Exploris aquarium and seal sanctuary was opened by Ards Borough Council in 1987. It was extended and re-opened as Exploris by Prince Charles in 1994.

It now features some huge tanks and seal pools with an ‘open sea underwater cavern’, windows to view seals underwater, discovery pools and state of the art seal rehabilitation facilities.

Exploris is unusual in that it takes its seawater directly from Strangford Lough. This means that the animals here benefit from naturally occurring nutrients, small organisms and seaweeds and the displays are of particularly high quality.

Strangford Lough holds 70% of Northern Ireland’s marine life and is of international environmental importance.


The walled garden in which Exploris is built, adjacent to the 16th century tower house Portaferry Castle, was once part of the Savage/Nugent estate. The Nugents were descendents of the Savages. In 1812 Andrew Savage, son of Patrick Savage, changed his name to Andrew Nugent.

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