When Bex Gibson was a little girl, her greatest wish was to be a mermaid. Almost 20 years on, that dream is a reality, with the aquarist donning a mermaid costume with fishtail during the school holidays at Auckland’s Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium.
While she’s usually found in the tanks at the aquatic attraction looking after the stingrays, fish and sharks, Bex (24) is now taking a break from her daily duties to put on a show for spectators, but she admits she gets a wee bit nervous.
“There’s a lot of attention on me!” she says with a laugh. “It’s a bit different swimming around in there with a bikini on instead of a wetsuit, but it’s so exciting. This really is a dream come true for me.”
It’s the first time Bex has ever dressed as a siren of the seas and says it’s definitely a tick off her bucket list. “I’ve been obsessed with mermaids for a while now and I’ve always loved the ocean,” she tells.
“I used to long to swim in the ocean, free like a mermaid, with no scuba tank, snorkel or anything like that. But I never thought I would be doing this as part of my job! It never occurred to me that your passion could be work, so I’m pretty lucky.”
A life-long environmentalist, Bex and her work colleagues decided to give visiting kids a treat during the school holidays, and let them catch a glimpse of a “real mermaid”.
After ordering her tail online (it took a long time comparing and contrasting different models and styles, she says), Bex started practising her mermaid moves.
“It’s easier than you think,” she insists. “You just think like a dolphin and make your arms do some little creative moments. At the moment, I’m trying to work on my free diving – holding your breath for as long as possible.”
Along with thrilling young visitors in her beautiful outfit, she also hopes to leave children with more knowledge about the sea and how to look after it. “I hope I can teach the kids a little about ocean conservation at the same time, so they understand that without the sea, we can’t survive.”
After her stint as a mermaid is over, Bex will go back to her work wetsuit, but admits she still wants to make her own tail after being inspired by her friend Alice, who sewed her one.
“I asked my dad if he’d help, but he said, ‘I’m watching rugby, can we talk about it later,’” she laughs. “But I’m pretty sure he’ll give me a hand – just not when the game’s on!”