To celebrate the upcoming start of the school summer holidays (and hopefully a summer of bright and sunny weather), we were invited by 365 Tickets to experience the best of London for a family day out. Part of the day would include tickets to London Aquarium. You can read about the rest of our London Adventure here.
Having recently been to the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth we wondered if the Sea Life London Aquarium would be different enough to entertain Adam. Upon reflection, our worries were unfounded. The two centres are extremely different. The London Aquarium is enormous. Spread over three floors it is home to 500 species from around the world.
Situated on the South Bank of the River Thames near to the London Eye, the London Aquarium has one of Europe’s largest collection of global marine life. There are fourteen themed zones and more than two million litres of water.
With our 365 Tickets in hand we were able to join the Fast Track queue. Unfortunately, the South Bank was particularly busy that Saturday. Despite being in a separate queue, we still had to wait twenty minutes.
After obtaining our tickets, we walked through what we assumed was just a dark tunnel. It wasn’t until we looked down that we realised there were sharks under our feet. We were standing above the Pacific display. Adam wanted to lay down on the glass to get closer to the sharks.
From there we walked down two flights of stairs (there is a lift for wheelchair users and families with pushchairs) in order to start our underwater adventure. The Aquarium itself is very dark. This took some time for Adam to adjust to. The darkness also makes it very difficult to take decent photographs whilst inside. Due to the amount of people, we did have to wait in order to get close to several tanks. However, Adam was captivated by the experience and wanted to see everything so he waited his turn.
Within the Tidal Reach Zone Adam was able to get up close to Jellyfish and watch them pulsing through the water like miniature space ships. The colour changing effects of the water added to the experience. We discovered that Jellyfish are 95% water!
After having to wait in order to see tanks it felt good to get to the Ray Lagoon. Here there was plenty of space for everyone to get up close to the Rays. Adam was fascinated by the Rays eyes.
Little did we know that just around the corner would be the breathtaking view of the Dive Discovery zone. This is a huge tank with replica bones of a Grey Whale at the bottom. It is home to Purple Tangs, Triggerfish, Snapper, tropical fish,Southern Stingrays and Cownose Rays. We could have easily spent the day just watching this tank alone. Watching the Rays swim above us was magnificent. Every where that Adam turned he shouting out about the creature he could see.
After reluctantly leaving the Dive Discovery Zone, we thought the surprises of the day were over. However, my husband and I were both surprised when Adam voluntarily went up to the Rockpool Zone and stroked a starfish.
Next we were able to walk through a glass tunnel walkway to see Bonnethead, the smallest species of Hammerhead Shark in the world. It was also Adam’s first glimpse of the enormous Green Sea Turtles. Regular readers will know we have Tony the Musk Turtle at home and any turtle, tortoise or terrapin is classed as a “Big Tony” in Adam’s eyes.
We arrived at the Pacific Wreck Zone just as they were giving a talk about the sharks. The talk was extremely popular and we were unable to get near to the tank. However, we used the opportunity to continue through the Aquarium onto Nemo’s Kingdom which was quieter. You can imagine Adam’s excitement at spotting not only one clownfish but several in different tanks, along with Dory.
Once the shark talk had finished, we returned to the Pacific Wreak to enjoy the sharks infested waters. Whilst the sharks weave around Easter Island Heads, we couldn’t get over the scale of the tank. Adam kept trying to lift his head up to see the top but couldn’t. His excitement whenever a shark swam near him was wonderful to watch.
We left the ocean to step into the humid rain forest to find out about life underneath the tropical treetops. The floor feels like the undergrowth of a rain forest. Here we got to meet a Cuban Crocodile named Spice, Black Pacus and Piranhas. Yet again the tanks were tall so that Adam seemed tiny against them.
After walking up stairs we were delighted to get another view of the whale bone zone from above. This meant Adam could get a clearer view of the Green Sea Turtles. He could stand up against the glass and watch everything swim by.
At this point we assumed that we were nearing the end of our London Aquarium adventure. However, we had forgotten about the relatively new London Aquarium’s Ice Adventure. This is a frozen antarctic landscape where we could view a Gentoo Penguin colony. The penguins are behind glass so you do not get to experience the sound and smells of usual penguin displays. However, the temperature is certainly cooler in this zone. Adam enjoyed watching the penguins through the glass dome. Unfortunately at the time we visited we didn’t get to see any of the penguins swim underwater.
We were so pleased that we got to see the sharks one last time in the Shark Reef Encounter. Here we got to sit and watch the sharks from above. Again, we got to appreciate the scale of the tank by looking down onto the sharks.
The last section of the London Aquarium is Frozen Planet: Face To Face. This uses the latest entertainment technology to bring you face to face with Polar Bears and Orca Whales. As you enter the room you see an imitation sea with an ice edge. As you walk to the other side of the room you can see a live video of the visitors which is projected onto a large screen. On this screen a polar bear walks along the ice edge and you can pretend to stroke it. A baby polar bear joins his mother before they jump into the water. A few seconds later an Orca whale pops up just behind the ice edge. The sequence is then repeated.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our London Aquarium experience. We couldn’t get over the size of the venue, the range of fish and how huge the shark tanks were. The Aquarium is understandably a very popular tourist attraction. I can imagine it would get extremely busy during the school holidays or on rainy days.
Ensure you have plenty of drink with you as there isn’t anywhere to stop during the experience. Pack light as there is not a cloakroom. Your ticket is valid all day so you are able to leave the venue to eat along South Bank.
There were many things on offer that we didn’t get a chance to experience during this visit. There are a range of educational talks, behind-the-scenes tours and feeding time displays to choose from. It certainly gives us an excuse to visit again.
Disclaimer: We were asked to review London Aquarium as part of our 365 Tickets Best of London experience. All thoughts and opinions are our own.
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