some rescued after being injured in boating accidents. The Bermuda Turtle Project, now in its third decade, tags and tracks members of the species as they migrate between the island and breeding areas like Nicaragua and the Caribbean.
The Bermuda Zoological Society gift shop sells eco-friendly items, and there is also a small on-site café, open 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Guided tours of Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo are offered at 1:10 p.m. daily April–September, Saturday and Sunday only October–March. Storytelling for two- to six-year-olds is held on Fridays, 11:15–11:45 a.m. in one of the education classrooms in the main building off the aquarium.