Whether you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to put on your summer travel itinerary or are hoping to find the perfect family-friendly experience, you’ll want to add the Montreal Biodome to your travel to-do list. The Biodome is not only one of Montreal’s must-see tourist destinations, it’s also considered one of Canada’s premier attractions. It’s the only place you can discover firsthand all five of the Americas ecosystems all under one roof.
The Biodome is actually part of Montréal Space for Life, which is the largest natural science museum complex in Canada. This one-of-a-kind complex is home to the Biodome, the Insectarium, Montreal’s Botanical Garden and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Biodome means “house of life” and life is definitely what you’ll find in each of the five ecosystems, especially since the attraction underwent a major overhaul before it reopened in 2020. The revamped and revitalized space now focuses on a more multisensory and immersive experience.
At the top of the Biodome there’s now a large viewing platform that offers better panoramic views of the Tropical Rainforest, the Laurentian Maple Forest and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, making it easier to observe the animals and plants. There is also a new Bio-machine exhibition area that provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the Biodome. Visitors will also enjoy the use of a new app that allows for a more immersive, easy to follow experience that even features an augmented reality component to visualize animals in 3D. Another welcome addition is the It’s Time to Act exhibition that presents environmental initiatives from around the world.
A unique mix between a zoo, a natural history museum and a botanical garden, the Biodome boasts more than 2,500 animals and more than 800 plant species. While the penguins and monkeys tend to be crowd favorites, there’s an incredible range of things to see in each of the five ecosystems.
One of the Biodome’s most verdant ecosystems, the tropical rainforest area has a relative humidity of at least 70 to 80%. Incredibly lush and lively, here you’ll find tropical vegetation and animals like perching parrots, a caiman basking at the water’s edge or a curious group of odd-looking capybaras in a pond filled with frolicking fish. Take the footbridge to the new mezzanine to enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the treetops. If you’re really lucky you might just catch a glimpse of the two-fingered sloth sleeping in the thick foliage.
This ecosystem affords an incredible chance to explore underwater life in the Americas. There are hundreds of fish, including cod, striped bass, salmon and even rays, as well as invertebrates such as starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and crabs. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem, you have the opportunity to observe both marine and terrestrial environments and take in a stunning setting that evokes Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. Be on the lookout for seagulls, guillemots and terns as they glide around the coastal marsh and the steep cliff faces.
The Laurentian Maple Forest ecosystem is a wonderful way to explore a typical Quebec forest — from the great indoors! See if you can spot the secretive lynx in its habitat and laugh at the antics of the playful raccoons. You’ll also hear the gentle ripple of a stream as it flows between maple and fir trees and you may just catch sight of a river otter or a beaver busy building a dam under the watchful eye of a porcupine, usually perched in the treetops above the river.
This ecosystem is certainly a favorite because it’s home to an enchanting group of penguins. Watch them waddle on the rocks and take turns diving into the water. Thanks to the large windows, it’s easy to observe them as they swim and play. While the king penguin impresses with its height and majestic bearing, the northern rockhopper penguin wins over the crowds with its comical crown of yellow and black feathers. In all, four species of penguin — the king penguin, the gentoo penguin, the northern rockhopper penguin and the macaroni penguin — call the Biodome’s Sub-Antarctic Islands ecosystem home.
Coming a close second to penguins on the cuteness scale, puffins (sometimes called “sea parrots” because of their large, colourful bills) are the main draw at the Labrador Coast ecosystem. To bring home what it’s like to live through an eastern Canada winter, a real wall of ice has even been installed to ensure an unforgettably immersive experience.