Family day out: SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Last May, SEA LIFE London Aquarium got in touch and asked if I would like to come and review the aquarium. Given Little Miss is fish-obsessed, we thought it would be the perfect day out.

Unfortunately, shortly after, the Other Half’s Aunt sadly passed away and my grandmother became extremely ill. This has meant many weekends were spent in Gloucestershire or Sunderland, not leaving much time for a day out in London. The team at the aquarium were incredibly kind and offered us an open invitation for whenever we could make it.

Earlier in November, my grandmother passed away just two days before my dad’s birthday. So, the Other Half and I took a half day and arranged to go to the aquarium – at long last – to give everyone something to look forward to.

Growing up, it became ‘a bit of a thing’ that we would always visit the aquarium wherever we went on holiday. I loved them – and growing up in the States especially, we were rather spoiled with the size and quality of aquariums to choose from!

But, in sixteen years since we returned to the UK, I don’t think I’ve ever been to SEA LIFE London Aquarium.

The OH and I tried one May bank holiday weekend in our early twenties but swiftly turned around when we saw the queue! But this time, on a rather chilly and windy Wednesday afternoon in November, we sailed straight through and only met a handful of other visitors as we walked around the exhibits.

Visiting SEA LIFE London Aquarium

SONY DSC

The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is situated in the bowels of the old London county hall. (Turns out my dad knew one of the original project managers for the conversion and he said they were all too creeped out to visit the basement site to start with!)

The designers have been extremely clever with the limited space they have to play with. And the entire aquarium has been built with kids in mind. Tanks are low to the ground (even me at just 5ft talk had to stoop and crouch many times!) so the fish are easily visible to even the littlest of visitors.

SONY DSC

Grandpa and Little Miss checking out the sting rays near the entrance to the aquarium. You can either crouch beside the open top tank to see the rays in action, or there’s a little step built into the unit so little ones can peer over the top for a bird’s eye view as well. (Don’t forget to check out the daily talk about rays – you might even be allowed to help feed them!)

And any tank that isn’t low, has a step built into the display unit to give kids a boost up.
There’s a few huge tanks spanning two stories. These you see multiple times throughout your walk around the aquarium (there’s a bit of a set path you follow) from all different angles allowing you so see something different every time.

SONY DSC

They also have walk ways built through them and tunnels, only big enough for kids (and yes, my 52 year old father did test this to be sure!). They wriggle through the tunnel and pop up at the end inside the tank, surrounded by fish. It’s really quite enchanting – I think Little Miss would have stayed in there all day if we hadn’t dragged her out!

In short, we had a brilliant time. Little Miss was in her element surrounded by fish and it was a really lovely two hours.

Top tips for visiting the aquarium

  1. Go on a week day if you can, or quieter times of the year, for a less rammed and more enjoyable experience. It took us about two hours to get round the aquarium at a leisurely pace, and it was much more pleasant not having to fight for a viewing space or wait in a queue to see inside smaller tanks.
  2. Check feeding times before to go and plan your day accordingly. We arrived at the aquarium just as the Penguins were being fed but as they’re at the end of the aquarium, there was no way we could whizz round quick enough to see feeding time.
  3. Catch the talks at feeding times; With every feeding time, there’s also a really informative talk by one of the aquarists (it’s real world, look it up) that is worth sticking around to hear. We saw the Coral Reef talk (lots of Nemoes, Dories and Gulls involved) and even though Little Miss was the youngest present by far, the aquarist made sure to direct enough comments her way, engaging her so she didn’t lose interest, without boring everyone else. I was really impressed – and it was also just really interesting!
  4. Say cheese! There are various professional photo opportunities throughout the aquarium (including one with the Octonauts – I know I was excited!). You can purchase all these at the end in the gift shop. But if someone’s blinking, or this just isn’t your bag, never fear, all un-purchased photos are recycled at the end of the day.
  5. Toilets: for anyone else who may be daft enough to venture out while toilet training, I am pleased to say the aquarium comes fully equipped! Throughout the aquarium, there are signs that tell you how long a walk it is to the next toilet – genius! These signs are assuming you’re looking at fish along the way, so if you find yourself in a tight spot, a sign that says “ten minutes” could be done in a one-two minute sprint (crowds allowing), carrying the toddler. Baby changing facilities are also available.
SONY DSC

“NEMO!”

Getting there

Westminster tube – District and Circle line – fully accessible with a buggy (though there’s stairs once you cross over Westerminter bridge unless you want to walk aaaall the way around)
Waterloo tube – Jubilee line – fully accessible with a buggy
Waterloo tube – Bakerloo line & DLR – escalators

The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is based in the old County Hall, right under the London Eye. So if in doubt, head for the London Eye and you can’t go wrong.

SONY DSCOpening Times

Monday – Friday: 10am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)
Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 7pm (last entry 6pm)

Times may vary or be extended during the school holidays, so be sure to check the website before you visit.

Tickets 

If you book online in advance, you save £5 on your ticket price. You’ll be required to choose and entry time, and you gain entry via the Priority entrance, meaning you miss out on the queues (highly recommended!)

SEA LIFE tickets: from £19.50

There are a variety of ticket options, including various special experience (swimming with sharks anyone?), behind the scenes tours or tickets that include entry to nearby attractions such as the London Eye, Shrek’s Adventure, Madame Tussauds and/or The London Dungeon. These tickets are valid for up to 90 days, so you don’t necessarily have to do it all on the same day, but still save up to £81.50 on ticket prices. Win!

One last thing…

If you have strong beliefs about animals and fish in captivity, this is not the day out for you. The team at SEA LIFE London Aquarium have done absolutely everything possible to ensure the habitat of the animals within the aquarium is as close to their natural habitat as scientifically and environmentally possible, taking into consideration elements such as the type of water, light levels, indigenous plant life and fellow tank inhabitants. However, this is an inner city aquarium and as such, space is limited and for some, the size of some of the tanks may make them feel uncomfortable.

________________________

SEA LIFE LONDON AQUARIUM PROVIDED US WITH PRIORITY ENTRY TICKETS FREE OF CHARGE FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. HOWEVER, THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE ARE INDEPENDENT AND MY OWN.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s